Helen cycles 710 miles to Germany to help youngsters enjoy twinning experience

September 04 2019
A 'Hel' of an achievement

Super cyclist Helen Johnson has gone the extra mile for the latest Filton twinning visit to Germany.

by Keri Beckingham
Super cyclist Helen Johnson has gone the extra mile for the latest Filton twinning visit to Germany.
Helen , from Filton, joined Filton Twinning Association ahead of the 2018 twinning visit to Filton, which saw around 125 people (including 41 visitors from Saint-Vallier-sur-Rhône in France, 33 visitors from Witzenhausen in Germany and coach drivers) spend five days together in July and learn about what life in Filton is really like.
Ahead of the 2019 visit (which would also mark the 40th anniversary of the Filton/St-Vallier/Witzenhausen tripartite twinning), Helen decided to look into how far the distance from Filton to Witzenhausen was.
She thought it might be a good opportunity to cycle and raise funds for FACE, a local charity that would be taking a number of young people on the visit to experience a different culture and make friends, and after looking into it she decided that she would set off on Monday, July 8 and meet the rest of the group when they arrived by coach on Thursday, July 25.
Speaking about the journey, Helen said: “I enjoy cycling anyway and although it would be a long distance, it did make me think that I could cycle and take longer to do it. I told the Filton twinning group that I would not go on the coach with them, but would cycle there instead and then get the coach back. I started my training about two months before, and went out a few times a week on my bike in preparation. I cycled to Gloucester and got the train back, to Newport and also went along the canal to Trowbridge and back.”
“Overall I cycled about 50 miles a day and covered 710 miles from Filton to Witzenhausen. I set off from the new Pod in The Park in Filton, before travelling over six days to get the ferry from Harwich.
"I then crossed through the Netherlands, before arriving in Witzenhausen. I slowed down the ride towards end, as it coincided with the hottest day on record in Germany, with temperatures reaching 39 degrees. I stayed in youth hostels on route, and also stayed with people who put up cyclists in order to keep costs down. 
“Safety-wise, I wasn’t worried as they have really good cycle paths in mainland Europe, and the only danger I really experienced was on the British roads. The most impressive things that I saw were the gardens and flowers along the way, and in Germany I also stayed near a huge limestone monument. I was also amazed by the kindness and welcome I received from the hosts I stayed with, which was just wonderful.
“Towards the end knew I was really looking forward to arriving and just wanted to get there, and Debbie from FACE had been tracking me along the way to see where I was. I met the coach at a school in Witzenhausen and received a lovely welcome – I even wore a Union Jack like an Olympian! I was also interviewed by local press too which was a fantastic experience.”
Commenting on Helen’s achievement, Debbie Teml, FACE Charity Director said: “The fundraising Helen has done has not only enabled this group of young people to go on an awesome trip away to learn vital life skills, but also she’s been inspirational to them. They were encouraging each other to do things all week, saying things like ‘come on, if Helen can cycle all those miles, you can get up this hill’
"She really has inspired them to think anything is possible, she’s an amazing woman!”
During the trip, Helen stayed with a family, who she said were really lovely and welcoming – “We talked and laughed for the whole week”, she added. 
As part of the trip the group visited a large war memorial, went to an art gallery, enjoyed walks and lunches, visited a wildlife park and lots of pretty towns, and also watched some international folk dancers perform in the town’s market square.
Speaking about the twinning visit, Helen said: “Twinning is such good fun, especially as all ages want to enjoy themselves, and it’s great to see people getting up to dance and sing along, - we had a ball! Twinning really is like a family, and I’d encourage any residents from Filton to get involved.”
To find out more about getting involved in next year’s twinning trip and become a member of Filton Twinning Association, get in touch with Carole Duckett by calling 0117 9865350 or visit Filton Twinning Association’s website: www.filtontwinning.uk.
To date Helen has raised £1,300 for FACE, including a donation of €500 that was raised during the twinning visit.
To find out more about Helen’s journey and fundraising, visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/germanyride