UK

Cyclist completes 960-mile ride to remember friends who died from MND

Pete Hawkins completed his challenge to cycle through destinations across Britain with ‘Ness’ in its name (Sue Hawkins)
Pete Hawkins completed his challenge to cycle through destinations across Britain with ‘Ness’ in its name (Sue Hawkins) Pete Hawkins completed his challenge to cycle through destinations across Britain with ‘Ness’ in its name (Sue Hawkins)

A man has completed his challenge to ride through destinations across Britain with “Ness” in the name, dubbed The Great Ness Ride, to remember friends who lost their lives to motor neurone disease (MND).

Pete Hawkins, from Tideswell in the Peak District, rode for 13 days across England and Scotland in memory of Tony Hams and David Ellis, who lost their lives to MND within two years of diagnosis.

Mr Hawkins, 62, began his biggest ever cycle ride on June 24 in Durness, Scotland, before making his way to Alness, West Shinness, Loch Ness, the River Ness, Inverness, Bo’ness, The Nesses, a field in the village of Haxby, near York, before finishing on Friday at Crossness Sewage Treatment Works, London.

The keen cyclist covered a total distance of 960 miles to raise money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association and raise public awareness of the disease.

Pete Hawkins cycling over The Pennines with a scenic backdrop behind him
Pete Hawkins cycling over The Pennines with a scenic backdrop behind him Pete Hawkins cycling over the Pennines in northern England during The Great Ness Ride (Sue Hawkins/PA)

“(MND) is still underfunded and it is not as much in the public eye as a lot of other diseases,” he told the PA news agency.

He cited former Scotland rugby international Doddie Weir, who set up My Name’5 Doddie Foundation and died from the disease in November 2022, and ex-rugby league star Rob Burrows, for raising more awareness of MND.

“(MND) is not (a disease) I knew much about, but I think Doddie Weir and Rob Burrow have raised it up in the public profile,” Mr Hawkins said.

After two of his friends lost their lives to MND within two years of their diagnosis and without family by their side due to lockdown restrictions, he thought he should “do my little bit” to honour their memory.

Pete Hawkins standing with his bike in front of two large statues of horse heads at The Kelpies in Falkirk
Pete Hawkins standing with his bike in front of two large statues of horse heads at The Kelpies in Falkirk Pete Hawkins, pictured at The Kelpies in Falkirk, covered 960 miles in his cycling challenge across Britain (Sue Hawkins/PA)

“Because I rode a national ride, it had to be a national charity, so I thought let’s support the MND Association,” he said.

“Just try and raise a bit of awareness and a few pennies, just to do my little bit.”

Throughout his ride, Mr Hawkins met people from the MND Association who he called “heroes” and said meeting them was “the highest spot of the ride”.

“I’ve met some lovely people from the MND Association… they’re heroes,” he said.

“They do all the work on a day-by-day basis. They’re just very inspiring people and doing what they can to raise funds and raise the awareness and the profile of the disease.

Pete Hawkins standing with the Nottinghamshire branch of the MND Association in Newark
Pete Hawkins standing with the Nottinghamshire branch of the MND Association in Newark Pete Hawkins (left) with the Nottinghamshire branch of the MND Association in Newark (Sue Hawkins/PA)

“I think the highest spot of the ride was meeting local Motor Neurone Disease Association folk on the way down.”

Mr Hawkins said he was “chuffed to bits” after beating his fundraisiing target twice.

“I’d originally set the target at £3,000, broke that before I started the ride, set it to £5,000, broke that about five days ago, so now I have upped it to £7,500,” he explained.

He encouraged people that fundraising for charity can be simple and that “anybody can do it”.

“We’ve lost two or three friends from motor neurone disease with Tony and David, and suddenly life can change so you just have to enjoy it,” he said.

“I think if there’s any message that doesn’t sound too trite, then just get out and do something.”

To support Mr Hawkins’s cause, visit the JustGiving page https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/the-great-ness-ride