Former Butcher, Ex-Royal Marine and Special Forces veteran, Nigel Thomas, is riding aÂ 1940s single gear Butcherâ€™s Bike from Land’s End to John ‘O Groats for charityÂ and will be passing through the Lothians around now.
Nigel hopes toÂ raise Â£ 1 Million for the great charities that support our soldiers â€“ Team Army, Hire a Hero and Walk on Wales and the good works of the Ray Gravell Trust â€“ causes very dear to his heart. And in true military style, Thomas will carry his tent and provisions in the front of the former Co-operative Society bike and will camp overnight in fields and lay-bys.
â€œWe all rely upon our soldiers to be there when we need them.â€ Thomas says. â€œâ€¦so,Â Iâ€™m doing this for all the boys andÂ girls in the Forces who need our help now â€“ a chance to play the sports thatÂ are so vital to their physical and mental wellbeing, to find a job afterÂ leaving the military or perhaps help recovering from injury or illness.â€
TV presenter Bear Grylls, a closeÂ friend of Nigelâ€™s said, â€œThisÂ is going to be a tough challenge but thatâ€™s Nigel through and through -Â determined to help those who most need it and to do it the hard wayâ€¦ and with a smileÂ to the world!â€
Nigel, fromÂ Llangain, Wales, is a man on a mission: to help people get the most out ofÂ their life. â€œLife is unpredictableÂ but that doesnâ€™t mean we have to just hope for the best. Thereâ€™s so muchÂ we can do – really simple things – to take control of our lives and be happy,Â fit and healthy. My goal is to helpÂ people find that control; this is my passion.â€
Each of the four charities willÂ support Nigel as he pedals his way north. And with their access to some remarkableÂ people, Nigel will be greeted and celebrated by some surprising cheerleadersÂ along the way.
The Special Forces veteranÂ understands how hard everyday life can be. Â He admits to going off the rails asÂ a young man caring for his mother, who had Multiple Sclerosis, while also copingÂ with his fatherâ€™s alcoholism. Taken under the wing of a local butcher when heÂ was a young teenager, Nigel showed great promise winning a number of butcheryÂ awards, including a medal at the Royal Welsh Show. It is this background as aÂ butcher that inspiredÂ the Butcherâ€™s Bike Challenge. NigelÂ still suffers from the various injuries he has collected over the years, so theÂ Butcherâ€™s Bike with its original and unforgiving leather saddle will certainly requireÂ stamina and a high pain threshold, â€œAtÂ least I am around and have limbs to feel painâ€ he says stoically.
And Nigel has more reasonsÂ than most to truly appreciate what it means to be happy, gainfully employed andÂ in good health. He is lucky to be ableÂ to walk having broken his neck playing rugby in Australia and after many yearsÂ in the Royal Marines and UK Special Forces he knows a few things aboutÂ survival. “Iâ€™m just very practical.â€Â he adds modestly. â€œEveryday life isnâ€™t aÂ walk in the park but Iâ€™ve learned that staying motivated, happy and healthy isÂ essential. Life neednâ€™t be a battle butÂ most of us need a helping hand from time to time.
Members of the public areÂ encouraged to turn up and support Nigel along his route which can be tracked via his website www.butchersbikechallenge.org.uk. Ultimately the goal is to raise as much money as possible for the four charities and people can do that by donating via http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/ButchersBikeChallenge or text TBBC14 (The Butcher Bike Challenge 2014) with the amount you would like to donate (e.g. TBBC14 Â£5) to 70070.