Surrey cyclist completes 5,000-mile round-Britain challenge

By Hamish Mureddu-Reid
BBC News

Image source, Josh Garman
Image caption,
Josh Garman was greeted by a crowd of family and friends as he crossed the finish line in Berwick-upon-Tweed

An adventurer says he was "very emotional" after completing a 5,000-mile (8,000km) cycle challenge, inspired by a father's barefoot walk.

Josh Garman, 22, of Milford, near Guildford, cycled the coast of Great Britain, ending at Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Mr Garman said he was inspired by Maj Chris Brannigan's 700-mile (1,126km) walk in aid of his daughter's charity.

He has raised £30,000 for the Hope for Hasti charity, which is named after Maj Brannigan's eight-year-old daughter.

Mr Garman said well-wishers waved from the roadside and bridges as he cycled the last few miles on the A1, before he finished at Berwick-upon-Tweed railway station on Saturday.

"It was a very strange feeling reaching the end. I'm still a bit shell shocked," he said.

Hasti was born with the rare genetic condition Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS).

Hope for Hasti funds research and provides treatment for those with CdLS and other rare genetic conditions.

Mr Garman left Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland on 16 April.

Image source, Josh Garman
Image caption,
Josh Garman's journey started on the Northumberland coast

"I set off with no cycling experience," Mr Garman said. "To start with it was a physical challenge, the trailer kept having to be fixed.

"I was excited to begin with but a bit naïve about how long 5,000 miles was."

He said he was helped by so many people along his journey, including early on when he was in Teesside.

"My trailer broke and I was outside a British Steel place and loads of welders helped make a new system for the trailer."

His trailer gave up the ghost further around the coast and he replaced it with a smaller, lighter version.

Image source, Josh Garman
Image caption,
Josh Garman swapped his original trailer with a smaller version

Maj Brannigan, who is currently walking barefoot from Maine to Jacksonville in the US, met up with Mr Garman several times during the challenge.

"We've been exchanging war stories along the way," Maj Brannigan said.

For Mr Garman the people he met were the highlight of the trip - those who gave him a place to stay, and food and drink to keep him going, as well as those who just stopped for a chat to find out more about his journey.

Image source, Josh Garman
Image caption,
Maj Chris Brannigan met up with Josh along the route

Things got tough in Wales, he said. His girlfriend Hannah, who had joined him for part of the journey, had a crash and was taken to hospital. A few days later Mr Garman was in hospital with exhaustion and dehydration.

"I was hallucinating. I thought I was going to die," he posted on Facebook.

After a couple weeks' break, having reached Carlisle, he was back in the saddle and pedalling around Scotland, including visiting the Isles of Skye and Harris.

Image source, Josh Garman
Image caption,
Mr Garman said he felt lucky to ride past places like the Glenfinnan Viaduct, where scenes from Harry Potter were filmed

Heading back south on the Scottish east coast, he was buffeted by strong winds. His trailer was making things even more difficult, and he had two crashes.

"It was a tough decision to make to leave the trailer, because I've stuck with it during the entire journey."

He said cycling was a lot easier, but he missed having the interactions with people who spotted his trailer and asked about his journey.

What is Cornelia de Lange Syndrome?

  • Children with CdLS are small at birth and remain small compared to children of the same age
  • They are all slow learners but this varies from mild to severe
  • Some children have limb abnormalities which range from extremely small or malformed hands to complete absence of forearms
  • Most children with the syndrome have some hearing impairment and in some cases this may be severe enough for them to need hearing aids
  • Approximately one in 10 children with the syndrome will have an abnormality of the heart

Source: CdLS Foundation UK and Ireland

Within days he had picked up his trailer again on his journey south.

"I have never locked the bike or the trailer. I would leave it for hours at a time and come back and people had left money and food."

Now his journey is complete, he says his travels have left him with a "real sense of contentment".

Image source, Chris Brannigan
Image caption,
Maj Brannigan is on his second barefoot walk to raise money for the charity set up in his daughter Hasti's name

Hangemeh Brannigan, Hasti's mother, said: "It's absolutely remarkable. He could have chosen any cause which would have given him a higher profile.

"We can't say how grateful we are."

Maj Brannigan said he felt "lucky to have inspired Josh" and found it "very humbling".

Image source, Josh Garman
Image caption,
With only days to go Mr Garman took a day off in Edinburgh to see the sights

Reflecting back on his journey, Mr Garman said: "I won't miss cycling, at least for a while. My body is broken in every way."

He said he has discovered a sense of confidence during his journey, and a fresh attitude to the people around him.

"I think when I get home I'm going find it hard not to go up to everyone and say 'hello'," he said.

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