A Bromsgrove teacher who normally helps special needs children will instead be spending much of 2010 in the saddle with the aim of cycling 5,000 miles to visit all of Britain’s 190 RSPB and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust nature reserves.
In doing so, 53-year-old Gary Prescott from Bromsgrove hopes to raise funds for the two wildlife charities as well as Asthma UK, a condition he suffers from. He will also be taking time off his bike to visit more than 50 schools to explain the dangers of climate change to children under the Eco-Schools project, an awards initiative that aims to help children grow up to lead sustainable lifestyles.
Gary’s trip started today from the RSPB reserve at Sandwell Valley, near Birmingham, with family and friends cheering him on his way, and tomorrow he will be given a guided tour of the new RSPB nature reserve at Middleton Lakes, near Tamworth in Staffordshire.
During his travels in 2010, Gary plans to set a couple of firsts – according to the RSPB, no-one has managed to pay a visit to all of its reserves in the same year, while the keen birdwatcher hopes to log sightings of more than 250 species during his travels, breaking the UK record for annual non-motorised birdwatching.
Gary has been given a year’s career break by the governors of Rigby Hall Special School in Bromsgrove, which is an affiliate of the Eco-Schools programme and supports his efforts to spread the word to other schools.
According to the Birmingham Mail, the idea behind the trip came from Gary’s desire to break out of the daily routine. "The day I decided to complete this project to cycle to every single RSPB reserve was much like every other,” he said. “I was commuting, and I'd rather have been birdwatching.”
"The RSPB was there when I wandered lonely as a teenager, not realising that other people shared my obsession of watching birds,” he continued. “It's one of the main charities that I hope to raise money for through my trip.”
"From a simple desire to do more birdwatching, I am now ready to set off on what I hope will be a life-changing experience,” he continues, adding that he also hopes to raise awareness of broader environmental issues. “I would like people to think about what they are going to do to help prevent catastrophic climate change and donate money to the RSPB and other charities I'll be representing on my journey."
"During the year I will visit many schools affiliated to the Eco-Schools programme and share ideas about being green with children and staff,” he adds, saying “since I joined in the Eco-Schools movement I have become more aware of what effects climate change will have on all of us and I wish to do my bit to fight it."
Gary will be accompanied on his travels by Barnaby Bear, mascot of the Geographical Association, and their full itinerary, which has been carefully planned to take into account factors such as the weather and seasonal migration patterns, can be found on Gary’s website at www.bikingbirder.co.uk.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.