About Graeme

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:-

‘Hi

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.

Cheers’

140 comments on “About Graeme

  1. Hi Graeme,

    Ruth and I haven’t followed your progress as strictly as we’d have liked, but that’s life with two energy-excessive children for you. Still, we wanted you to know that we often thinking of you, and simply amazed at the epic nature of your undertaking. The large board in Hatherleigh Community Centre is great, because that means that I think of you (and see your smiling face) on average about four days a week when taking Brendan or Krystyna to the Children’s Centre or Preschool.

    I’m glad you’ve passed Brighton. I grew up there (5–18), and cycled eight miles a day (to school and back) for several years. As a result, I don’t particularly want to go back to Brighton, and I’m probably done with bikes (though mine was a simple ‘racing’ tourer, with a then impressive 10 gears). I guess that makes your achievement all the more impressive in my eyes. If the sheer scale of touring the UK were’t enough, it seems purgatorial to me that you’d want to do it on a bike! I still have a number of friends in Brighton (well, Hove actually), though I’ve not seem them in some years. Most of the friends from those days that I’m still in touch with have moved away from Brighton, and most of those still in Brighton have dropped out of touch. Does that say anything for the town/city?

    I do, however, have fond memories of the small airfield near Lancing (a friend went to school there). My father learnt to fly – at uni, I think, after his three years in the RAF – so light aircraft have always had a positive association for me, even though he never had the time or money to continue with it. The best he managed was to learn paragliding in his 50s (so he and you have a past-time in common), though even then he found it hard to find the time. Since retiring and moving to Devon, he hasn’t really followed it up, but then he is now 72 … well, he’s 72 tomorrow (13th June). I guess that gives him some kind of excuse.

    Anyway, passing Brighton strikes me as something that calls for a sigh of relief, even though it means travelling into the alien territory of Kent and Essex (which, having grown up in Sussex, I’ve been carefully trained to hate: everyone needs some kind of prejuduce!). It also means that you’re headed for the vast flat lands of Suffolk and Norfolk, and flat means good.

    As you can see, we haven’t got so much to say. At least, nothing we’d want to bore you with. At the moment Ruth is best with baptisms, weddings and funerals (hatches, matches & dispatches), so life is very busy. What’s new? We just wanted to say ‘hi’, to urge you on, and to tell you that we love you. We’ll write again, soonish.

    Love,

    Paul, Ruth, Brendan & Krysty

    • Thanks to you all for your comment. I don’t find riding purgatory at all, just a joy.
      I loved hearing about your Brighton history, it sounds like fond memories. It’s a soggy afternoon here, so I’m dosing in the tent, looking at maps and when I wake up a bit, I’ll be writing my journal.
      It’s been a wonderful experience so far, seeing places I wouldn’t go to otherwise with lots of amazing people eg: a man who’s dog rides motorcycle pillion in a replica WW1 aircraft whilst wearing goggles. Very ‘Mutley’!!
      Have a good summer and please do keep in touch.
      Graeme 🙂

  2. Graeme, we passed you on a road in Wales last year and chatted briefly! I have a boring question namely what the specification is of your bike (the one you were riding then or any upgrade) as I’m looking at buying something for distance touring and was curious. I remember a hub gear – was that the rohloff? Did that fit in the frame with reasonable ease or did it need a lot of customising? Any information gratefully received! Hope this finds you somewhere nice!

    • Hi Simon
      The bike is a Santos Travelmaster and is simply the best bike I’ve ever owned. It’s not the one I rode last year, but a new one.
      The Rohloff is very expensive but beautiful to use. I’m running 38/16 for low gearing and the 14 equal spaced gears cover the same range as shimano’s 27 speed.
      Take a look at santos bikes.com, they come to the uk through MSG bikes in Lancing.
      Thanks for being in touch. Enjoy your riding
      Cheers
      Graeme 🙂

  3. Hi Graeme, it’s Kevin. Did you finish your trip? I’d like to ask your advice on a couple of things in relation to my own trip plans, as I mentioned in July. I wondered if you could give me your email address and we could take it from there? Mine is kevin_woods29035@hotmail.com

    It would be much appreciated.

    Cheers
    Kevin

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  56. Yes, had the pleasure of ad libbed bumping into you back in May 2011, toll bridge, Southampton, and over the last week have been sort of stuck in Crystal Palace, trying for break in the rain to head back to West Sussex, and Fawley, by bike of course, but interesting to read your account of part of your trip around the south east of englands coastal which I know very well, my little three day trip last April took me from Worthing to Dover, Thanet back up A2 to London SE, anyway, Graeme, it was lovelly to meet you last year, and trust you are well, Tom, Crystal Palace, London……

    • Hi Tom
      Great to heard from you. Glad you too have survived the winter and are still riding 🙂 I loved the South Coast, but didn’t get to give it the time it deserved. I’ll do it again sometime and absorb a bit more. Keep in touch and keep on riding. I won’t forget your honesty when we chatted high up on above the river . Cheers mate and take care 🙂

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