Friday, 29 June 2012

Golfers Get Fundraising

Tye Lohrenz at Wakefield House has news of some recent fundraising...

I am secretary of the Bromham 20’s Club. We are a group of 20 “gentlemen” who meet once a month and occasionally do some fundraising.

Annually we hold a charity golf day hosting about 24 teams of 4 players.

For the past 5 years Smiths News have entered a team, which this year consisted of Mike Moore, Howard Birch, Darren Neport. (Faye Morley-Medlar was represented by her husband Dave!)

The combined effort was to raise just over £2,500 distributed as follows:

TOTAL - £ 2533

They've Made It!

We've just received this picture from Mark Charlton from the Angel of the North in Gateshead. All that remains is for them to find their way to Newcastle House...

Fabulous work guys! We'll put up Ian Tallamy's guest post over the weekend, ready for you to read first thing on Monday :)


Even hotter off the press the guys have just arrived at Newcastle House – they heard the hog roast is still on!

[caption id="attachment_3417" align="aligncenter" width="599"] The filename given to this photo says it all - safe return :)[/caption]

Those Boots Are Made For Walking

As Community Week draws to a close, our thoughts turn to the walkers set to tackle the Ridgeway Walk this weekend.

At midnight on Saturday our teams - Borehamwood, Chicks and the Beanstalk and NottinghamSixthSense will don their walking boots to tackle the 26 miles to be completed within 12 hours. Unlike most marathons - which are relatively flat - they have the ups and downs of the Ridgeway to tackle too!

Debbie Nicholas (from Chicks and the Beanstalk) said:

We’re looking forward to the challenging 26 mile walk. Last weekend we walked 16 miles, which included the hill up to Barbury Castle, so we know exactly what’s in store for us as we head towards the finish line.  We’ve been busy, both training and fundraising.  The time and effort the team has put in shouldn’t be underestimated. It’s been very rewarding and fun at the same time!

On Sunday, Smiths News staff, family and friends will be waiting at Barbury Castle to congratulate them on their achievement.  I also hear a rumour that Mark Charlton aims to be there, fresh from completing his From S to N bike ride (floods permitting!)

I'm sure everyone at Smiths News wishes all the teams well. Fingers crossed the weather is set fair for you this weekend and be sure to take plenty of photos, so we can see how you got on!

Ian's blog Day 5: The Clouds Let Loose Their Payload

So this was the penultimate day of the cycle ride, the longest and the most challenging of all the rides. As you may have picked up before, the average speed of the cycle rides has been increasing every day and today again was no exception. But before we talk more about that, a special mention to Hugh Mcgill who earlier this week managed to cycle for ½ a day with his rear brakes locked on! Fortunately Hugh found the problem and managed to get them working properly for the start of today’s ride.

[caption id="attachment_3391" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Hugh McGill – with the faulty brakes - and one of the Bike Ride award winners (see later)[/caption]

The weather at the start of the day was overcast following a night of heavy rainfall. Roads were wet and the conditions were slippery in places. Little did we know at this point that many parts of the North East would be subject to flooding today. As we left the Humber we headed along some picturesque roads and headed towards the North York Moors. But as the journey progressed, the weather started closing in. Lunch time arrived and rain was in the air.

[caption id="attachment_3392" align="aligncenter" width="597"] Many of the cyclists took their lunch at this delightful tea shop en route. Steven Clark is putting on his waterproofs before the rain closes in.[/caption]

The clouds let loose their payload on the forlorn cyclists, making conditions more tricky, splashing up muck and spray from the bikes as they wheeled their way through the puddles and potholes.

Continuing on the journey, we pressed towards the North York Moors, climbing some steep hills and going through the gateway to the Moors via the Castle Howard Estate.

[caption id="attachment_3393" align="aligncenter" width="596"] One of the gatehouse entrances we passed through today leading to the Castle Howard Estate.[/caption]

Although the rain had fallen on all the cyclists, we didn’t let it dampen our spirits. Soon the weather began to ease, the clouds lifted and we even saw some sun giving us a clearer view of the beautiful scenery laid out in front of us. The roads offered challenging climbs and descents, but with some gusty cross winds cutting across the cyclist on some of the steeper parts of the journey.

Dropping down off the Moors, we descended into the village of Stockley. Whilst one group of cyclists paced on to the Premier Inn, the second group planned a far more civilised visit: to a friend of Hugh McGill and were duly treated to tea and chocolate cake in the Orchard of their garden.

[caption id="attachment_3394" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Getting set for the onward journey after their tea and cakes[/caption]

Incredibly despite the hills, the rain and the mud, the average speeds of the groups increased once again with the fastest pace ever for a Smiths News cycle ride.

At the end of the day everyone arrived safely at the Premier Inn for the evening meal and for the presentation of the ‘awards’. The awards are democratically decided alone by Mark Charlton and the worthy winners are presented with the illustrious  Smiths News Bike certificates. Here is the lists of the winners:

  • The ‘Half Wheeling’ Award – the award for refusing to let the person alongside you get their front wheel ahead of yours,  went to Martin Beach.

