DIARY: Archbishop Nichols bike ride: first posted 20 -25 July 2004

 BURTON-ON-TRENT - 20 July 2004 - 300 words

DIARY: Archbishop Nichols bike ride: first posted 20 July 2004

day one

Yesterday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols began a 235-mile, five-day, charity cycle ride through his archdiocese, accompanied by 55 cyclists including priests, nuns and young people.

At the end of the day, on the group's arrival at SS Mary & Modwen in Burton-on-Trent, Archbishop Vincent said: "It's been a wonderful day. We have had sunshine and occasionally a little cloud but no rain. We have been over such a variety of terrain.

"Since we began at Aston Hall near Stone in Staffordshire, our home for retired priests, at about 8.30am this morning, we've been across Cannock Chase and the pine forests. We've been along the canal banks and along the riverside. We've been in farmyards and through the loveliest countryside. It's been an absolute delight.

"At one point we came through Great Haywood and the children of the Catholic of St John's all came out to greet us and cheer us along as we went past. That was a great moment.

"We had a lovely stop on the top of Cannock Chase for our lunch and been thick ham and tomato sandwiches and off again we went in the afternoon through Rugeley and across the lanes and eventually through a rather tricky bit in the centre of Burton-on-Trent.

"We had a lovely welcome here at the church. The cyclists will go off now for a wash in the homes of families of the parish where they are being put up for the night.

"We will all gather again at 6.30pm for the celebration of Mass and a communal meal afterwards.

"Everyone's managed to keep up on today's ride. It's probably been the easiest of all the days and a good way to start. But it's been great fun and everyone has enjoyed it!"

OSCOTT - 21 July 2004 - 438 words

Archbishop Nichols bike ride: day two

At St Mary's College, the diocesan seminary, at the end of the second day of his charity cycle ride through his archdiocese, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "It's been a lovely day and we have travelled 44 miles. "it's been good going.

"This morning we were joined by another 15 people or so including four youngsters from Kingsley High School in Cheadle, Staffordshire, and a couple of people from St Gregory's school in Oxford as well.

"It was a group of more than 70 cyclists who set off from Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire. We came along the most beautiful pathways alongside the River Trent where we could see quite large numbers of herons on the bank and in the trees as well. That was really one of the loveliest parts of the journey.

"About a mile from Litchfield Cathedral we were met by children from two local Catholic primary schools, St Joseph's and St Peter & St Paul's. The Precentor of the Cathedral met us and welcomed us outside the Great West Door. We had a really good mid morning break with lots of photographs and a visit inside the Cathedral.

"As we crossed the fields we could look back and see the three spires of Lichfield Cathedral standing out in the background.

"We then made our way to Walsall coming through some busy traffic in the middle of town. At St Mary the Mount we received a great reception from Canon Peter Taylor and his parishioners. We had a lovely lunch in the church hall and then made a visit to the church where Canon Peter told us a bit about the great history of the parish. It predates as one of the first Catholic churches opened in this county after the Reformation. We were presented with a #1,000 pound donation from the parish before we left.

"We made our way along the river, canals and then through some major traffic and arrived here at Oscott College. During the afternoon here more than 50 youngsters, including some little ones, did a sponsored cycle ride round the pathway, which is a mile round.

"I met one little girl who had gone 15 times round there and another who had done 12 and another 10. So they had been really clocking up the miles as well. There was a bouncy castle and lots of people having fun."

Archbishop Nichols added: "We celebrated a lovely Mass in the chapel. We have been thinking about how God has a journey for each of us, a vocation, which we find, and we follow and there we find our happiness."

BIRMINGHAM - 22 July 2004 - 240 words

Archbishop Nichols charity bike ride - day three

On Monday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols set out on a bike ride through his archdiocese, with 55 cyclists including priests, religious sisters and young people, to raise funds for the Birmingham Catholic Youth Service.

At the end of yesterday, after Mass at St Joseph's in Malvern, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "Our day began bright and early at 6.30am with a large cooked breakfast at Oscott College.

"This was most fortunate as we didn't stop for lunch until we reached Worcester Cathedral after 2pm.

"The first part of our trip was along the canals of industrial Birmingham. In no time, we were in the fashionable canal-side city centre. There we met up with Tommy Godwin, the 1948 Olympic cycling double bronze medal winner, and Don Maclean who described himself as 'the Lance Armstrong of Solihull'!

"After interviews and photographs, this great company of over 60 cyclist set off again. Now we were travelling through the leafy suburbs, still on canal banks past Birmingham University, Cadbury World, and on towards the Worcestershire countryside.

"Worcestershire is undulating. That means there are plenty of long, slow hills which soon tested our stamina and our resolve. Delays ensued. We seemed to travel forever through the extensive parish of Redditch and the wonderful surrounding countryside.

"Gradually, a low roaring sound could be heard: not a heavy waterfall, but the M5 motorway. Alongside the M5 for a while and then off again onto the towpath which brought us right into the Severn basin and the great Cathedral of Worcester.

"The LIFE charity were our supporters here and many cyclists sported their T-shirts. Such a right and proper cause. The late lunch was brief: in the shadow of the Cathedral with its warm welcome, food prepared by St George's parish and Fr Paul Fitzpatrick.

