Archive for the ‘Bikeabout’ Category

First Aid in the UK doomed!

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Apologies for the dramatic headline but i hoped to grab some attention.  If you have kept up with the blog over the years most of you will know that when i am not cycling i am a freelance outdoor instructor.  This requires me to have a first aid qualification.  I have used the same first aid provider for about 10 years now.  I was recently sent this email from them regarding the planned changes to first aid provision in the UK.  Please take a read and if you feel so inclined write to your MP, letter bellow to cut and past and info on how to contact them.

From my point of view it will make it more expensive for me to revalidate my first aid. It could also potentially reduce the quality of provision.    At the moment my provider tailors the first aid to an outdoor environment, very useful for an outdoor instructor.  The new changes look like it will make it harder for this to happen.

From Pete at First Aid Cumbria

Like to ask you to spare 5 minutes to contact your MP to ask for support for the The First Aid Industry Body (FAIB) to be able to continue with the  monitoring and approvals of providers of the First Aid qualifications.  Your involvement as a customer/employer will mean a lot more then anything i can write.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have announced that with effect from the 1st October 2013, they will no longer be responsible for the monitoring and approvals of providers of the First Aid qualifications.
HSE’s proposed Amendments are being laid before Parliament on 27th June 2013.

For some reason HSE are ignoring the views of the vast majority of First Aid Training Organisations. 

We are  really concerned that if there is an over emphasis  by HSE on the St.John/Red Cross or Ofqual/FE route (Awarding Organisation’s  or AO’s).

HSE are are giving more credibility to the AO’s route because they say it is an “accredited” qualification.

We are also concerned that the HSE wording affects the views of  Employers because in effect HSE are giving FAVOUR to a particular route when it SHOULD BE A FREE CHOICE TO EMPLOYERS.  The Awarding Organisation’s  will become suppliers of expensive certificates  and manuals. Courses will be of lower quality and expensive (6 hr EFAW course with St John’s Ambulance in Kendal is £138 – we deliver a two day course with pub lunches, an EFAW & Outdoor certification as well AED familiarisation plus throw in a £10 pocket mask for approx £110. ).   Also the Course content and lack of situation specific scenarios will render the courses offered not fit for purpose in an outdoor context. Eg do not cover hypothermia etc so will not meet the criteria set out by all the outdoor sport NGBs like RYA and BCU or MLB and also will not meet the training needs identified by employers for first aid in the outdoor workplace.

Unfortunately the draft guidance is so biased towards Ofqual/SQA that any Training Organisation and Employer with even a limited amount of intelligence can see that HSE are in essence saying Ofqual/SQA is the only suitable option because due diligence is required against all other options 
This was certainly not the intention of the Lofstedt Review where the expectation was a free and open market without any bias from any quarter, especially HSE.
HSE are trying to make us pay various other people to allow us to do what we’ve successfully done for 10 years. (We used to pay the HSE which was simple and effective but that ends in September).  We just want to deliver courses with  minimum fuss and bother. The AO’s will deliberately fragment the industry into ‘their’ methods effectively creating a series of ‘closed shops’. It will allow them to extract more money.
It’s bad news for Independent Trainers like us who  will have to ‘sign up’  to various AO’s to get our course ‘accredited’.
The entire business is money grubbing and divisive and will not improve quality which was  the Government’s  stated aim. 
We teach  First Aid!  It’s  simple. We try and give simple and enjoyable instruction….HSE proposed changes will add nothing apart from more work for us and ultimately more expensive courses for you.
AO’s have already create countless different types of ‘qualifications’ all delivering exactly the same information.
 ’Choice’.-The politicians clever word (patented by Tony Blair I believe)  or ‘privatisation’ as its better known.  I now have 18  ’choices’  of Awarding Organisations to choose from all costing lots of money and all adding higher levels of paperwork.
We are asking as many of our customers as possible to contact their own M.P. ( ) and consequently the Minister Mark Hoban about the proposed changes.
The ‘draft proposal’  will reduce our flexibility and specialism, and  will increase costs to you and we feel will lead to a dumbing down of training to meet “lowest common denominator” needs.
Industries with specialist requirements (eg outdoor adventure activities as regulated by AALS) would be poorly catered for under the draft proposals, and this would lead to expensive, inappropriate courses that will not meet the needs and drive up costs for both you  and us.

