London Children's Hospitals Cycle Challenge 2020



On a single day in late summer 2020, I cycled over 100 miles, connecting a number of children’s hospitals and specialist units in and around London, each of which have real meaning to me and to many others. I cycled on a mix of roads, trails and tow paths with approx 20% off road. My route included the following places; Woolgrove School, Special Needs Academy, in Letchworth Garden City; Lister Hospital, in Hertfordshire; Harefield Hospital in Middlesex; Chelsea & Westminster Hospital in South West London, Royal Brompton Hospital in West London; King’s College Hospital in South London; and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in Central London. These are all places that were frequented by our son Tom. 

A short video of the challenge can be seen on Tom Mouse TV.
Pictures from the challenge are shown below:



… getting ready … with my 3 mousepower bicycle! …




… leaving home just before 5 a.m.  … some 90 minutes before sunrise …


 


… first stop, the wonderful Woolgrove School … still a wee bit dark!  … it is Hertfordshire’s largest special needs school for children aged 4 – 11 years … with approx 125 pupils 

… our Tom went to school here and loved it … and the school loved him …

 



… at Lister Hospital in North Hertfordshire … Tom was born here on 20th April 1997 …




Daylight emerging at Knebworth House … 






… breakfast stop at 7 ish … at the bakery in Wheathampstead, near St Albans. Wheathampsted goes back to Roman times and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book. It is famous for its Centurion’s Breakfast Happy Meal … ( … I made that last bit up!) 

























… onto an old railway route, The Nickey Line, towards Hemel Hempsted …

 


        

… and on to the tow path of the Grand Union Canal … constructed in the mid to late 18th Century it was a vital component of the Industrial Revolution … 

 



… one of the 166 locks along the 137 mile Grand Union Canal … which starts in London and ends in Birmingham … ( … HS1?)


 



… there is a certain serenity and peace on the canal …




… and ducks






… and boats of all sorts …







… providing characterful homes to some …




… the best of both worlds?







… over 40 miles in; arrival at Harefield Hospital which along with the Royal Brompton Hospital form the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK.  Our Tom underwent open heart surgery here performed by Professor Sir Magdi Yacoub … (he also performed the UK’s first heart and Lung transplant, at Harefield in 1983).


 



… back to the tow path of The Grand Union Canal, which starts to lose much of the picturesque character and appeal it had further north, and on into London. 

 



… I leave The Grand Union Canal at West Drayton, near to Heathrow, and cross over the main railway line … 




… to eventually meet the River Thames at Hampton Court Palace …

 




… and into Bushy Park, one of a number of green sanctuaries within London …

 




… 68 miles in, and a stop off at Langdon Park in Teddington and the offices of the Down’s Syndrome Association … the Langdon Down Centre is the former home of the pioneering Victorian physician, Dr John Langdon Down, after whom Down’s syndrome was named …




 


… with Laura and Georgina from the DSA outside of their office …






… and across the River Thames to join the Thames Path at Teddington Lock …

 





… time for more elite sports nutrition, near to Richmond on Thames …

 






… a very rural feel at times, despite being in central London …

 





… past the rowing clubs at Mortlake …




… outside of the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, on the Fulham Road … a 430 bed teaching hospital linked with Imperial College … Tom underwent lung investigations and procedures here …




… at the Royal Brompton, founded in the 1840s, initially focussed on the treatment of tuberculosis … Tom underwent emergency heart procedures here …



 




… over Vauxhall Bridge, past the new flats on the south bank of the Thames … and on to King’s College Hospital … a major trauma centre in London, with 950 beds … also a teaching hospital … with a number of specialist services, including foetal medicine … we were here before Tom was born for specialist scans at the Harris Birthright Centre, with the pioneering Professor Kypros Nicolaides … nearly 24 years ago …!

 





… after over 96 miles I arrive at Great Ormond Street Hospital For Children … founded on the 14th February 1852, by Dr Charles West … the first hospital in England to provide beds specifically for children … 

… In 1929 the Scottish writer, J.M. Barrie gave the copyright to his Peter Pan works to the hospital … Peter Pan, the boy who wouldn’t grow up … just like our Tom … Tom died here just before 1 o’clock in the morning on the 7th July 2004 … 


 




… heading for home … all rather quiet at King’s Cross station in our Covid 19 times …

 





… after cycling over 100 miles, I am back home just before 9 p.m.  … it has been a long day, having left before 5 a.m. … it had been tougher than I had anticipated with a lot of rough tracks … and it was also a wee bit emotional visiting some of the hospitals for the first time in many years … but it always feels right and a privilege to be supporting Woolgrove School, Special Needs Academy and the Down’s Syndrome Association.