"Then came the last part of our journey: up the hill to the dignified town of Malvern, home to Edward Elgar. In he local secondary school, very young cyclists had assembled to play their part. They proudly presented their contribution to me too. Thank you!

"We celebrated Mass at St Joseph s parish, with a wonderful welcome provide by the parishioners, young and old, and their parish priest, Mgr Patrick Kilgarriff.

"It had a been a long day and one on which it was easy to appreciate the importance of nourishment. But at Mass we reflected on the spiritual nourishment we receive: the Body and Blood of Christ himself. He is our 'travellers' food' and by the strength of that food we shall travel as far as our heavenly kingdom."

BIRMINGHAM - 23 July 2004 - 340 words

Archbishop Nichols charity bike ride - day four

At the end of the fourth day of the charity cycle ride through his archdiocese, after Mass at Our Lady & St Hugh, Witney in Oxfordshire, last night, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "Each day this week, two of the young people taking part in this 'Cycle For Youth' event, Roseanne and Becky, have worn T-shirts with a scripture text chosen by them for the day. This morning they appeared with: 'The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness'. They must have known what lay ahead!

"For three and a half hours we slogged on in driving rain. At the end of that we had to climb a steep hill path, for maybe a mile, straight up a
Cotswold hill. It was some effort. And we knew our weakness!

"Yet the spirit in the group is fantastic. We encouraged each other on and we were soon enjoying misty views of the Cotswold countryside and those delightful villages.

"None surpassed Upper Slaughter. Half an hour before we arrived, an advance party was there, looking to set up lunch. Immediately the use of the Village Hall was offered to us, and a few very kind villagers arrived to set things up and made tea for us. What a wonderful welcome.

"And so the day progressed: no more rain, plenty of hills, swooping downhill runs, a few stops for punctures and a splendid entry to Witney,
the end of the road for Sister Gilles who arrived at the finishing line, both hands raised in a victory salute.

"Our evening Mass reflection focused on the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives and in the sacraments of the Church. It was followed by a get together hosted by Fr Pat Armstrong, Sr Gillian and the parishioners of Witney parish, many of whom had prepared the liturgy, and gave given kind hospitality to these weary cyclists.

"Two hundred miles done! Another 35 miles to go and it's beginning to look easy! And it is great fun!"

BIRMINGHAM - 24 July 2004 - 380 words

Archbishop Nichols charity bike ride - final day

At the end of the fifth day of the charity cycle ride through his archdiocese, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: "The last day of our 'Cycle for Youth' was full of beauty and delight. The Mayor of Witney came to start us off at 7.30am and in no time we were wheeling through Stanton Harcourt down to the ferry at Bablockhythe.

"Eight times the tiny ferry shuttled across the river while we enjoyed wonderful morning sunshine. Our 'mid-morning' break was on the same river, at Abingdon: picturesque and peaceful.

"For this section of the ride I used the bicycle which had belonged to Andrew Robinson, a seminarian at Oscott who died of cancer. It was he who wrote that wonderful journal Tears at Night, Joy at Dawn, describing his final journey through illness, weakness and death itself. It is a book shining with faith and hope. Andrew s parents asked me to use his bike.

"But then I had to change back to my 'track' bike as we went 'off-road' again and back onto bridle paths. Slowly we worked our way across the Thames valley, taking a very close look at the Didcot power station and then up into the Chiltern Hills. Nowadays the Chilterns have their own distinctive sight: the red kites which soar and swoop in the clear sky.

"On we went through Wallingford and a bit more of Portsmouth Diocese, too. Eventually we came to our lunch break: on the village cricket pitch in Ewelme. The parishioners of Watlington parish provided us with a wonderful lunch. Thanks to them and to Fr Gerry Egan.

"Back on the bikes; deeper into the hills; then after some of the most beautiful scenery of wheat fields, woods and deer, we came down to the historic house of Stonor. It was a thrill to cycle up that beautiful sweeping drive to be met at the door by Lord and Lady Camoys.

"They gave us so much: not only fresh fruit juice and tea, but also a brief tour of the house exhibition and their beautiful gardens. Then we prayed in the chapel, remembering the brave martyrs of England, St Edmund Campion and his companions, who had stayed in this very house, protected by the family who sacrificed so much for their faith. It was a wonderful moment.

"The final leg: from Stonor to Fawley Court, the wonderful youth centre of the Polish Catholic Community, in the house built by Sir Christopher Wren on the banks of the Thames. Here, too, we were welcomed, not only by the Polish Fathers, but also by priests and people of the nearby parishes: Henley, Caversham, Goring and one priest down from Oxford.

"It was 5.15pm on the afternoon of Friday 23rd July as we cycled past the front of the house. We had completed 250 miles (400 kilometres) in five
days. No one who began this charity Cycle For Youth at Aston Hall in Staffordshire on Monday morning failed to stay the course!

"A Mass of thanksgiving, a meal, lots of speeches of thanks to all our sponsors, the back up teams, the two Peters - Peter Jennings for his PR and photography and Peter Harrington for his photography. The key organisers, Fr Michael White, Veronica and Mark Swinnerton, received a well-deserved standing ovation! What a wonderful job they have done!"

A tired by elated Archbishop Vincent Nichols added: "It is too difficult to find a final word. It has been an exhilarating week: physically and
spiritually, individually and as a group. An inspirational 'pilgrimage on wheels'!"

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