The Westminster to Bath 1,056 Kilometre (660 miles) Double Challenge

Westminster to Bath: Double Challenge Charity Fund Raiser

Outside the Houses of Parliment

Photo: Cathryn Gallacher

At 1.30 pm on Thursday 12th September Nigel Arbury from Frome set off to walk the 160 miles from the Houses of Parliament to the Royal United Hospital (RUH) in Bath. His route was along the river Thames to Reading and then along the Kennet and Avon Canal. The challenge was to complete the walk in less than 48 hours.

Departing simultaneously were Tom Barnard from Chippenham and Stuart Mardon from Bath. Their challenge was to cycle a total of 250 miles, firstly, along the Thames Valley Cycle route to Oxford and on to the source of the river Thames at Lechlade., then doubling back to Reading to join the Kennet and Avon canal and proceed to the RUH in Bath. To give Nigel a chance in the race the cyclists were handicapped on fixed gear bikes and could only travel between the hours of 7am and 7pm.

The competitors received a great send off in Westminster by David Heath MP and John Carter who is Chairman of the Bath Cancer Unit Support Group (BCUSG). All the money raised by the challenge will support the BCUSG’s fundraising appeal to purchase a Positron Scanner for the RUH. This will transform cancer treatment in the area.

Day one was a frustrating one for the cyclists as Tom had a succession of punctures however, 3 inner tubes and one tyre later they did finish on time. Meanwhile Nigel’s day went smoothly comfortably covering the first 50 miles of the trip.

As a contrast, day two started exceptionally well for the cyclist with photographer and support vehicles unable to keep up with them as they sped between Cotswold villages. The support team did manage to catch them in Lechlade which was fortunate as Nigel had given strict instructions to make sure they made it all the way there before turning back to Reading.

Tom and Stuart finally reached the Canal at Theale when the good old British weather took control. Tom said “I can quite honestly say that I have never ridden in rain like it. It made conditions unrideable on our skinny tyres. I took a fall in the first 300 yards after we joined the canal”.

This coincided with Nigel reaching his 90-mile marker and the only word for the conditions was horrendous. The torrential rain made the towpath waterlogged and extremely dangerous and he had to be stopped from carrying on walking through the night.

The decision was taken to make a fresh start on day three cutting the hours of the challenge for Nigel from 48hours to 36 and the distance travelled to 120 miles. Similarly with the canal path like a quagmire the cyclists took the decision to ride from Devizes to Bath by road taking in as big a loop as possible and then to Bristol and back along the cycle network route to try and recoup the lost miles.

The final result was that Tom and Stuart travelled 233.4 miles in a riding time of 16 hours and 9 minutes with an overall time of 19 hours 51 minutes and well within their target of 23 hours. Nigel completed 120 miles in 29 hours also well within his new target of 36 hours

The team arrived on Saturday as planned and on time at 1.15 pm to a large welcoming party led by the patron of the appeal, The Right Worshipful The Mayor of Bath, Councillor Malcolm Lees. Also there was John Carter who had sensibly made the journey back from Westminster by more conventional means.

John Carter said “On behalf of the Trustees of this charity I extend the warmest thanks to the team for having undertaken and completed this remarkable challenge in order to raise funds for the Positron Scanner Appeal.

It never ceases to amaze me what individuals will do to support their families, friends, colleagues and fellow citizens. The Westminster to Bath Challenge is a wonderful example of what it means to go the extra mile to help one’s neighbours. The Positron Scanner Appeal will provide those people who live within the catchment area of the Royal United Hospital with a unique opportunity to influence the way in which local services for those suffering from cancer are developed.”

Martin Bax, head of the challenge support team added, “I am so proud of the challengers’ achievements particularly given the arduous conditions.I would like to extend a very big thank you to all our sponsors.  Wilts Electrical Wholesalers of Trowbridge supplied the vehicles and fuel. Butcher Nigel Williams of Badcox Frome provided all the delicious food. Amanda Foister and the staff at the Longridge Adventure Centre at Marlow sponsored the camping and the use of their excellent facilities for the cyclist’s overnight accommodation. Andrew and Kimberley McCartney were our hosts at the superb Craven Arms at Enborne, near Newbury.  Cathryn Gallacher volunteered to be our official photographer. Many thanks also go to all the other members of the support team. Heather Arbury, Peter Clark, Les Drage, Jason Hares, Amie Miller, Simon Tozer.”

There is still time for anyone wishing to donate to support the challenge by visiting  or by calling Martin Bax on 01373 464912