On my bike for Sierra Leone

Charles Redfern - 29 September 2011

Cycling for charity - what a buzz

I never imagined I would enjoy bicycling from London to Paris so much. For days after my first charity bike ride in September, I actually felt withdrawal symptoms - very odd.

I was raising money for a new surveillance boat for Sierra Leone. It is being robbed blind every day by industrial fishing. Unmonitored, the foreign factory ships wreck the seabed and destroy local food security in a poor country that depends on fish.

It is one thing being a sustainable fish campaigner, and another getting on my bike for a cause. I trained beforehand with a few long bike rides outside my home town, Reading, but I was a bit worried about four days of cycling.

On the first day, we started at 7 am from Crystal Palace. We meandered through south London suburbs following yellow-neon arrows stuck-on by the organisers who'd gone ahead in a car.

After cycling through the green belt, Kent and some fairly stiff hills, we got to Dover at 3pm for our ferry to France.

We docked at Calais and rode 8 miles in the dark to our hotel. The next day we did 77 miles through the French countryside.

The villages were beautiful but like ghost towns - the effect of industrial farming.

Environmental security is a human right. I was cycling for the Environmental Justice Foundation’s work in Sierra Leone. The EJF also has a campaign on cotton from Uzbech and its toxic and damaging carbon footprint, so the London-Paris event was billed as a fashion ride. I was a fish out of water (excuse pun) cycling with the organic cotton fashionistas.

When I went at my own pace I was surprised to find myself with the front runners. They took it turns to take the brunt of the wind like they do in the Tour de France and joining their team really ate the miles. I thought: there’s a boy racer in me somewhere.

My mother's parents lived in Paris. So it was emotional coming to Paris in a 120-strong convoy being cheered as we cycled past the Arc de Triomphe heading for the Eiffel Tower.

I raised nearly £7,000. If Soil Association decided to do a bike ride, fueled by good organic grub, we would probably cycle twice as fast.

Charles is the founder of the ethical canned fish company, Fish4Ever, the sister company of Organico, both based in Reading. Fish4Ever's motto is Land, Sea and People. Its land ingredients are 100% organic - supporting traditional fishing communities is as important as saving the fish. He is currently involved in a number of awareness-raising campaigns working with WWF, Sustainable Fish City, the Environmental Justice Foundation and the Marine Conservation Society.

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Elisabeth Winkler
10 February 2014 10:08

Join us for Fish4Ever 2014 Capital to Coast Night Ride for EJF overnight from London to south coast 7 / 8 June. https://www.facebook.com/events/802012849824527/

Andy Hickman from EJF
05 October 2011 13:49

Charles-- thanks again for this fantastic contribution to our Sierra Leone fundraising. It will make a huge difference to the coastal areas in which we operate. Everybody really enjoyed having you on a great trip to Paris.

Anna Louise Batchelor
29 September 2011 15:21

Congratulations Charles, in not only raising funds but awareness too. An organic fuelled bike ride sounds like a fantastic idea. Count me in for making the Porridge!

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