In 2011 Graeme Willgress completed a 4000 miles cycle ride around the coast of the UK mainland. In order to complete this journey Graeme had to overcome serious mental health problems that have plagued his adult life. Riding to support the charity Sustrans, Graeme raised over £3500 to help build more National Cycle Networks, Sustrans keystone project.
Following this epic ride Graeme wrote of the ride and his battle with poor mental health in his first book: Riding2Recovery: a journey within a journey whihc has been descirbed as beautiful, incrdibly honest, and inspirational.
That was a special moment in time and Graeme has followed this with three more long-distance rides. The incredibly bad summer of 2012 saw Graeme riding from Lands End in the UK to the Shetland islands. Not satisfied with any ordinary route Graeme rode around the Atlantic coast of Ireland, the isles of Arran, the Outer Hebrides and the Orkney isles. ‘All around the ragged edges,’ his second book, tells the tale of his struggle with appalling conditions and the additional stresses and strain it placed upon him during this 2500 mile fundraiser in aid of Mind. It’s still remains an enjoyable, upbeat and enjoyable piece of writing showing Graeme’s growth as a person, cyclist, and writer.
2013 saw Graeme push the boat out in order to ride in France, his first journey in a non-english speaking country for over ten years. Riding the length of France via the newly opened Velodysee cycle route Graeme turned left at the Spanish border in order to traverse the Pyrenees. A tremendously enjoyable journey had its moments in the form of extreme weather conditions, being evacuated, and coming to terms with the giant climbs that the Pyrenees hold. A third book is inthe hands of his editor, Michele Taborn, after which he will be publishing it during the early summer.
During 2015 Graeme rode The Ride of my Life, a journey linking places where he has lived, undergone great adventures, or where childhood memories drew him back. Over 2000km Graeme rode from his home in Devon to the east coast in Suffolk/Norfolk before journeying all the way back to Snowdonia in the west and finaly down the length of Wales through the Cambrian mountains.
Graeme has given many talks on his adventures, strategies for managing his illness, and motivations for conituing his journey. If you are interested in hearing his inspirational presentations you can contact him via this website.
Here’s what Graeme has to say:-
I’m Graeme and I thought I’d tell you a little about me. I’ve always been an ‘Outdoor Man’. There’s nothing I like more than to go off camping in a beautiful area and live the simple life. This started for me as a boy with loads of family camping and scouting holidays, and I’ve never stopped. At 55 years, I’m less likely to camp ultra-light these days, I’m a little creaky and prefer dragging a few comforts around with a little more effort (and a slower pace).
I’ve been many things in my life. I fell in love with climbing before any girls! This lead me all over the UK and Europe for many adventures and even more laughs. Deep friendships are formed in the hills and climbers by nature, and especially in those days, had to have a dark sense of humour. I was also a paraglider pilot for some years. Seeing the earth from ‘Cloudbase’ is something everybody should do, especially under a ‘bag of washing’ attached with string to a swing seat!!
I cycled from childhood to adolescence, then in my late twenties when MTB’s arrived, and I started again in 2009 whilst struggling with poor mental health. I love the slow pace of travel (I’m not able to go fast!) and I love the total freedom of it. I’ve raised some money for Sustrans, which is explained in my blog-posts, and finished my first adventure, 4000 miles around the UK coast. Many other adventures have followed and show no signs of abating. The same could be said of my writing as I contemplate writing a fourth book and prepare to publish my third volume of the Riding2Recovery series.
I’ve also been a husband, a father and a teacher, working in Secondary Schools and really liking the kids age 11-16. Yes, I’m bonkers!! Lots of time was spent working with children with specific learning challenges. A sport science degree has had it’s uses for both myself and many of my friends although questions like “w’ere thinking of rowing the Atlantic in a race, how should we prepare psychologicaly” were a little bit out of my ability!!
Hours are spent playing the piano, something that has been wonderful ever since I started at the age of 8 years. It allows me to vent emotion in the most beautiful way . Listening to music is also something I love, from country to metal to classical, excluding heavily manufactured ‘pop’, but not even all of that.
I’m a fervent believer that life is for living and try to remind myself of this on those days when my mental health tells me it isnt!!!
In a nutshell that’s me. Certainly not an athlete, more a journeyman and the next journey will be amazing, always.