An  alternative option  that we favour is offered by The First Aid Industry Body (FAIB), We would like them to be able to continue with the  monitoring and approvals of providers of the First Aid qualifications. Monitoring will be more frequent than with the HSE system and yet the costs will be kept to an absolute minimum which means you will not have to pay more for your next course.

If HSE’s proposed changes are successful then it will be unlikely that you will be able to do another one of our courses but  will be forced to attend a more expensive and lower quality course next time you revalidate.

Please can you write to your MP  ASAP and ask them to send a letter to the Minister (Mark Hoban M.P.). (Letter below)
All we want is the HSE is to create a level playing field that will a First Aid Industry Body to compete on the same terms as St.John/Red Cross or Ofqual/FE route (Awarding Organisation’s  or AO’s).

Many thanks for your support


Peter Cunningham

Dear MP

I would like you, as my MP, to raise my concerns regarding the HSE’s plan to radically change the way in which first aid courses are ratified.
The HSE’s amendments are to be laid before Parliament on the 27th June 2013.
I am concerned that there is an over emphasis by HSE on the St.John/Red Cross or Ofqual/FE route.  HSE are  giving more credibility to the St.John/Red Cross or Ofqual/FE route because they say it is an “accredited” qualification.
I am also concerned that the HSE wording affects our views because in effect HSE are giving FAVOUR to a particular route when it SHOULD BE A FREE CHOICE.
Unfortunately the draft guidance is so biased towards one of the available options (Ofqual/SQA) that any Training Organisation and Employer with even a limited amount of intelligence can see that HSE are in essence saying St.John/Red Cross or Ofqual/FE route is the only suitable option because due diligence is required against all other options.
 In my experience, the very providers that the HSE will inadvertently exclude are the most engaging and well delivered.

I have found the ones which the HSE will ”support” are the most expensive, dull and uninspiring ones.
This was certainly not the intention of the Lofstedt Review where the expectation was a free and open market without any bias from any quarter, especially HSE.
I hope you will be able to lend your voice to my and many others’ opinion, and persuade the HSE to reconsider this ill thought out proposal.  The draft proposals  will only increase costs to us and i feel will lead to a dumbing down of training to meet “lowest common denominator” needs. 
Industries with specialist requirements (eg outdoor adventure activities as regulated by AALS) would be poorly catered for under the draft proposals, and this would lead to expensive, inappropriate courses that will not meet the needs and drive up costs.

It would be a tragedy if instructors, coaches, teachers, school children, hotel/guest house staff, members of the public et al. were denied access to the highest quality and most affordable training they can get.

All I want is the HSE is to create a level playing field that will allow a  ‘First Aid Industry Body’ to compete on the same terms as St.John/Red Cross or Ofqual/FE route (Awarding Organisation’s  or AO’s).

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing from you

Your Name

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Baby Alex… two become three

Friday, July 12th, 2013

Our last post was a few months ago and we thought you might like an update. Our baby boy, Alexander Gray Leakey, was born on 2nd May 2013, just after midnight, weighing just 5lbs 10oz.

Alex decided to join us a little earlier than expected at 35 weeks, rather than 40, and wasn’t due until 1st June. I was still at work and got quite a surprise when my waters broke quite spontaneously in the office! I wasn’t completely surprised however as his head was very low and I had been experiencing some early labour twinges on the previous saturday.

On the day though, Chris happened to be at the funeral of his great uncle, Bob Leakey, aged 98, in North Yorkshire and I had a few hours of being labour without managing to contact Chris! He got there in time though.

Bob Leakey, or Uncle Robert as we knew him, was an extraordinary fellow, born in Kenya, an inventor and engineer, he was once described as ‘the Edmund Hillary of Potholing’ with a colourful history of big underground adventures. I only met him 3 times, but he certainly made an impression and I can’t help feeling that as one great Leakey was being laid to rest another was being born.