  • The ‘Quote of the Week’ Award went to Steven Clark – For politeness I can’t quite tell you exactly what the quote was, but it was something to do with the application of the soothing cream that cyclists need at the end of a bike ride.

  • The ‘Nutcracker’ Award went to Hugh McGill for falling off his bike and banging his head (Hugh was fine afterwards, although the same can’t be said for his cycle helmet).

  • The ‘Chunder and Lightning’ Award went to Cayleb Needham (you had to be there).

  • The prestigious ‘King of the Mountain’ Award for truly magnificent uphill cycling went to Ben Beach.

  • The ‘White Jersey’ Award for the best newcomer went to Paul Northover for a fantastic ride with the least aerodynamic bike and the widest handlebars ever seen on a Smiths News bike ride.

  • The ‘I bought some great tyres from a guy in Germany  . . . . psssssssssss’ Award went to Ian Tallamy for having 2 punctures in an hour on the same tyre.

[caption id="attachment_3395" align="aligncenter" width="545"] Steven Clark after receiving his award. Tomorrow his colleague Fred Napier joins the team as the final Day Cyclist supporter for the home run into Newcastle[/caption]

Tomorrow will be our last day and together with the ecstasy of celebration, the achievements made during the week, will be a touch of sadness that it’s all coming to an end. We head off towards the Angel of the North for a final photo opportunity and then towards Newcastle House for the finish. You can read about the final blog early next week.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Nora is Racing for Life

[caption id="attachment_3381" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Nora, Lindsay & Adrienne proudly showing off our medals from last year – Danielle is lurking to the left of the picture and is more interested in eating than posing!![/caption]

Wakefield House's Nora Roth has been touch with more Race for Life news:

I’m taking part again this year in the Race for Life on 1st July in Salisbury in memory of my late sister-in-law and in support of my niece who lives in the Salisbury area. “Team Swindon” (my other sister-in- law and niece – Adrienne, Danielle & myself) are joining up with the Salisbury gang on race day.

Good luck for Sunday Nora! Her Just Giving page is here.

Mark Silver Completes His 'Stroll'

[caption id="attachment_3339" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Mark at Oakwell Hall, near the finish[/caption]

He did it! We're delighted to report Mark Silver completed his walk around the Kirklees Way yesterday afternoon :)

[caption id="attachment_3340" align="alignleft" width="150"] Mark's route - apologies for the small size![/caption]

Having started on Saturday, in the 5 days of his 72 mile walk Mark has tackled floods (which he says was his low point of the walk), being reported on in the local newspaper and the shock of forgetting his Kendal Mint Cake.

Mark's route was as follows:

  • Day 1 - Birstall to Thornhill Edge

  • Day 2 - Thornhill Edge to Shepley

  • Day 3 - Shepley to Scammonden Dam

  • Day 4 - Scammonden Dam to Scholes

  • [caption id="attachment_3358" align="alignright" width="150"] 'Every week should be art week'[/caption]

    Day 5 - Scholes to Birstall

Judging by his remarks and progress pictures on Twitter, Mark has a great liking for Holmfirth and the beauty of the reservoirs seen whilst walking through the Pennines (particularly the isolation at Wessenden, which was Mark's highlight). After seeing his tweet about seeing the 'wrong' side of Castle Hill, I thought he'd also got lost. It turned out he's used to viewing it from the other side.

[caption id="attachment_3350" align="alignleft" width="150"] *that* cafe in Holmfirth[/caption]

After completing his walk, Mark said:

This has been a much bigger challenge than I had expected. After heavy rain the day before, the first day became quite tricky. Many of the paths were flooded, so I had to find an alternative route, which meant I had to make up time over the next days. Day three was the most enjoyable, as I finally got up to the Pennines, and the route took me past three very picturesque reservoirs. I had the views all to myself for around two hours before getting back to civilisation. This walk has been challenging but rewarding, and I'm already wondering what I'm going to do in 2013!

[caption id="attachment_3352" align="alignleft" width="600"] Wessenden reservoir[/caption]

The map and images in this post - apart from the one of Mark at the top - are taken from the fantastic set of pictures he posted up on Twitter during his walk. I'll be showing a further selection next week.


Ian's blog Day 4: Past the land of power stations

Yesterday we reached the half-way point, and after today’s journey we’ve now got about 125 miles to the finish post at Newcastle House.

Although the navigation this week has been pretty good, today one of the groups got lost after just ½ mile, (for those who did this ride last year, you’ll fully understand when I say this was Gordon’s  group). Meanwhile the other group pressed on, putting miles in front of Gordon’s group. After pushing the pace, Gordon’s group caught up and passed the other group, but then due to ‘technical problems’ (I think it was a puncture), the second group passed us once again gently reminding us of story of the ‘tortoise and the hare’.

