Hastings mum Gemma Stevenson set wheels in motion and completed an epic charity cycle ride from London to Paris in memory of her beloved husband Terry.
The challenging 319 mile bike ride took four days to complete and came just two and a half years after Corporal Terry Stevenson tragically died following an accident on his way home from Maidstone 36 Engineer Regiment.
In the dark days that followed her husband’s death Gemma and Terry’s two children, Pierce and Pippa, received help and guidance from Scotty’s Little soldiers; a charity dedicated to supporting bereaved British Forces children.
Terry had been a keen cyclist and Gemma took up cycling as therapy to help with her grief. She resolved to help raise funds for the charity that had been so important to her and her family. “Scottys Little soldiers have been great support for both myself and Terry’s children through the grief,” she said. “I wanted to give a little back or help this charity continue their work for so many children like Pierce and Pippa as it has, and continues to, help us and so many families like us who have had such a tragic loss.”
After months of training, on August 31, Gemma, along with other cyclists, joined the Discovery Adventures London to Paris ride and says it was indeed a challenge.“It was busy coming out of London and quite nerve racking! I rode solo along with 56 other riders I didn’t know down to Dover.
“It was very hilly around East Farleigh and the lumpy hills of Kent through the North Downs - it felt as though they’d never end!
“Some friends greeted me in Dover as this ride was in memory of my husband and this day was his birthday. We let off some balloons before boarding the ferry to France.”
On arriving in Calais the next leg of the journey took Gemma to Arras - a ride just shy of 90 miles. “This day was hilly - a grand total of 3,400ft was climbed! We cycled passed one of the First World War Cemeteries. I got to know a few of the riders and teamed up with some of them. I got to learn their stories and what charities they we’re raising funds for.”
Gemma says the third day of the challenge (Arras to Compiegne) was a tough day. “I think it was the early starts and not sleeping too great.
“This was also an emotional day; riding through amazing view points and past memorials. The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme - a war memorial to 72,246 missing British Empire servicemen who died in the Battles of the Somme of the First World War between 1915 and 1918, with no known grave had me choked. It is beautifully kept and was certainly a wonderful but sad stop.
Gemma says she was overcome with emotion when she completed the last leg of her ride, (Compiegne to Paris - 52.9miles) in 3 hours and 31 minutes. “It was the last day and I was on an absolute high - finishing the challenge I had set out to do - a 319 mile bike ride all the way to Paris!
“I was on top of the world finishing at the Effel tower and extremely overwhelmed with emotion.
“ A big shout out to Discovery Adventures as they we’re amazing support for the cyclists, marking out the routes, feeding us, coaching us and giving us tips and keeping our bikes maintained. They we’re a fantastic group of positive people and it was brilliant.
“I met some fantastic people and I managed to raise some amazing funds for Scottys Little Soldiers. I have raised over £1,600 so far.
“I love cycling it has helped me through so many dark days, it has been my therapy, I love being an example and role model for my four year old daughter Pippa - who now tells me she wants to win gold medals for cycling bless her.
“ I know my husband would have been so proud of me taking up this challenge.”
Anyone who would like to donate visit: https://www.justgiving.com/Gemma-Stevenson3/