The Croda Cross Country Challenge story
I’ve never thought about volunteering for charity before. The thought of picking up dog dirt on Pearson park or washing some old woman’s feet at a nursing home just didn’t appeal. Its not that I didn’t care, I have done things for charity many times before, its just that I never really had a cause. That all changed on the 3 August 2011.
On that day I went out on my BMW motorcycle. I bought myself a brand new helmet that would transform into a full face helmet a motocross helmet or an open face helmet as worn by the Hairy Bikers on U.K. tv.
Ian and Charlie from work came along and we went around North Yorkshire along roads we had travelled on many occasions before. On the road between Stokesley and Helmsley I lost the front end of the bike on a slow corner and hit the rear end of an articulated truck. My face impacted on the rear stanchion that holds containers on.
My lower jaw was broken in seven places my upper jaw in three places. The impact ripped off my upper lip and nose. Charlie quickly helped me onto my front and called the emergency services. He got through and was told they would send out a paramedic to assess the situation. Charlie tried to say it was a serious accident as there were bits of my face on the road. Just then an off duty policeman took the phone off Charlie and insisted that the helicopter be called otherwise there would be a fatality.
While waiting for the Air Ambulance Charlie was counting my breathing to the emergency services who were now connected and the gaps between my breathing were getting longer and longer. My lungs were filling with blood and my pulse was weakening.
The air ambulance arrived in a few minutes and the paramedic kept me alive for the next few more minutes. He stabilised my breathing and stemmed the blood flow. I was then taken to York hospital in the helicopter where I underwent some extensive surgery. I was unconscious for a week in an induced coma. Brain damage was mentioned to my wife and my lungs were thought to be damaged with the blood. Luckily when I was woken I was found to be (relatively) okay. There then followed seven or eight operations to rebuild my face. I came out of hospital and slowly regained strength. Lip surgery and skin grafts followed but eventually I was well enough to return to work.
I now had a cause. The Yorkshire Air Ambulance.
Unfortunately I was not well enough to complete a marathon or cycle ride from Lands End to John O’Groats. When I mentioned to Andy Whelbourn, who works with me, about giving something back and wanting to complete such a feat for charity, he mentioned that although I might not be able to do it, he could and would ask a few people if they were interested in a coast to coast cycle ride.
Within half an hour he had four other people who would definitely do it. I approached my direct manager Doug Spencer who also wanted to do it. We had our team. Andy Whelbourn, Neil Featherstone, Doug Spencer, Ian Hutchings, Charlie Wilson, Gary Walters and myself.
It was to be the “Croda Cross Country Challenge”.
After a few meetings the date and the route was picked. We would do the Way of the Roses across the country from Morecambe to Bridlington on cycles. We would camp to save money and I would be in the support vehicle. A web site was set up to collect money and donations. www.Justgiving.com/Andy-Broxham. I got in touch with the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and they were keen to support us sending out collection tins and posters.
The date, 21 May to 24 May.
We recruited Stewart Hadley to drive the volunteers across country and I took the cycles and the backup van. We arrived at Morecambe on the 20 and set up the tents. A short walk to the beach was in order to get some food and meet Eric Morecambe’s statue and get a picture taken. A rule was made that if anyone mentioned work they would have to put a pound in the “swear box”*.
(*This raised about £50 alone. £30 of which must have come from Gary.)
The next morning after a hearty breakfast cooked by yours truly the lads set of from the sea front at the start of the route. I was also on call to take pictures and video the event.
The route started off smoothly on an old railway line so was relatively flat. That was soon to change as the riders got into the country. After Lancaster the hills started and carried on for the rest of the day. I stopped at regular intervals to egg them on and supply them with drinks and also to film their efforts. Usually this was at the top of a hill so I could see them coming and get a good shot. We stopped for lunch in Clapham and set off again to our first campsite in Malham. Outside Settle the hill went on for ever. At one point I had to go down into first gear in my van so could only imagine the pain the lads were going through. I waited at the top of the hill outside Settle for an age. I heard them before I saw them at the peak. The gasps could be heard before the heads popped up at the brow.
At Malham we were forced into going into the village to look for sponsors in the local bars. We also had something to eat and drink. That evening I got a call from Helicopter heroes who were coming in the morning to the campsite to film us on the epic journey. Laura and Ben from the BBC arrived just after breakfast and got filming. The idea was to get some footage on the road so Laura asked if they could just ride up the hill a few times so she could get a good shot. Lots of looking around as if to say is she serious or not ensued but the decision was made to cycle down to the village and do some filming there. For the next hour all six bikers went backwards and forwards over the only humpbacked bridge in the village. Laura then filmed me in the van a couple of times and we set off after them. After some more filming Ben and Laura left us alone and we continued onto Ripon.
Yet again, even though we were very tired, everyone again volunteered to go to the local pubs to drum up some support. The same followed the next day in Stamford Bridge on the third night of the challenge. The last day was the final push to Bridlington about 55 miles away. Laura and Ben had arranged to meet us there to film the end on the ride. I met my wife on the way and we met up with the film crew at the finish post. We were looking down the coast for the lads to arrive, cameras all pointing down the promenade. The lads then turned up in the opposite direction on the road. Yet again Laura asked for another take as they had not got it on film. Off they all trot down the prom for take 2 when Charlie fell off his bike. Over 170 miles and he falls of at the finish.
Take 2 was dutifully completed and then the crew brought out the “This is your life” moment and brought out the off duty policeman who had taken the phone from Charlie and saved my life.
What a fantastic end to a fantastic journey. Up to writing this we have raised about £5000 for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance. I hope to raise a total of £7200 by the end of the year. This is the equivalent of one days flying for the YAA I cannot thank Andy, Neil, Doug, Ian, Charlie and Gary enough for the massive support they have given me in volunteering for this arduous task of riding coast to coast. The support at Croda in Hull has also been immense with everybody digging deep to sponsor the lads.
If you want to donate this can be done online at www.justgiving.com/Andy-Broxham.
Helicopter Heroes will be on in September on BBC One in the U.K.