[caption id="attachment_3332" align="aligncenter" width="418"] Gordon going through the route instructions for the rest of the journey[/caption]

Despite the predictions of a downpour, the weather held up and as we left Nottingham we passed through some quaint country lanes and tracked past the east of Sherwood Forest and past the land of power stations. The rain held off for the day, despite the predictions of the BBC weather forecasters and the sun came out to raise the temperature at the end of the day.

Although today was the furthest distance wise so far (82 miles), due to the flatter route and the prevailing south westerly, we were able to reach the Premier Inn in record time. At some points in the journey today, Gordon had to remind riders to slow down the pace as cyclists were pushing speeds of up 25 – 30 mph on the flat – truly phenomenal cycling!  But now everyone is starting to feel the aches and pains of 4 days of punishing pedal pushing.

[caption id="attachment_3333" align="aligncenter" width="598"] Ben Beach from Bertrams illustrates how we should stretch the legs and help to prevent the muscles from cramping up.[/caption]

As the route took us around Newark, we headed further north towards Gainsborough and then turned north-east again towards Scunthorpe. After passing round the west of Scunthorpe, we headed directly north the Humber Bridge. The Bridge was opened just over 31 years ago in June 1981 to traffic. Car drivers would normally pay £1.50 for each crossing, but there were no such demands on the cyclists to empty their pockets at the toll booths. Instead we were treated to great views along the Humber estuary.

[caption id="attachment_3334" align="aligncenter" width="598"] The Humber bridge from the south side of the river. The Premier Inn we’re staying at tonight is about ½ mile from the north end of the bridge.[/caption]

The other group leader is Andy Cook who is a very experienced cyclist and has cycled with Mark Charlton for a number of years [you may also remember Mark went on one of Andy's training camps in Mallorca earlier this year and Andy was also involved in the cycling arrangements for John Bishop's 'Week of Hell' - Ed]

Andy Cook has organised the route and the logistics for this year’s cycle ride as well as cycled with us and given a great deal of encouragement and advice.

Tomorrow is expected to be the hardest day’s ride. It’s a 87 mile journey climbing through the North Yorkshire Moors and will be a tough challenge for all the cyclists especially at this stage in the journey.

Thanks once again to everyone for your continued donations during the week and for your comments on the blog.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

A Good Day for a Cream Tea

[caption id="attachment_3265" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Giving you a 'flavour' of the afternoon[/caption]

The weather was relatively kind for the cream tea fundraiser Wakefield House's Chicks and the Beanstalk held on the 17th June in Liddington. About 35 people came to sample all the goodies on offer and £867 was raised towards the team's target for their Ridgeway Walk this Sunday :)

Good luck to them and all the other Ridgeway Walk teams flying the flag for Smiths News!

Anyone for Tennis?

Bertrams have devised a topically sporty way to support their From S to N cyclists this week by holding a Wimbledon sweepstake.

Their IT departments in Norwich and at the NAC sold the tickets, which proved to be very popular.  Simon Binney explains how the sweepstake works:

We sold 128 tickets at £2 per ticket. A total of 104 separate people bought tickets (some bought multiple tickets). Each ticket bought the holder a male player and a female player. This raised a total of £256, from which we deducted prize money of £50 (£25 to the holder of the winning male player and £25 to the holder of the winning female player). The draw took place on Friday 22 June at midday, shortly after the official draw in Wimbledon and the players were announced.

£206 will be divided equally between the 3 charities Hugh McGill, Martin Beach and Ben Beach are cycling for.

Ian's blog Day 3: Having a good 'try' at getting around Rugby

If you read yesterday’s blog then you would have seen where we were staying, so after finishing our breakfast at the Wobbly Wheel restaurant, we all made sure all the fixings were secure and there was no danger of the wheels coming off!

The weather forecast was mixed for the day, starting off cooler than the previous day and with a possibility that we might hit some rain spots before the day was out.

Starting from Banbury we headed across to county of Warwickshire crossing the Oxford Canal, having a good 'try' at getting  around Rugby and heading past the outskirts of Leicester, avoiding most of the main roads and continuing with the path which set us on some quiet and peaceful country roads.

At one point on the journey, the road was blocked by three different  5 bar steel gates. Opening the gates takes you through a narrow strip of road across a farmer’s field which you have to pick your way through avoiding the kamikaze sheep darting out in front of you.

Continuing with the ride, most people are now getting settled into the pace which is now floating around an average of 15-20 mph, although with a tail wind today’s journey may have been slightly faster for some.

The lunch stop was due to be in the village of Desford, but after a quick glance around, we didn’t see anywhere for us all to stop, so instead we headed towards the Desford Bird Centre. Surprisingly may of the parrots are uncaged and have freedom to fly around wherever they wish. One parrot landed on the wire of a telegraph pole just above causing us to quickly clear the area just in case he left any messages for us.

