Nick and Ewan's Grand Union Cycle Adventure

Please help us help The Neuroblastoma Society

Not health informatics this time, but the planned adventures of two health informaticians – myself and my old friend and colleague Nick Booth. ( who plan to cycle the length of the Grand Union Canal from Birmingham to London.

I was inspired to do this as a result of my local cycle rides around Leamington Spa, where I live, which includes a section of the Grand Union and wondering what it would be like to cycle all the way to London. I suggested this to a few friends who though if it were to be done it should be done properly and that we should start in Birmingham (adding 30 miles) and do the whole length of the canal. So that’s the plan, but all the friends other than Nick have found reason not to join us.

As you might imagine the canal does it best to take the flattest route possible, but this is not the shortest and the canal meanders a bit (145 miles compared with just under 100 for the crow) there are a few flights of locks to climb and the odd hill where we can’t follow the canal under a tunnel, but overall its downhill with a 350 feet descent.

The towpath is of variable quality and while some stalwarts do it in a day Nick and I plan to do it over 4 ending up at Paddington Basin, rather that the slightly closer original end of the canal at Brentford.

We have had nearly nine months to plan and train but while there has been some training planning really only started last weekend and planned reductions in weight and improvements it fitness have not been quite as we had hope. Both off us know we can comfortable do the required 40 miles in a day, but are not so confident about doing this four days in a row.

So to give us a motivation to finish we have decided to try to raise some money for charity at the same time. This will maximise the glory if we make and the embarrassment if we don’t and we have chosen to support the Neuroblastoma Society of which our mutual friend Steve Smith is Chair.

In July 1997, just before her first birthday, Steve’s younger daughter was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. Like most people he had never heard of neuroblastoma, but learned a lot over the next few weeks and months as she was treated with chemotherapy and surgery. Her treatment was effective and she’ll be 15 in a few weeks, but the majority of the 100 or so children who are diagnosed every year in the UK are not so fortunate – more children die of neuroblastoma than any other form of cancer.

Steve’s been a member of the Neuroblastoma Society for a few years now and is currently the chair of the Trustees. The charity raises funds for research into the causes and treatment of this disease, aiming to ensure a happier outcome for more children and their families. Over the years the Society has made grants exceeding £2.5M, a great effort for a charity which depends entirely on volunteers.

The Society is the biggest single funder of research in this field in the UK and a lot of this work just wouldn’t happen without it. The next grant round kicks off later this year and Steve and his colleagues are trying to make sure they have £1M available.
The more you donate the more difficult it will be for us to give up after the first 3 miles and the more we are likely to suffer so please give generously.

Just go to

So please dig deep and donate now.

Leave a Comment