Tedworth House is a recovery centre in Tidworth run by Help for Heroes as part of the Defence Recovery Capability. It helps those who have been injured return to service life or to prepare for a smooth transition to civilian life for those who don’t stay in the services for whatever reason. The individually tailored support programmes are available to serving armed forces personnel and veterans. The centre, a former officers mess leased from the MoD for £1 a year, has 50 en suite bedrooms and family suites ( most of which are continually full ) and a range of educational and recreational spaces and also has the Phoenix centre adjoining it. The Phoenix Centre is a former indoor riding school and like the main house has undergone a stunning transformation. It now houses a state of the art gym complex which allows the guys & girls to use sport to move on with their lives. The centre has a range of cardio & strength conditioning equipment similar to that in most gyms except that the row of equipment is set up on a 2-1 ratio, 2 “ordinary” rowing machines & 1 adaptive one and its not just rowing machines, treadmills, static bikes, cross trainers, weight benches, all set up to ensure whatever their injury their is equipment they can use. There is also a fearsome looking piece of kit that has a vertical rope attached to a fan similar to those on some rowing machines. By pulling down on the rope against the resistance of the fan the guys who have lost legs can build up their upper body strength. There is also a zero gravity treadmill which can be programmed to support 80% of your body weight to allow the physio to monitor the gait of the person they are working with while the machine supports their body weight. As well as a “resistance pool” big enough for 1 with a water jet for the swimmer to swim towards into a significant current!
To have a little look around Tedworth House watch this video
How do I know all this? Well on Saturday along with a small group of other people riding the Big Battlefield part of the HeroRide I was invited to Tedworth House, to meet up, visit Tedworth House & see one example of where the money everyone is raising as part the Hero Ride is going & go for a training ride. An added bonus was that triple silver medal winning Paralympic & world record holder track cyclist Jon-Allan Butterworth & Helen Scott who also won Paralympic silver medal’s as a sighted tandem “pilot” with visually impaired rider Aileen Mcglynn would be joining us.
So a somewhat nervous me pitched up at Tedworth House on Saturday and having met one of the riders Andy Sawyer who I know through Facebook but had never actually met the next 2 people I met were Jon-Allan & Helen.
We were soon joined by some of the Help for Heroes Challenges team who do a great job organising events from the bike rides to horse trekking in Mongolia & trekking to Everest Base Camp to allow people like me (and you) the chance to complete a fantastic adventure and raise a few quid for Help for Heroes into the bargain. After being shown where to get changed we had a round of introductions and a tour of the Phoenix Centre and as well as everything I’ve described already we were shown the “skiplex” a fully adjustable rolling ski slope simulator which allows the guys to experience & practice skiing in a safe controlled environment prior to in many cases them going on with Battle Back to full Alpine skiing trips & competitions.
It was great to meet properly some of the H4H team I’ve followed on Twitter & spoken to on the phone and a few of the nearly 300 Lycra clad loonies who will be pedalling from Paris to London. It was also incredible to meet SSgt Steve Arnold. Steve was leading a Royal Engineers search team in Afghanistan and detonated an IED which led to double amputations of his legs. Steve thanked us all for supporting the charity which helped him to get motivated & try cycling for the first time as he recovered from his injuries. He explained how shortly after trying cycling on a hand bike ( purchased by Help for Heroes) he signed up for the RAAM, the Race Across America where teams & individuals cycle across the USA as fast as possible. Steve & his 7 team mates ( @teambattleback on Twitter) made it across America in just over 7 days. Steve (@AmphEngr) went on to say that the RAAM team used the Big Battlefield Bike Ride as training last year but was hoping to complete the ride again this year and reminded us to chat to the wounded guys on the ride about their experiences & to join in the ever present & inevitable forces banter.
We set off following Mark from Help for Heroes and despite the few spits & spots of rain that greeted our leaving Tidworth & climbing the first of many undulations by the time passed Boscombe Down the sun was out and the weather was lovely, the perfect first outing for my new shirt with my kind supporters at The Hidden Cellar’s logo on.
As with all of the Battlefield Bike Rides we settled in to a pattern of chatting with our fellow riders as we rode through the beautiful Woodford Valley before heading up and down the rolling hills in this part of Wiltshire. I was able to ride along with Jon-Allan for a little while & chat with him for a bit before we stopped for lunch. That sounds so casual doesn’t it? “What did you do at the weekend?” “Oh I just went for a bike ride with an Olympic silver medallist” ….
What actually happened is that Jon-Allan slowed down so that after riding flat out for about 5 minutes I was able to catch him up & just keep up with him & nod occasionally as i struggled to breathe & pedal as he told me about transferring from track cycling to road cycling & about riding with us from Paris as part of his preparation for the upcoming World road championships and to be able to chat to a few people as he had very generously done with us.
After a brief lunch stop we headed off again and it soon became obvious that it wasn’t just our riding that was getting a workout but for some of us our ability to repair punctures got a workout too. I’m much too polite to point out that one of our number, a former Royal Engineer who assured us he could build us any kind of bridge we wanted, wasn’t quite so good at changing an inner tube, but in true Big Battlefield Bike ride style he was soon on his way again.
The other group who took full advantage of the training opportunity was the Help for Heroes cheering squad led by Jo, Annabel, Jess & Steve who appeared at the bottom & top of the hills to cheer us on & leapfrogged ahead of us to keep us topped up with jelly babies & flapjacks at each short stop.
All too soon we were back at Tedworth House and after another brief photo we said goodbye to each other and headed home in my case totally inspired by what I had seen of how the charity spends the money it raises, determined to raise more and excited about the ride from Paris to London. It’s not just me who thinks Help for Heroes does a fantastic job, here’s Jeremy Clarkson one of the Charities Patrons, explaining why he is a Patron
I just want to thank Jo, Mark the challenges team for putting on the day & inviting me to be part of it. To Steve, Jon-Allan & Helen for giving up their time so generously and to the other fab bike riders I met & made friends with.
Thanks for reading, I hope this post has given you a taste of just how incredible Help for Heroes are in providing awesome support & opportunities for some great people like Jon-allan & Steve and don’t forget there are loads of ways you can help but the quickest is to sponsor me here or by texting BBBR51 £2 to 70070.