We continued our journey towards Nottingham heading round the east of the city, avoiding the traffic in the centre of town and heading towards the premier inn at the north of the city, again avoiding many of the main roads where possible, although we witnessed a couple of police cars chasing what we assumed was probably a stolen car.

[caption id="attachment_3325" align="alignleft" width="599"] Everyone enjoying their evening meal at the local Beefeater restaurant – something we have to endure at the end of each day’s cycling.[/caption]

Although I talk a lot about food, Mark Charlton was quite keen on letting you know that food is very important and necessary for us .

Today’s cycle ride of over 80 miles burns up several thousand more calories than the average of 2000 calories the average person needs every day, so everyone looks forwards to the evening meal, with no-one missing out on the three courses.

On Wednesday, we increase the daily mileage once again and look forward to crossing the Humber Bridge at the end of the ride – let’s just hope the weather is going to be good enough for us to appreciate the views.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Lethbridge Run Completed

[caption id="attachment_3259" align="alignleft" width="300"] Here's a ‘before’ photo on the day of the run...![/caption]

Zoe Marlow has an update on the Lethbridge 10k run, which she and Wakefield House colleagues Emma Allan and Emma Parry successfully completed on the 13th June...

To date we have collected a massive £612 in donations smashing our initial target of £200! Thanks for your support with the fundraising and promotion.


Ian's blog Day 2: Across the Magic Roundabout

There was a possibility that the England score from Sunday night might dampen the spirits of the cyclists, but as the day started, all thoughts of the football quickly disappeared and melted away under the warm sunny weather that stayed with us for the duration of the ride today.

First stop on the journey was a trip to Head Office in Swindon, where we had a great reception from the folks based at Wakefield House, and a rare privilege for us turning up to work in a pair of shorts.

[caption id="attachment_3308" align="aligncenter" width="601"] Proof that we made it to Wakefield House. What you can’t see is the group of Nationwide visitors prevented from entering the building.[/caption]

After some more photos (what happened to the coffee and cakes), we headed through Swindon across the Magic Roundabout (a first experience for many of the cyclists) to get across Swindon and head for Stratton St Margaret.

As we headed out of Swindon, we switched to country roads and took in some fantastic Wiltshire scenery.  Views of the rolling English countryside came into view, and we stopped briefly for a rest break to take in the scenery.

[caption id="attachment_3309" align="aligncenter" width="601"] This was the scene set before us at one of the rest breaks. Unfortunately we couldn’t dwell for long and it was soon time to move on again.[/caption]

Next stop was Burford, an idyllic Cotswold village to take a lunch break.  Taking our time to regain our energy levels it was time to move further north towards Chipping Norton for our afternoon tea at the premises of an independent bookseller supplied by Bertrams.

[caption id="attachment_3310" align="aligncenter" width="602"] In the centre of the picture is the owner of the bookstore pictured at the back[/caption]

Following a brief stop for a cup of coffee it was time to head over to Banbury for the Premier Inn and the evening rest.

As the day unwound, it became clear that 3 of the riders were competing to see who could get the next destination before anyone else (this isn’t meant to be a bike race). However many congratulations to Chris Benger, Cayleb Needham and Ben Beach for getting to the Premier Inn a good 5 minutes before the next rider.

[caption id="attachment_3311" align="aligncenter" width="596"] Congratulations gentlemen for some energetic riding, but I’m not quite sure whether the name of the restaurant adjacent to the Premier Inn is a good omen![/caption]

Once again it’s great to say that there were no accidents today, although Nick Gresham came close when a driver opened the car door in front of him. Today Ian Evans’ bike refused to behave itself and Mark Charlton very kindly donated his ‘standby bike’ to help Ian get back on the road. On the puncture list, I count 4 punctures today (I daren’t say who had two of them within ½ an hour – I just hope there are no more for me tomorrow).

Thanks to everyone for your continued support – there’s a number of hard miles left ahead of us – more details tomorrow.

Monday, 25 June 2012

NNO Get Athletic

Ken Ingham has been in touch about a combined athletic effort he's participating in, which is set for Community Week and beyond...

The National Newspaper Office's elite sports division, NNO Athletic, will be training hard and taking part in a number of sports challenges. With your support, we hope to make the training and effort worthwhile by raising lots of donations along the way for our team's chosen charities.

*The sports challenge schedule*

It kicks off in June during Community Week, and our NNO Athletic athletes - Gavin Fraser, Sam Blackman, Chris Atherton and Ken - will between the 4 of us swim, bike, and run a combined distance of 190 miles through the following events:

Our chosen team charities are:

All donations will be split equally between these three charities and NNOAthletic have set up a Virgin Money Giving page for your donations :)

Looking forward to reporting your progress in Dispatches guys!

