It started as an idle discussion doing a long bike ride through Wales one day, inspired by the opening of Sustrans Route 8 in 1995. I don’t think any of us had cycled very far before then. The most some done was two or three London to Brighton one-day rides in the 1980s.

By 2002 knees were feeling a bit dodgy and we had no idea if they would last more than a day on a bike. A longer ride may have been no more than mid- life dreaming.

Then at a St Saviour’s School fair in 2002 we saw the Headteacher, sitting behind a model of the new school hall which was to be built near the infant block. All around him were posters outlining the plans and the fundraising needed from the community. A light bulb moment: why not do that ride through Wales to raise some money?

Our idle idea had come alive.


I can’t recall the precise chronology, but it was Jim whose creative mind came up a short time after the school fair with the name WHOOSH:

Welsh Hills; bike wheels OO; School Hall

Obvious when you think of it but such a great cycling idea that 18 years later the same treatment appears on the shirt of the winner of the Tour de France!



I reckon the tree we planted had some strong healthy roots which was the strong friendship group in the Parish of Herne Hill, at St Saviours and St Pauls, with plenty of laterals heading into other communities. This group was physically fit from regular cycling – many bike commuting for years. It was also vari-talented, and vari-faceted – a good balance of leaders and followers, thinkers and doers.


Strong roots had fertile cycling soil. Herne Hill had a strong cycling culture due to the Velodrome. In the noughties Sustrans was on a rising curve as national standard-bearer for recreational cycling. Lottery funding for the Millennium had triggered new long-distance routes and improvements to existing ones. Cycling was increasingly part of UK sporting identity. Chris Hoy and Bradley Wiggins were emerging as international stars headed for 2004 Olympic success. And we all know what has happened since!


The bigger a tree gets the more it needs. New recruits from the parish and beyond have enriched our soil and fed our tree with new interests and skills. Time trials. Singing. Woodland visits. History talks. Fancy dress. All nourish our tree in different ways.


So, our tree has been healthy and yielded a good harvest, year on year: money for good causes; deeper relationships; stronger legs and hearts (I hope!) We pick the fruit; we share it and then long for next year to do it all over again. More people join us each year. We share the blessing; they enrich the crop.


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