Twin challenge for ex-Mayor

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A former Mayor of Chorley has departed on an arduous 1000 -mile charity bike ride to Chorley’s twin town in Hungary.

Alan Whittaker, 67, of Heskin, was waved off from the Town Hall steps by the Mayor of Chorley and the Chinese Consul-General for the north of England on Sunday.

After riding to Hull via Skipton and York, Alan took a ferry to Holland to begin the five-and-a-half-week trip through Germany, the Czech Republic and Slovakia before arriving at his final destination of Szekesfehervar.

He hopes to raise around £5,000, to be split between the Royal British Legion, which celebrates its 90th anniversary this year, and local charity Help the Homeless.

Alan said: “I was a bit nervous before setting off but it’s a great challenge and they’re two good causes.

“We’re already up to about £1,000. The local post office and Harrison’s store in Heskin have had a bucket on the counter for people to chuck a few quid in.

“I was in Eccleston last week and people were coming up to wish me good luck.

“People have been very kind and generous. It’s been quite humbling.”

Alan has set up a blog and is posting reports and pictures of the places he visits, together with several audio interviews about the ride.

He particularly hopes to interest children in both Lancashire and Hungary in his project.

He said: “I did a school assembly last week and the county council are setting up the blog on the school portal, so the children can follow it.

“I’ve arranged for some children riding the last 5km to Szekesfehervar with me, so that will be lovely.”

Alan is also hoping to meet a Hungarian organisation which looks after injured service personnel and set up links between them and the Royal British Legion.

He’ll be accompanied through Germany to Prague by retired schoolteacher Martyn Fairclough, of Eccleston, who heard about the project through a mutual friend.

Martyn’s presence on the journey is a great relief to Alan after his original cycling partner had to pull out.

He said: “Martyn is up for the challenge, and it will be good to have that company all the way to Prague.”

Hungarian professional photographer Tivadar Domaniczky is driving the back-up car, which will contain spare bikes, parts, clothing, and an emergency repair kit donated by Alan’s friend Humphrey Moon, a Wigan Toyota dealer.

Alan’s route takes him through some famous locations, including Colditz Castle, used as a prisoner of war camp during World War 2.

Alan said: “I’m hoping to take a detour to Colditz if it’s not too far.

“We’ll also be passing through the Czech Republic’s wine-growing region, so that’s a nice incentive.

“It would be churlish not to sample a little of the local brew.”

He is particularly looking forward to the scenery on the beautiful Elbe cyclepath, an 850km long-distance route following the river Elbe the length of Germany to Prague.

The former leader of Lancashire County Council will also miss the local elections on May 5.

Although he currently performs a non-political role as Deputy Lieutenant to the Duchy of Lancaster, he has sent in his postal vote and urges everyone to get involved.

Alan said: “It’s an important election, and after a lifetime in local politics I encourage everyone to take part in the process.

“People gave a lot in order to get the vote and I think it’s remiss of people if they don’t take the opportunity to do so.”

To follow Alan’s progress visit his blog www.thebottomlineblog.tumblr.com.

And you can sponsor him at www.justgiving.com/Alan-Whittaker.