Pedalling Oxford university German and philosophy student rasing money for charity on the way

Usually, students embarking on a year abroad at a European university would look for a cheap flight to get to their destination, or perhaps let the train – or a reluctant parent co-opted as driver – take the strain. One student at the University of Oxford, however, is cycling the 620 miles to Germany where he is spending the forthcoming academic year, and what’s more he plans to raise money for charity along the way.

James Houghton, aged 20 from Halifax, left home last Thursday bound for Heidelberg, where he will undertake a month-long language course, before heading on to Berlin, his home for the next year, the essentials for his trip – a tent, changes of clothes, and washing kit – crammed into two pannier bags, reports the Halifax Courier.

After taking the ferry from Hull to Rotterdam, he is nowalong the River Rhine towards Heidelberg, expecting to reach his destination on Saturday.

“I study German and Philosophy at university and have to spend a year in Germany as part of my degree,” he explained. “I decided instead of just getting the plane I would cycle to Heidelberg.”

The student aims to raise money for the Schistosomiasis Control Initiative (SCI) along the way.

“I like to do quite a lot for charity,” he revealed. “We are lucky in this country and we should be doing our best for those who aren’t as fortunate.

“The World Health Organisation says SCI is one of the most efficient charities there is. They help treat neglected tropical diseases.”

Before setting out, James saw the UK leg of the journey as presenting the greatest challenge.

“The hardest bit will be cycling on the roads and up the hills at the start towards Selby,” he said.

“I can’t wait for the ride down the Rhine though - that should be amazing - and I’m really looking forward to the moment I cross into Germany.”

James in fact crossed into Germany on Sunday, and you can follow his journey on his blog.

He plans to raise £1000 for SCI, and is already around three quarters of the way towards his target. Donations can be made here.


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.