Cricket writers saddle up for charity bike ride

As they say, it did seem like a good idea at the time. Over a glass of chilled sauvignon-blanc in New Zealand last February, the climbs of the Pennines, the challenge of the Welsh valleys and the spread of Salisbury Plain appeared to pose little more of a problem than a speed hump in Chelmsford.
On the other side of the world following England's tour of New Zealand as journalists, it all seemed so obviously feasible and the plot was hatched to enjoy a little cycle ride at the end of the 2008 season taking in our favourite cricket grounds and pubs.

It was only when back home in April with the Ordnance Survey Travelmaster maps spread all over the kitchen floor that the extent of our foolish ambition started to sink in. There appeared to be a lot of tightly-packed contours and meandering lanes in the English countryside when you started looking for routes off the motorways. Manchester to Chester-le-Street is a breeze up the M62, M1 and A1M. Try finding a flattish route using B-roads and by-ways.

The challenge we had set ourselves was to cycle around the 18 first-class counties visiting the main ground in each one. We would go from The Oval to Lord's the long way round proceeding roughly in a clockwise direction, a route of a little over 1,000 miles in 16 days with our worldly belongings, puncture kits and plenty of vaseline (don't ask) packed in our panniers without a support car in sight.

The hub of our peloton is made up of cricket journalists. I write for the Daily Express, David Lloyd (not Bumble from Sky TV) is the London Evening Standard cricket correspondent and Ian Todd was the Sun's cricket man before he retired a few years ago. Our fourth regular pedaller is Alan Dracey, a cricket fan and civil servant from Lewes and on this latest expedition we have two pairs of younger legs provided by two of my sons Tom (21) and Jack (19). Both think it will be a doddle. Just let them wait.

We have done a few long jaunts before: John O'Groats to Land's End in 2001, a similar trip in France four years later and a circular tour of Ireland in 2006 just to test that theory that Guinness tastes different the other side of the Irish Sea. But none of those were as long as this summer's venture which starts with a ceremonial farewell breakfast courtesy of those nice people at Surrey on September 13.

These trips have all been for what we would call 'fun' but when the scale of our challenge this year started to sink in we thought we should put all that effort to good use and so decided to make it a sponsored ride choosing two cricket-related cancer charities that are both wonderful causes. One is the Laurie Engel Fund set up by Matthew Engel, the former editor of Wisden and Guardian cricket writer, in memory of his son who died aged 13 after suffering from a rare and aggressive cancer. Laurie's Fund, a branch of the Teenage Cancer Trust, intends to fund a state-of-the-art care unit for teenage cancer victims at Birmingham Children's Hospital.

The other charity we are supporting is the Heads Up Campaign, a research programme into cancer of the throat and head based at Oxford University whose patron is Hugh Morris, the former Glamorgan and England batsman who is now managing director of the England team and who recently fought throat cancer himself.

We have already received a great deal of interest in this unique bike ride. Kent, Lancashire, Durham and Yorkshire have very kindly provided us with accommodation on our way around the country. The ECB have also helped us find a bed for the night in Bristol and on our travels we hope to raise more interest and support.

The Route

Sept 13 55 miles, Brit Oval (Surrey)-Canterbury (Kent).
Sept 14 64 miles Canterbury-Hove (Sussex).
Sept 15 66 miles Hove-Rose Bowl (Hampshire)-Romsey
Sept 16 63 miles Romsey-Montacute (63 miles)
Sept 17 62 miles Montacute-Taunton (Somerset)-Bristol (Gloucestershire).
Sept 18 71 miles Bristol-Cardiff (Glamorgan)-Monmouth
Sept 19 42 miles Monmouth-Worcester (Worcestershire)
Sept 20 52 miles Worcester-Birmingham (Warwickshire)-Stafford
Sept 21 55 miles Stafford-Manchester (Lancashire)
Sept 22 75 miles Manchester-Hawes
Sept 23 75 miles Hawes-Chester-le-Street (Durham)-Croxdale
Sept 24 70 miles Croxdale-Leeds (Yorkshire)
Sept 25 76 miles Leeds-Derby (Derbyshire).
Sept 26 65 miles Derby-Nottingham (Nottinghamshire)-Leicester (Leicestershire)- Moulton.
Sept 27 65 miles Moulton-Northampton (Northamptonshire)-Bishops Stortford.
Sept 28 52 miles Bishops Stortford-Chelmsford (Essex)-Lord's (Middlesex).