Day Cyclists Support From S to N

As well as our week's regular From S to N crew, a number of other cyclists are joining the team for the day to add some extra special support. They are as follows:

[caption id="attachment_3287" align="alignright" width="300"] Day 1 cyclist Ken Ingham[/caption]

Day 1 (Sunday 24th) - Southampton to Marlborough

  • Nick Gresham (Chief Financial Officer, Smiths News)

  • Ken Ingham (Publisher Account Manager for Smiths News)

Day 2 (Monday 25th) - Marlborough to Banbury

  • Nick Gresham continues on Day 2. He's looking to cycle most of the day -

    [caption id="attachment_3286" align="alignleft" width="300"] Day 1-2 cyclist, Nick Gresham[/caption]

    veering off a few miles before Chipping Norton to head home to Woodstock.

  • Colin White (Deputy Company Secretary at Wakefield House). Colin joins the ride at Swindon, and continues the rest of the day to Banbury.

  • The team will also be stopping off in Chipping Norton to meet book shop owner - and major Bertrams customer - Patrick Neale. I hear the rumours he’ll cycle the rest of the way to the Banbury are unfounded. I'm expecting our Dispatches hot shot reporter - Ian Tallamy - to give us the actual details (and whether they did have tea and cake in the shop's cafe) later :)

Day 4 (Wednesday 27th ) - Nottingham to Hull

  • Adrian Howett (Goods In Supervisor, Nottingham House)

Day 6 (Friday 29th ) - Stockton-on-Tees to Newcastle

  • Fred Napier (Day Pack Manager, Newcastle House). Fred was also one of the CTC cyclists with From S to N participant and colleague Steven Clark.

It's great to see the team getting an extra boost along the way! I'm hoping we'll get to see evidence of the other day cyclists as the week unfolds...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ian's blog Day 1: No arguments, job done

Ian Tallamy gives us the From S to N inside story. Day 1, Southampton to Marlborough...

What started as a really wet and damp dreary ended up as a warm and sunny Summer’s afternoon. An enthusiastic group of 15 cyclists gathered outside the Smiths News depot in

Southampton. First up was the team briefing from Mark Charlton outlining the events that were to going to happen that day, the hotel arrangements for the night and an introduction to the guides who would be cycling with us.

At this stage, everyone is wondering who’s going to be the next legendary Chris Atherton ready to fall off their bike and nervous glances passed between the cyclists*, each wondering whether it would be them. Fortunately as the day progressed, it seemed that today wasn’t going to be the day when anyone fell off.

Anyway – back to the start – the cyclists lined up for the customary photo shoot. The photographer thought it would be better if a few of the cyclist leaned over their bikes – whether this was so they could get used to flying off the handlebars, or whether it was for a more aesthetically pleasing photograph, no-one knows. The photo session was mercifully brief, by this stage all the cyclists were ready to go. We were going to be divided into two separate groups – a lead group and a following group. To save the clamour of everyone heading for the lead group (not), Mark Charlton unilaterally decided on who was going where – no arguments, job done.

The ride took us through Romsey and Stockbridge, crossing over the Kennet and Avon canal and ascending to have some beautiful views of the countryside south of Marlborough.

Mark was very proud of his hi tech trip computer (like the one shown below) and showed it off to anyone who had the time to look it. The only problem was, it was recording a negative mileage, so starting off on 0000 miles, by the end of the journey Mark was able to show he had completed 955 miles on the clock – not bad for  a Sunday afternoon’s cycling. Back in the real world, the rest of us were hoping to achieve about 45 miles.

Brett Hanley managed to break his trip computer and also managed to get a puncture an hour or so afterwards.

Hugh McGill managed to shred his rear tyre and had to have a replacement tyre and inner tube.

One of the support riders also got a puncture – so that’s three punctures on the first day. Ian Evans hired a super strong titanium bike for the week, which gave up after 41 miles and needed some emergency repairs.

Fortunately there were no accidents or injuries.

The intrepid cyclists headed off for an evening meal (not very conveniently timed to coincide with the England game against Italy). Then get set for day 2.

* = I might be able to give you a hot tip for who that might be, if you ask nicely ;)

A Long and Slow Way Home

Just as From S to N is about to start today, Mark Charlton shares his thoughts on the journey ahead...

A friend of mine tells a good story about a kayaking trip he once led. In a remote region of the Himalaya his expedition party came across an elderly English traveller. They exchanged pleasantries and my friend explained his plan to make the first descent of a white water canyon.  'Are you from Birmingham?' the old man asked. My friend nodded and the traveller paused before replying, 'You've come a long way to get wet!'

This Sunday I'm doing something similar, albeit on a smaller scale.  And I'm riding a bike not paddling a kayak, though judging by the forecast I suspect it won't make much difference. Next week I'm peddling from the English Channel to the Angel of the North; from Southampton to Newcastle, the most southerly and northerly of my company's operating locations.

It's a small joy of my job that I get to organise our community and charity programme. In June 2011, I rode from west to east across the UK (that's so 'last year', someone said the other dayraising money for Whizz-Kidz. This year, I'm raising money for the National Autism Society, a charity that's especially important to a colleague of mine.

