Belfast Telegraph

Cycling Samaritan Ken Bamford's epic journey

By Allan Preston

A good Samaritan from Co Down is hopping on his bike for charity with an epic 2,000 mile journey from his front door to Gibraltar.

Ken Bamford (60) from Carryduff, a Samaritans volunteer for 12 years, has jokingly described the challenge starting on Wednesday as "a fat boy on a bike making his way to the European Rugby Cup Final in Bilbao, from there to Gibraltar and finish the challenge".

A dedicated cyclist for 20 years, he also spoke about how helping countless people at rock bottom through his volunteer work has given him a greater appreciation of his own life.

"I turned 60 this year so it's always something I wanted to do," he said.

"When I heard the European rugby final was in Bilbao I got my ticket and decided I'd be there no matter what happens, I'm hoping obviously for two Irish teams in the final.

"Once the game's over, I'll be back on my way down to Gibraltar." Starting out from his home near Carryduff his route takes him to a ferry in Rosslare via Portadown, Newry, Dundalk, Drogheda and Dublin.

After an overnight crossing his "French adventure" begins in Cherbourg with an idyllic countryside route hugging the west coast of France to Hendaye on the French/Spanish border. Asides from making the ferry in Rosslare, Ken's only other deadline is Bilbao on Spain's northern coast for the rugby on May 12.

After the final, the journey continues down through central Spain passing through the cities of Leon, Salamanca, Caceres, Seville and Cadiz before the finish line in Gibraltar. His previous challenges on two wheels have seen him cycle from London to Paris in 24 hours.

"I've done the big cycles and I'm a bit older now but I still did a lot of fitness work in the gym before starting. Luckily the only way you hurt yourself on a bike is by falling off."

With a tent in tow in case of an emergency or just nice weather, Ken plans to hop from hostel to B&B along the way.

"Every day is going to be a highlight. I'll be passing Mont Saint Michel, that fabulous church which we can all picture. But on the way maybe you'll see a deer or a fox crossing the road and people working in a vineyard, so you get to share so many moments like that with people."

His career as a volunteer was inspired after discovering late in life his own father had been a Samaritan.

"It's just about being there for somebody," he said.

"You don't judge but just help them explore what their options are. Sometimes when we verbalise our feelings we're in a better place to make sense of them and find a way forward.

"Our only problem is we don't have enough volunteers. We take a call every six seconds in the UK and Ireland. Personally it's increased my appreciation of what I have, my family and friends."

To donate visit mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/kenbamford1.

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