After new knees, hip and a heart attack, Blackpool grandad Tony finishes 4,700-mile bike ride
Some of us enjoy a bike ride at the weekend, perhaps along the front down to Lytham or up to Fleetwood, but for one Blackpool grandad that wasn't enough.
Father-of-three Tony Wallis, from Bispham, a keen cyclist all of his life, decided in April 2016 to go on one epic bike ride – 4,700 miles around the coastline of Great Britain.
The 66-year-old former window cleaner had originally wanted to cycle from St Augustine in northern Florida and cycle 3,700 miles to San Diego, California.
He then worked out that cycling around the British coastline would be a greater feat than his USA plans and the grandfather-of-five decided he would ride in aid of the children’s hospital charity, Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Before Tony had even started his mammoth ride, he knew his medical history may cause a few problems.
He said: “Originally when I set off , I had two replacement knees already and I had arthritis in my hip.
“Severe arthritis to the point where it was very difficult to walk but I could cycle.
“I thought I’d have a go and see how far I could get around the coastline”
During this time Tony made it to Land’s End in Cornwall, the most southern part of Great Britain.
By July 2016, he had reached Devon but received some news that would cut his journey short.
He said: “I got as far as Torquay and unfortunately my brother died, which knocked a bit of momentum out of me and also Blackpool Vic contacted me and said the replacement hip I was on the waiting list for could be done.
“So I went back to Blackpool and although they did a very good job on my hip, obviously I needed to convalesce from that which took a good six months.”
Tony, who has five grandchildren, wasn’t able to cycle for the six months so he put his bike ride on hold for the time being until he was ready.
After Tony had recovered he was ready to restart his ride and went back to where he had stopped the last time.
Tony said: “I was fit again so I took my bicycle back to Torquay again and cycled as far as Dover.”
Throughout his trip Tony had been taking pictures of places he had visited and also stopped at.
He said for most of the time he was ‘wild camping’ – when he was tired and needed to rest for the night, he would pitch his tent the nearest and safest place possible including beside the roadside.
He had also cycled with other riders along the way and he was receiving donations from people who asked about his journey.
Tony recalls one lady he met and gave him the change she had.
He said: “I was cycling through Scarborough and this woman asked me about the journey and what I was cycling in aid of.
“I told her and she gave the only change she had which was £3 and she asked for my phone number.
“About two days later shegives me a call and asks if I have a JustGiving page and I tell her the link.
“I then found out she had donated £50 to my sponsorship.
“The numberof people that have been generous and wanting to hear about the ride has been really overwhelming.”
After reaching Dover, Tony headed north and rode 1,760 miles to Unst, an isle that makes up the Shetland Islands and the most northern part of the UK.
By now, Tony had been going further than just the British coastline and was cycling around more of the Scottish islands such as the Orkneys and the Outer Hebrides.
It was in October last year when he was back on the mainland, and on the home straight to Blackpool with about 200 miles to go.
But at Gretna on the Scottish border, Tony found himself in pain.
He said: “I got as far as Gretna and then my foot was hurting so I thought I’d go home (back to Blackpool) and rest it.
“So I went home and a friend of mine who lives near John O’ Groats said why don’t you come up here and rest your foot and you may well see the Northern Lights.
“I got in my car and drove the 450 miles to John O’ Groats, got out of the car and it felt as if somebody had punched me in the stomach, and I thought that didn’t feel good.
“So I drove the 10 miles to Wick A&E department and they said you’ve had a heart attack.
“I said ‘how can I have a heart attack, I’ve just cycled 4,500 miles?’
Tony had to recover again and place the final bit of his cycle marathon on hold until he was better.
Unbelievably, Tony was told he was overweight and needed to lose two stones and that his diet had caused the heart attack.
He joined Slimming World to get into shape and was a regular at the Bispham branch to shed the weight for the final stretch.
Finally this month he set off to finish what he had started.
He said: “About a week ago I decided that I had a bit of spare time, so I went back to Gretna Green, where I had finished, and then did the 180 miles back to Blackpool and here I am.”
After completing his journey Tony said he has no plans to settle down just yet saying: “Because I have done the Shetland Islands and the Outer Hebrides, I am part way to cycling the whole of the British Isles so I may do Ireland next.
“And who knows, maybe one day I will do the USA journey I had planned to do from the start.
“I have also pondered about the the fall of the Roman Empire, when some of the people at Hadrian’s Wall must have returned by foot to Rome, so I’d quite like to cycle that route as well.
“I’m not too old just yet to retire from cycling.”
Donate to Tony’s charity
If you have been inspired by Tony’s journey and wish to donate to his Great Ormond Street Hospital charity fund, visit www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tony-wallis3