Many of us will have raised money this way - it's become a cultural norm to ask for donations in return for completing some difficult feat or other. When you think of it, that's quite an odd proposition, but let's not get philosophical. The point I want to make is that few of those feats will involve the courage my colleague has shown - sharing her personal story, working with others and acting as ambassador for a charity that has supported her autistic son.

Autism is a widely misunderstood condition affecting hundreds of thousands of people. At root it a developmental disability that affects the way those people communicate, how they relate to the world and make sense of what's around them. It's not strictly a mental or physical illness, and yet it can be equally devastating. The National Autism Society provides support, information, and services to help autistic people and their families better cope with the world.

The paragraph above is my summary description - easier to write than truly comprehend.

I've not done as much training for my ride as I'd have liked. Frankly, I'm overweight and unfit - yet I'm looking forward to it immensely. I'll be joined by colleagues riding for other good causes and for once the talk won't all be about profit and loss. And were heading north, which has a certain resonance for me; every peddle-rev taking me nearer to the place I grew up. I haven't been back since my father died, but that's another and very different story.

I was thinking the other day of that traveller in the Himalaya and what he'd say if we met him?  Are you from Newcastle? he might ask I'd tell him I was. Wellthat's a long and slow way home. 

Wish me luck.

Thanks Mark, we wish you and the rest of the From S to N cyclists the best of luck and better weather!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

From S to N Route Announced

Community Week is nearly here! So it's the perfect time to announce the route our 13 intrepid cyclists will be taking for their From S to N challenge next week.

The route is:

  • Day One - Southampton to Marlborough. The riders will be setting off from Southampton Depot at 1.00pm

  • Day Two - Marlborough to Banbury. There's a visit to Wakefield House along the way for everyone to cheer them along. (scheduled to arrive 9.30 am)

  • Day Three - Banbury to Nottingham

  • Day Four - Nottingham to Hull

  • Day Five - Hull to Stockton-on-Tees

  • Day Six - Stockton-on-Tees to Newcastle. There's a quick visit to the Angel of the North along the way and everyone should reach the Newcastle Depot by 12.30 pm to big cheers all round!

Other riders will be joining them along the way for the day's ride. We'll update you with more details as soon as we have them. Ian Tallamy will be writing guest posts for Dispatches every day to make sure we have all the latest news and snippets of gossip right from the heart of the action.

So keep an eye out for future posts!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Adrian Walks for Life

On May 20th, Adrian Warner completed the Walk for Life in London. Not to be confused with the Race for Life which is run by Cancer Research UK,  this annual event is designed to raise awareness and money for the Terrence Higgins Trust and is in its 23rd year. 

Adrian wrote a piece about his experiences for BLS' newsletter and kindly consented for it to also feature in Dispatches... 

It’s my third year of doing this walk, it’s a great cause and is a fun day when the weather stays fine, as it did this year. The ten miles takes in incredible historic sights such as Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, Covent Garden, Waterloo Bridge and back along the South Bank including the National Theatre, Tate Modern, OXO Tower, The Golden Hinde and HMS Belfast.

Plenty of walkers (which also included dogs and stilt jumpers!) engaged even further into the spirit of this year’s theme, Kings and Queens, by walking round London in fancy dress. I raised £470 including Gift Aid, so a worthwhile activity and I look forward to doing it again next year. My sponsorship page can still take donations.

I would like to personally thank everyone who sponsored me whether you are a customer, publisher or colleague.

Next up for BLS' Community Week fundraising sees Neil Barker cycling from Southampton to Newcastle and Mark Silver walking the Kirklees Way.

Friday, 15 June 2012

It's Rainbow Friday!

Helen Ives and her HR colleagues at Bertrams have come up with a fresh twist on the Dress Down Friday theme (or up for that matter) to raise funds for Sense.

Since the end of May, they've been holding Rainbow Fridays. Participants pay a £1 to dress in the nominated colour for that week. Each one is different and it all comes to a colourful end in Community Week, with orange designated as the final colour.

I wonder if this was chosen in view of Dispatches' main header colour? Today's colour is Green, and Purple will be  on view next Friday.

[caption id="attachment_3162" align="alignright" width="300"] Jubilee colours[/caption]

A patriotic red, white and blue were chosen for the Friday before the Jubilee weekend, with staff showing a number of ways in which they complied with the new 'dress code'.

Sadly Dispatches wasn't offered photographic evidence of the boys dressed up in pink ;)

Thursday, 14 June 2012

CTC Completed

[caption id="attachment_3150" align="aligncenter" width="640"] All ready for the off...[/caption]

We've news of our intrepid trio from Newcastle House who you may remember were off to tackle the Coast to Coast cycle route earlier this month.

