At the age of 68 Clare rediscovered the joys of pedal power. Five years later she took on the 80-mile Bay Cycle Way between Barrow and Glasson Dock with her friend Mary Anne. As part of their challenge the pair raised £2,000 for Woodlands Hospice in Liverpool, which cared for Clare’s son, Matt in his final weeks.
Clare Henderson (left) pictured with her cycling buddy, Mary Anne. © Clare Henderson
Clare, who lives in Formby, Liverpool, lost her son Matt to oesophageal cancer when he was 42.
The mum-of-five described how Matt remained positive in spirit throughout his two-year battle.
Clare wanted to express her appreciation for Woodlands Hospice Liverpool, which cared for Matt at the end of his life.
And so after rekindling her love for cycling at 68, Clare, now 73, decided to tackle an 80-mile stretch of the National Cycle Network with her friend Mary Anne to raise money for the hospice.
Getting back on the saddle
Clare told us:
“I’m 73 and I started cycling again five years ago when I retired as a headteacher.
“I did feel nervous at the beginning and fell off a couple of times.
“But I joined a cycling group and built up my confidence.
“My friend and cycling buddy Mary Anne and I started cycling together in lockdown.
“We built up our mileage, sometimes doing 40 miles a day.
“But we wanted a bigger challenge.
“I’d read about the Bay Cycle Way and decided I wanted to do it alongside Mary Anne.
“The route seemed so lovely and it was a chance to explore some pretty towns in the southern lakes, like Ulverston and Grange.”
Two friends, one challenge
Clare and Mary Anne’s adventure took 14 hours of pedalling across two days. Clare explained the journey:
“We took the car to Lancaster with our bikes on the back.
“From there, we took the train to Barrow and started the cycle ride.
“Bay Cycle Way is mainly off-road and the parts which are on-road are pretty wide and quiet.
“Our first day took us from Barrow to Grange-over-Sands and we rode for about seven hours, including a coffee and lunch break.
“There are lots of lovely places to stop and have a break.
"We stopped in Ulverston for lunch and took breaks in both Arnside and Levens Hall.
“The map was very good but we hadn’t paid attention to how high some of the hills were.
"There were also a couple of gaps in signage.
“We pushed our bikes up hills around Ulverston and Arnside.
"Motivating each other, we'd count to 30 then push for 10.
“We'd then whizz down on the other side.
“We were very pleased with ourselves that we managed it.
“You see a lot more of the area on a bike than in a car.
"I noticed the beauty of the landscape much more, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of nature and local wildlife.
“We were blessed with lovely weather too.
“After a good night’s sleep we continued through to Glasson Dock and then cycled back into Lancaster to collect the car.
“The second day was also over seven hours, including breaks."
Clare Henderson (right) and Mary Anne took on the 80-mile route over two days. © Clare Henderson
“It was lovely coming into Arnside.
"The sun was shining and the houses, coastline and pier looked beautiful.
“We enjoyed visiting Morecambe, and Glasson dock is also very picturesque.
“It’s left us wanting to do more routes on the National Cycle Network, or abroad.
"We will keep cycling on our local routes in Merseyside, usually two or three times a week.”
Never too late to start
“Cycling has kept me healthier and I’ve lost around one and a half stone since I started.
“It’s good for older people to do some exercise and it's great for their wellbeing too.
“There are lots of lovely groups around.
"My advice is to go and try it and start out small.
"You don’t have to go on long rides, they can be just around your area.
“It’s never too late to start.”