Alex is named after my Grandad, my mum’s dad, and he was also a wonderful man, who I have such fond memories of. I hope my Alex will grow up to be as kind and funny as my grandad, and to be as good at drawing, singing, telling stories and giving elephant rides as he was! Having a baby somehow makes you reflect on the great men who have gone before him and you can’t help thinking about the continuity of your family and all the threads that are woven together from both sides.

The labour and birth went very smoothly, taking about 8 hrs from that moment in the office to the midwife laying him on my tummy, and I was able to avoid any interventions and big pain relief. Gravity and breathing helped a lot and a couple of hours of gas and air allowed me to give birth with a few big pushes at 12.27am.

I don’t know if cycling up big mountains improved my pain threshold, but it certainly helped my mental strength, and feeling in control is a big part of labour I believe. It was an incredible experience and once again, I am amazed at what the human body is capable of.

I am glad that we got up at 5am each day back in Malaysia, when we were trying anything to avoid the midday heat. It meant that I knew I could get up early if I really had to and has helped me cope with the lack of sleep and night time feeds.

Our trip also taught us the art of problem solving, with daily challenges being hurled our way. Having a new born is quite similar, although being tired and hungry is easier when it’s just you to worry about and you can tell each other what’s wrong. We are slowly beginning to understand Alex’s different cries. As you figure out one problem, a new one soon presents itself, however as with all things, it’s usually temporary and the words “this too shall pass” frequently echo in my head.

Proud Daddy!

Since his arrival, Alex has been to a wedding in the Lake District and to a book launch at the Oval Cricket ground in London. Oli Broom, who we met on the road in Thailand, cycled from Lords Cricket Ground (UK) to “The Gabba” in Brisbane, Australia to get to The Ashes. We were delighted to be invited to Oli’s book launch ” Cycling to the Ashes” and couldn’t resist putting Alex in his little penny farthing babygro! Oli’s fantastic book is available through Amazon…

Now at 10 weeks old he is starting to smile, coo and his legs are already practicing those pedalling moves! Chris is researching bike trailers and we are saving our pennies to buy one soon. Hopefully we can get out on our bikes, with Alex,  for more adventures in a few months time!

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A year at home…

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

As I write this I can’t believe I have been home for a year already, the time has flown by!

For the first time in 4 years, we have both been able to spend Christmas with our families. Whilst it’s great to have the memories of Christmas in Australia, China and Poland, for me Christmas is a time when you want to be with your family more than ever.

Looking back over the year, it really has been such a massive contrast to life on the road, on a bike. It has still been an adventure, but one of a different kind. Shortly after getting back, I moved to Manchester, found a flat and started a new job. Chris arrived back in February and slowly began to adjust to life in the UK again.

In April, we got married and had the most wonderful wedding with over 100 of our friends and family, in Cornwall. Everyone wanted to know what the Cornwall connection was, but for us, it was simply the case that we wanted to marry in a place that was as spectacular and beautiful as many of the places we went to on our travels. Cornwall, for those who haven’t been, is a glorious part of the UK, with rugged coastlines, fishing villages, traditional ways of life and gorgeous places to stay, not to mention great cream teas!

We chose an old fort from the 1860s, which had it’s own beach below the dramatic cliffs and we hired it (self catering) for the whole weekend, with many of our friends and family staying with us. The local B&Bs did very well too as 100 people descended on this quiet corner of Cornwall.

It was a wonderful opportunity to get creative as the Fort is a blank canvas and you can decorate and bring in everything (and everybody) you need. Deciding that I’d prefer to design my own wedding stationery and decorations, our flat in Manchester turned into something of a sweatshop in the few weeks before the wedding, with homemade bunting and order of services being printed and sewn all over the place! Heaven.