[caption id="attachment_3151" align="alignleft" width="300"] The End![/caption]

There was a complete team effort from Steven Clark, Kevin Graham and Fred Napier of the Day Despatch team, who cycled from Whitehaven in Cumbria home to Tynemouth in Tyne and Wear from Friday 1st to Sunday 3rd  June.

I'm happy to report a successful completion of the 140 mile trek and there were smiling faces at the end.

I'm rather intrigued they seem to have found an ice cream van selling a canny bevvy or two! ;)

[caption id="attachment_3153" align="alignright" width="300"] Steve, Fred... and Kevin with canny bevvy in hand![/caption]

The trio were assisting Steve's target for the From S to N Community Week bike ride in a couple of weeks time.  Steve will be taking to the saddle again safe in the knowledge their efforts have netted £1,345 in sponsorship thus far. Here's their Just Giving page if you'd like to add a little top up :)

Steve, Kevin and Fred are fundraising for Newcastle's Marie Curie Hospice and I hear a small crowd of family friends and colleagues braved the cold to welcome them back. Here's hoping the weather improves and the crowd swells to cheer Steve and colleagues when they ride into town having completed the 375 miles from Southampton!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Getting Ready to Stroll...

You may remember Mark Silver from BLS is Strolling Around Kirklees in a couple of weeks time. Mark has taken time out from training to update us on how he's getting on...

As I'm sure you all know, I will be taking part in a 72 mile walk during Community Week. After a false start some weeks ago, my training is now starting to gather pace, and I have been managing to walk between 10 and 12 miles per day over the last couple of weeks. This will start to increase up until the day I set off.

Unfortunately, many of the other Community Week fundraisers recently have involved cake, which means I might need to start training even harder! My walking at the moment is geared towards walking to and from walk via longer routes than usual. Luckily the area is blessed with some great country paths and countryside, and I'm never short of finding a new route to explore.

If you would like to help me raise money for the National Literacy Trust, you can sponsor me at my Just Giving page. A PDF sponsor form is also available on request.

Thank you Mark - we look forward to hearing all about how you got on in a few weeks time and seeing your photos!

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Gemma Races for Life

Several Race for Life events were held over the weekend and we have news just in of Gemma Dallman's endeavours from Wakefield House. She completed her 3.2 mile run at Lydiard Park in Swindon on Saturday in the impressive time of 29 minutes!

So far Gemma has raised £175 for Cancer Research. You can help her raise more by visiting her Just Giving page :)

Are there any more Race for Life reports and photos due to come in? We'd love to see how you got on!

Having a Bit of Trouble

[caption id="attachment_3117" align="alignleft" width="168"] Watch out![/caption]

Having a bit of trouble in the Office today Dennis has come to work...

... was the cry for help issued at Stoke House recently to Paul Tucknutt. Paul then decided to let his colleagues at Aberystwyth, Shrewsbury, Stoke and Wednesbury in on the 'problem':

Dianne Nancarrow in Stoke House has really got in the spirit of Wednesbury Group Community Week Fancy Dress-Dress Down day. Well Done to Dianne or is it Dennis for getting in the spirit of what Community Week fund raising  is all about.

We thought everyone reading Dispatches might also like to see what was going on ;)

I wonder where Gnasher is...

Friday, 8 June 2012

Michael's Blog: Swimming in the Sun

Hot on the heels of our news update earlier in the week, Michael Jamieson has sent his own account of how things are going in his final weeks of preparations for the Olympics...

The summer competition schedule is well under way! I’m in Canet, France currently (meant to be) competing in the second leg of the Mare Nostrum circuit. This racing series comprises of three legs; Barcelona, Canet & Monaco. There are worse venues I know, and that is probably why this is one of the few occasions in the season, out with the major competition of the year, that there is a very international field present.

I had a great meet in Barcelona, finishing 1st in the 200m Breaststroke and 2nd in the 100m Breaststroke, both ‘in-season’ personal bests. ‘In-season’ or ‘unrested’ is a term swimmers use to categorise racing in heavy training volume. This is a good indication of whether a personal best time is just around the corner, and for me, a confidence boost going into the final weeks of preparation.

I was excited to continue the momentum gained from Barcelona into the meet in Canet but unfortunately have been hit by an illness bug causing me to withdraw from my events. It’s frustrating as I’m in good form and would have been looking to win or podium in my events again, whilst posting a couple more in-season personal bests! There is always a risk of illness in an environment with so many athletes eating together, sleeping in the same hotels etc and myself, along with a few members of the South African and Norwegian team, have fallen foul of this. I haven’t had so much as a cold in the last couple of years so I can’t really have any complaints!

The next few weeks see us travel to Mallorca for a short training camp before the National Championships mid-June, acting as the second Olympic trials. There are five of us travelling to Mallorca, two of which will be tapering for the second trials as they still have an opportunity to qualify for the Olympic Games.

