A KEEN cyclist has completed a gruelling cycle ride across northern France and Belgium, raising more than £1,500 for a charity in the process.

Fiona Burgess, 55, from Hook, travelled to Compiegne on Sunday, 10 June, with more than 100 other supporters of Help for Heroes.

They were taking part in the charity’s flagship event, the Big Battlefield Bike Ride (BBBR), which this year commemorates the centenary of the Armistice of the First World War.

Fiona said she had caught the cycling bug during the previous year’s event in Holland and had quickly found herself enjoying the company of others, making it “a challenge worth doing again”.

She said: “Last year was the first time I entered the BBBR, and it was atrocious weather. But it didn’t stop me having a great time. Because of that I really wanted to take part this year, and with an interest in cycling it makes sense to combine it with raising money for servicemen and women.”

With the 2018 edition passing through the gentle slopes of northern France, the 55-year-old added there was a deal of pleasure to take from cycling on a landscape not to dissimilar to England. But after visiting British, French, Commonwealth and German cemeteries, she said she was humbled to have paid her respects to the fallen.

She added: “It was a devastating conflict with a huge loss of life to all involved, and you can’t help but be moved by what you see. But it was interesting to see the German cemetery, and a little sad as they are not so well kept. It was both sides and it wasn’t just the British and French who fell.”

To register an interest for the 2019 Big Battlefield Bike Ride, go to helpforheroes.org.uk/give-support/challenges.

With the weather affecting both of her Big Battlefield Bike Rides, Fiona remains confident that she will take part in the 2019 event, although the route has yet to be confirmed.

She said: “It can be daunting to cycle in a foreign country, especially if you haven’t done anything like it before. But it is an amazing experience, you meet some fantastic people, including many Veterans. I would recommend it to anyone, and I hope more people can encounter the camaraderie and warmth between old friends and new as I have.”