For the cake I decided I wanted to pick up on the theme of purple flowers and butterflies as the entire time we were cycling, in virtually every country there were wild purple flowers growing everywhere and butterflies fluttering alongside us as we cycled. Chris’ mum spent hours creating a beautiful silk flower garland to wind around the cake and I managed to buy two little metal cyclists for the top!

On the day we had so any helpers, it was a real team effort getting everything ready. Neither of us follow any kind of organised religion and we chose to have a registrar to marry us at the Fort, with a non-religious ceremony.  Getting ready was fun and after 2 years on the road without much in the way of glamour, it was so much fun to dress up in my wedding gown, have my hair curled and feel like a princess for a day. It was all I could have dreamt of and I was so happy.

As we entered the main hall, suddenly seeing all my wonderful friends and family, some of whom we hadn’t seen since we’d been back, was a little overwhelming and I immediately felt choked up with emotion. Walking down the aisle to  ‘All I want is you’ had the little ones dancing a little jig as I arrived, and it made us both smile.

The ceremony was amazing, I hadn’t expected it to feel so intimate and special. I was so overcome with emotion that I had to fight to keep the tears back, failing spectacularly when Chris’ dad got up to do his reading. By the time we reached our vows I was very emotional and I think anyone who wasn’t already welling up, was by the time I managed to compose myself and say the words! I’ve never been so moved by happiness like that before and it was so unexpected – I hadn’t really anticipated crying in front of 100 people!

Outside the photos were chilly and a big clap of thunder got everyone excited as the black clouds rolled in along the Cornish coastline. Trust us to have a bit of drama eh! The rest of the day was a great celebration with great food and a fantastic band, where we all danced our socks off till the wee hours. Chris and I attempted a ‘Strictly come dancing-esque’ dance to Crazy little thing called love, which we both loved and managed to remember all the steps!

The next day we were able to potter about on the beach and had a BBQ, the sun came out and Elly, our photographer was kind enough to do a second photo shoot on the beach, taking some spectacular photos. We were relaxed and messed about, in all sorts of poses – these are some of our favourite photos.

After the wedding, we hired an old VW campervan for the week and explored some of the west coast of Cornwall, eating great food and going for nice, but windy walks along the coast. It was exciting to be back home and exploring our own country for once!

Since then we have been working and settling into ‘normal’ life.  My job has been full on and I have been travelling up to Glasgow and down to London on a regular basis, but is all consuming! I’m relishing the new challenges and love being part of a creative organisation, surround by lots of talented people. Chris has been freelancing and has gone back to college to start studying towards a Post Graduate Diploma in Psychology. He is also taking over the web design company that I ran before and during the trip. The aim is to get that up and running again in full by the Spring 2013. Any freelancer designers and coders out there??  Do get in touch…

The last couple of months have been very exciting for us, as we have found out that we will be having a baby in June 2013! Whilst I’ve been wondering about cots and baby clothes, Chris has started researching baby bike trailers and baby carriers you can wear on your back! We have very excited parents who are looking forward to a grandchild and we are really happy to have a little one joining us in a few months, for a whole new type of adventure.

I remember on some of the hard days on the bike – struggling up a mountain pass… not being able to find a good camp spot and it getting dark… waking up to a tent full of hornets… running out of money in Mongolia….being too cold in Ukraine – and thinking, ‘well a crying baby at 3am is gonna be a walk in the park compared to this!’ However the closer the due day gets, the more I realise that life’s challenges are not necessarily harder or easier than each other, just different.

One thing I do know though, is that 2.5 years on the road together, has made us an awesome team and there are times when it seems we can read each other’s minds. So I am confident we can handle whatever a tiny baby wants to throw at us, so long as we stick together, keep talking and be there for one another.

I’ll keep you posted!

Finally, I want to wish all of you, wherever you are in the world, a fantastic New Year and a wonderful 2013. We’d love to hear your news too, so please email us when you get chance:

Liz xx

All photos by Elly Poselthwaite of PhotoBaby:




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Visiting the schools in Yorkshire

Monday, June 25th, 2012

After Bikeabout Ambleside I had a day to prepare for my visit to Hawes and Middleham schools. Both schools have been followingour trip for over a year. We had had Skype chats and emails during this time but now we were going to meet in person.

