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Cyclists will end their GPS challenge of spelling out ‘Refugees Welcome’ across south of England in Dover

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Two cyclists are making their way across the south of England towards Kent whilst smashing the Guinness World Record for the largest GPS drawing, by spelling out Refugees Welcome.

Georgie Cottle, 26, and David Charles, 39, are halfway through the gruelling challenge, having so far spelled out ‘refugee’.

Councillor Brian Outten and Mayor of Glastonbury Jon Cousins with cyclists Georgie Cottle and David Charles. Photo: David Charles/PA
Councillor Brian Outten and Mayor of Glastonbury Jon Cousins with cyclists Georgie Cottle and David Charles. Photo: David Charles/PA

They started the 2,400 km trip in Cornwall and plan to end it in Dover later this month, while also travelling through Wye and Whitstable.

The duo are part of Thighs Of Steel, a community of cyclists who take on challenges annually to raise money for charity Choose Love.

So far, more than £39,000 has been raised from their latest adventure, which will help support those seeking asylum in the UK.

Mr Charles, from Bournemouth, said: “The situation in Afghanistan was hitting the news just as we left.

“It’s certainly been uppermost in everyone’s minds while we’ve been riding.

Komoot showing the cycle route taken to spell out Refugees Welcome. Photo: David Charles/Georgie Cottle/PA
Komoot showing the cycle route taken to spell out Refugees Welcome. Photo: David Charles/Georgie Cottle/PA

“Everyone we meet seems to be aware of the horror of what’s happening and it’s been heartening to find that most people we’ve met show great compassion towards those forced to flee their homes.”

The pair described the hospitality of strangers as a “fantastic highlight”.

Mr Charles said: “Wiltshire has been the most generous county so far in terms of donations.

“It’d be unfair to pick out anyone in particular, but Laura and Jon at Bulstone Springs gave us full use of their glamping facilities, and also made us a homemade tiramisu.”

The riding pair have already broken the Guinness World Record for the largest GPS drawing by bicycle (team), which was 761km and are set to “smash it” further, with 1,100 km to go.

Naomi Pratt, Georgie Cottle and David Charles in East Looe, the end of R. Photo: David Charles/PA
Naomi Pratt, Georgie Cottle and David Charles in East Looe, the end of R. Photo: David Charles/PA

Both spoke of their joy at meeting Jon Cousins, the mayor of Glastonbury, after they beat the previous record distance on the Somerset Levels.

Mr Charles said: “The mayor bought me a cup of tea and Georgie a Guinness and regaled us with the wonderful legends of Glastonbury.”

One of the team’s cycling crew spotted chef Gordon Ramsay on the first day of the cycle, who was having a coffee at a trail-side cafe.

Mr Charles said: “She slammed on the brakes so hard that she fell off.

“Gordon Ramsay was out for a bike ride himself and happily signed our Guinness World Record logbook.”

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A post shared by Thighs of Steel (@thighs.of.steel)

In terms of planning the route, Thighs Of Steel founders Harri Symes and Oli Kasteel-Hare came up with the idea to do a GPS drawing of Refugees Welcome.

Mr Charles said: “Georgie did most of the planning and we use Komoot to plan the rides.

“The south of England was the obvious place to plan the ride because Dover is the port of entry for many refugees, the route sends a very direct message of compassion, and because the letters fit nicely.

“There was an awful lot to consider, both in terms of cycling and logistical constraints such as easy access to overnight accommodation and railway stations.”

The pair also spoke about challenges they have faced, such as suffering from excruciating knee pain, despite being experienced riders.

They said: “It takes a lot of mental as well as physical energy to keep going day after day after day.

“The compensations are being able to eat as much as we like and, of course, the incredibly generous donations from people back home.”

Keen cyclists are encouraged to take part in the challenge, either solo or with friends, to spell out the letters of ‘welcome’ from September 5 to 18. Click here for more.

To donate to the fundraiser, visit here.

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

Ashford Dover Whitstable Sam Williams





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