I have some exciting dates in the coming few weeks – training in the sun in Mallorca and the official kit day in Loughborough at the end of June where we will be measured up for the official Team GB kit for the Games and given some freebies from the official sponsors and partners of the Games!

The kit day will also mark the last week of the intense training volume, after which, the preparation is done and the window to have any training improvements and adaptations, will be closed. From then on, the goal will be to rest and the focus switches from the daily physical challenges of training to the psychological aspects of keeping perspective, having high levels of confidence and putting faith in the work that has gone before :)

A fantastic Guest Post, thank you Michael. It's great to have terms like 'in-season' personal bests explained so clearly and to hear of your encouraging performances at Barcelona. Best wishes for a speedy recovery, so you can get the best from the sunshine in Mallorca and your final weeks of intense training.

Next month the Games will finally be here!

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Stockport House Race for Life

[caption id="attachment_3064" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Wendy Ross (Stockport Transport Admin), Hannah (Wendy's daughter), Josie Sinacola (retired staff member), Sheila Rowbotham, Jo Johnson (both SAP HR), Kiera (Jo's daughter), Lynn Henshaw (Mag Ops Manager) and Karen Parsons (Mag returns)[/caption]

The ladies of Stockport House showed they're no slowcoaches when they ran in their local Race for Life at Woodbank Park at the end of May.

Jo Johnson roped in 4 colleagues, 2 daughters and even a retired member of staff to keep her company on their run in aid of Cancer Research UK. So far they've raised over £800, with more money still coming in. You can also add to their total by contributing to their Just Giving Page.

Jo says:

We're all very proud of ourselves. None of us are runners, but we all completed the course in 51 minutes.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Michael Makes Progress

After a disappointing European championships a couple of weeks ago we now have some more encouraging news re Michael Jamieson's progress towards the Olympics.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend he competed in the Mare Nostrum series which is held on the Mediterranean cities of Barcelona, Canet and Monaco. He had a tremendous swim in Barcelona picking up silver in the 100m breaststroke and gold in the 200m breaststroke! He may compete this weekend in Canet and from there will head off to Majorca for a training camp.

Many of the British swimmers are in Majorca for warm weather training – this will be the last intensive camp before the Games.

I'm sure Michael will be much encouraged with these later performances. More from him soon.

Fun and Games for the NAC

[caption id="attachment_3060" align="aligncenter" width="640"] The 2 winning quiz teams who drew on points and went through to the tie break question. From left to right are Jon Vickers, Dan Noble, Vicky Guy, Vicky Holdsworth, Tom Bell, Fliss Holdsworth, Adam Hellewell and Natasha Thrams[/caption]

On May 24th the NAC Community Group held a Charity Challenge Night at the local sports club.  This consisted of a number of fun activities including bingo, picture quiz and a raffle, but the main activities were the general knowledge quiz and the farmyard derby.

The derby was NAC's version of a traditional race night but farmyard animals were raced instead of race horses - which made it all the more fun.  The star animals on the night were ‘Peking Duck’, head chicken ‘Foghorn Leghorn’, ‘Trigger’ the farmyard horse and the prize pig ‘Making Bacon’.

[caption id="attachment_3058" align="alignright" width="300"] The raffle gets drawn at the end of a great night[/caption]

Having paid an entrance fee which allowed teams to enter the quiz, guests were able to place bets on the farmyard races, half of which was paid out in prizes and the remainder put towards the fundraising total.  The raffle was a favourite as always and some great donations were received from a variety of local businesses, customers, and staff.

Around 70 people attended – a mix of NAC and BLS staff plus their family and friends, all helping to raise a funtastic total of £715.00 to be split between the Cancer Support Centre and SACAR.

Both are local charities.  The Cancer Support Centre offers support to local people suffering from all types of cancer and most of us are affected by this disease in one way or another.  SACAR  is another local charity that supports adults with Autism and Asperger’s syndrome in leading an independent life.

Friday, 1 June 2012

BLS Keep Calm and...

[caption id="attachment_3035" align="aligncenter" width="640"] Cheerful mugs AND chocolate cake - a perfect combination![/caption]

BLS' Analyst Programmer Sarah Toes with help from Account Manager Michelle Pringle proved they were no mugs recently by ensuring their colleagues could buy something cheerful for their morning cuppa!

They sold a selection of 3 different 'Keep Calm and...' mugs for £5 each, with 100% of sales going to Redwings Horse Sanctuary. Not only that, buyers were rewarded with a slice of scrummy chocolate cake to accompany their next cuppa :)

Sarah Toes explains why she supports Redwings:

I love animals and I have been a supporter of the charity for over 20 years. They are the largest horse sanctuary in the UK, providing a home for unwanted and neglected equines.

Sarah and Michelle raised a total of £95 - Keep Calm and Carry On would appear to be an appropriate motto for this venture!

I see quite a few of the mugs looked most patriotic, so this is an appropriate post to wish you well for any Jubilee celebrations you're involved with over the bank holiday weekend :)