I was looked after well by Mr E and Mrs M and her family, and supplied with plenty of food to curb my huge appetite that had not disappeared yet. I had been eating about 5000 – 6000 calories a day in the weeks before returning to England to give me enough fuel to cycle long distances and live happily with sub zero temperatures in an Alpkit bivi bag.

My first day was spent at Hawes School. During the assembly I got to meet the whole school and was presented with a large tin of money that they kids had raised for Child’s Dream. It is quite amazing what a school with less than 100 pupils can do.

The rest of the morning was spent visiting different classrooms and sharing a selection of pictures from different countries. I was really happy with how the kids engaged. From each picture we could talk about a range of topic from culture, religion, wildlife to science and geography.

During lunch time I got to sample some of the school dinners and spend some time chatting with the kids. It was great to have been asked so many interesting questions.

With a full tummy I sat down in front of the green screen and was interviewed by some of the older students about the trip. Check out their great interview skills .

To round off the day we went outside to battle light winds and the cold, to put up the tent. The kids looked at all the different things that I carry in my bags paying close attention to what I used to sleep in and keep warm at night. The sleeping bag and camping mats went down well and we were able to explore how heat is lost and how we can prevent this. Having a cold Yorkshire day outside made the learning experience so much more real.

The next day I arrived at Middleham school, ready for another big day. Many of the kids brought their bikes to school and the local PCSO’s were in school to teach the kids some safe cycling. As well as this, the Middleham school mums and maybe dads, had been busy baking for ‘Buns for Bikeabout’. During lunch time and home time buns and cakes were on sale and all the money went to Child’s Dream. A whopping £158.25 was raised, brilliant for a small school and some homemade buns!

My day at Middleham was also full of sharing and relating. The contents of the bags were emptied out and the kids got a good look at all of the things I carried with me. With Mrs M class we had a big discussion about what kind of things you would take if you were going to India. In the afternoon we put up the tent Mrs M got to try out my sleeping mat and we cooked up some beans on the stove. Another brilliant day, check out the video the school made about my visit.


A big thanks to both schools for having me and for helping raise money for Child’s Dream. I hope I can come back one day and share some more of my adventures with you.

Next time I’ll be sharing the journey I took across Europe in the winter to get back to England!

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Cycling back in England and Bikeabout Ambleside.

Friday, May 4th, 2012

Bikeabout London our amazing party that raised £1070.00 for Child’s Dream ended with Liz and I at my Mums in South West London. We were both exhausted Liz having just completed her first full week of work in nearly a year and I still catching up from my three days with only five hours of sleep from the day before.Sunday was a day of rest and the first day since leaving Prague that I did not cycle anywhere, it was a great family day.

Bikeabout Ambleside was a week away. Liz had to go back to work but my sister, Sarah a teacher, who was on half term was going to join me for the ride from London to Ambleside. I was looking forward to seeing some of my own country again and excited to see how I would perceive things two and a half years on

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By midday Monday we were finally ready to leave, I had got rid of a lot on unnecessary things as well as a few luxury items and the bike was now feeling more like a racing car than a tank. We inched our way out of London and started making our way north.

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I was really interested to know how free camping was going to work, now I was back in the UK. Most of the land in Europe and Asia that I had passed by and camped in was free from fences. My memory of the UK was fences and gates but I was presently surprised at the offering the UK had. Anyone that has spent time cycling and free camping will know that you are subconsciously always looking out for somewhere to sleep. Even here in England there were plenty of spots and the first few nights were spent in small woods right next to the main road or in lovely parks on the outskirts of towns.

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The weather started quite well, we had a few showers but generally we were blessed with good cycling conditions, however towards the end of the week misty skies and heavy downpours went hand in hand as we made our way north. Sarah’s answer to this was to swap the tent for a hotel. A little begrudgingly I accepted, we found a motel that to me was costing a small fortune but apparently was the going rate.  We splashed out further on a takeaway and a cold shower.  Yes cold, to my disappointment the hot water was not working but when I found out that I would get the room for free as a result I was instantly happy. It was like camping in a big tent with pillows.

