Pedalling Pilgrim 2012

I set off at around 06.00 on Tuesday morning (8 May 2012) in light rain. I arrived at Aylesbury just before 07.00 having unexpectedly met one of my former colleagues from Customs and Excise who I hadn’t seen for around 15 years. Aylesbury Mosque was closed (as was St Mary’s Church) so prayers (I was marking stages of the journey with prayer) were outside, there’s a good picture of the front door of St Mary’s on my own Facebook page.

By the time I got to Stoke Mandeville it was raining again, then off to Oxford.

There was a very long queue of traffic at the roundabout on the outskirts of Thame which I was able to overtake, one of the advantages of a bicycle. Ran out of steam (I am an analogue cyclist) at Wheatley, so here is an advert for ‘Kendal’s Mint Cake’! Very good cycle track alongside the A40 on the Oxford ring road, as wide as a road and of road quality. I was beeped by the inevitable motorist later when I was back on the A40 who probably thought I should be on the cycle track. The weather had dried up on reaching Oxford. I was very surprised to find that by the time I met up with Heather Al-Yousuf in rural Oxfordshire I had already done 47 miles and was over half way to Cheltenham. I felt much refreshed after buns and a stroll in the bluebell wood and a visit to the parish church.

I continued along quiet country roads near the A40, taking a few pictures of churches. I took the wrong turning at Windrush and ended up back on the A40 instead of continuing along the minor roads. About 10 miles out of Cheltenham one of my spokes snapped and my back wheel buckled, about the same time as my Achilles tendon did something similar. This began to slow things down a little. At Charlton Kings on the outskirts of Cheltenham another spoke snapped (I had my bike serviced last week) the back wheel buckled some more and was now totally useless. I walked through the High Street until I got to the bike shop, which by some coincidence (?) was next door to Madina al-Masjid. They agreed to fix my bike for the next morning.

I attended Asr prayers at the Masjid and had a chat with a couple of the members afterwards. I told them about the work of the Christian Muslim Forum and that, although for them it seemed natural that Christians and Muslims should get on, it wasn’t always the case and there was a great deal of negativity towards Muslims in wider society. I immediately hurried along to the Alpha course starting at Trinity Cheltenham (Evangelical Anglican), I was soon telling one of the members that I had just been to prayers at the mosque round the corner. It was interesting that this Alpha didn’t use the videos featuring Nicky Gumbel. I was also joined by a friend from Gloucestershire University who had never been to Alpha before, we both shared that we had been to college together 25 years previously. I also shared with the group the Pedalling Pilgrim mission and mentioned visiting mosques and churches. The presentation was quite long and there were a lot of people in our group so the discussion was quite short. I had an interesting conversation with one of the members who had previously had a Muslim girlfriend.

Day Two of ‘Pedalling Pilgrim’ (9 May 2012)

The bike shop were very good with their service and my bike was repaired in the morning. The weather was good too, in Cheltenham at least, Oxford however was a different matter, very wet again. I missed the Bath Road masjid as I cycled up Cowley Road but dropped into Manzil Way masjid instead, it was before zuhr prayers when I arrived and I didn’t feel like hanging around for another 30 mins waiting for the prayers. I didn’t attempt to visit a church as I was keen to get back. Unfortunately I couldn’t take any photos on day two as Facebook on my phone had exhausted my battery, very disappointing, if I do anything like this again, even though I like travelling light I will take my charger. Also padded underwear as a friend strongly recommended afterwards.

From Oxford it was about 35 miles of soggy cycling, though even on a rainy day it doesn’t rain all the time. I had a pleasant route through the Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire countryside and took a recommended route on the outskirts of Oxford that I had decided against on the way there, the gradient was very good and cycling was smooth, unlike the A40 and A418.

The last part of the route is a long downhill run from Wing to Leighton Buzzard, an encouraging end to the journey. It was good to be home after two days of cycling. I don’t think I’ll be doing anything like this for a while but am seriously considering better equipment and even a better bike.

Many thanks to all those who supported me with sponsorship and in other ways too. The total raised was £1130. I am publishing this now (originally posted on Facebook in 2012) as I prepare for Pedalling Pilgrim 2 – Boris Biking round London – in May 2014. Join me and help raise more?

The money raised was used for our Women’s Programme ‘Come to the Edge’ which was mostly funded by Near Neighbours, we were able to allocate additional amounts for consultancy and publicity, including video and website improvements.

If you like our work, or our articles and blogs, you can make a donation here

Julian Bond
Director (and biker)
Christian Muslim Forum
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