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What was most intriguing about this experience was peoples attitude to the problem. Anger, harsh words and raised voices.  A number of guest at the hotel took their frustration out on the lovely receptionist who had not been to Hogwarts or plumbing school and could not fix the hot water situation.  The plumber, that had been to plumbing school, had tried his best but could not fix the broken pump, it had to be replaced.  In my mind there was nothing that could be done, there was no point in getting angry about the situation, the hotel had said sorry and were going to give people a refund.  We were all getting a free roof over our heads and we still had cold running water that you could drink from the tap as well as kettles in the room.  This was more than most of the countries we had visited over the last few years  Yes my reference points were quite different but still I was amazed at the anger people had and the way the displayed it.

How would you feel if you were in this situation and what would you do about these feelings.  Remember there is a difference between feelings and behaviour.

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We skirted around Manchester and slowly started to edge around the Peak district I started to feel like I was getting home again. The rain and hills were reminding me of the Lakes and it was not going to be long before Kendal fells would welcome me home again.

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The bike was just holding together, I had had an excellent bicycle service in Prague from a lovely bike shop called Kola Na Statku that had not charged me a thing to get the bike going again. However back then I did not have the money to buy any new parts so really the bike was held together with love and duck tape. Unfortunately this was not enough and in a rather spectacular way the back spokes started snapping leaving the rim cracked. I was a little disappointed with the rim, it had only done 5000k  since it broke in Mongolia but considering the weight I had been carrying and the terrain I had cycle on maybe it was so not all bad.

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The bike shop in Coventry the Coventry cycle centre managed to do a quick turn around on a new wheel, thanks again guys and with only a morning lost we still made it to Kendal to my friend Chris Woodcock’s house on Saturday afternoon ready for Bikeabout Ambleside the next day.

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Liz and my Mum arrived on Saturday night and Sunday morning saw Sarah, Liz, Mum and I led by my friend Chris and his daughter ridding the last leg to Ambleside. We were joined by Niki from Bramwell International the company that provided my great boots and sandals.  Also Chris Loynes and Kate Rawles from the University of Cumbria.  Or St Martins as I remember it was the birth place of my cycling.  In 2003 Chris Woodcock and I had cycle down through France to get to the Picos in Spain. Although I never made it as my bike broke I had such a good time it made me want to do a bigger trip.

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Catching up with Kate and Chris was good.  Liz and I had attended a lecture given by Kate shortly before we left to go bikeabout.  Her lecture was about her cycle trip in America, one of its aims was to look at peoples attitude to climate change.  Kate has now written a book The Carbon Cycle: Crossing the Great Divide. This is a lovely example of combining doing something exciting with work and being a responsible human being at the same time.  I look forward to reading it!

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Arriving at the Water Edge Inn we were greeted by friends, followers of bikeabout and a few people that had heard about us on Lakeland Radio that morning.  One amazing couple greeted us with smiles and praise, we were bowled over and then almost fell when they gave a lovely donation towards building the school. Also greeting us were the two teachers from Yorkshire whose students had been following our trip for over a year.

With some amazing help from Chris Loynes and Kate we held a great raffle with prizes donated from Bramwell International and Millican. This combined with donations from people on the day we raised a healthy £390 for Child’s Dream.

A big thanks to all that took part.

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The cycling had truly ended, I now had to make sense of all that had happened over the last two and a half years as well as adjusting back to normal life. Importantly I also decided that I would dedicate the rest of this year to try and raise more money for Child’s Dream.

So all the money that I generate from public speaking this year will go towards our fund raising pot for Child’s Dream.  With this money we aim to build a school  in South East Asia. Find out more on our Charity page.  If you are interested in hearing more about my trip then please get in touch.

Next time: Find out how it was to meet the kids and teachers from the two schools that have been following our progress over the last year, learning and dreaming through our blog.

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