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L-R – Arlene and John Chart, Matt Hellyer and Christopher Chart.
Credit: Arlene Chart

THE PILGRIM Bandits rode into Land’s End with a very special plea – “help us beat motor neurone disease”

Leading the team of ten veteran amputees was 49-year-old John Chart, who was diagnosed the incurable disease last year.

A jubilant John said: “This ride has been about doing everything I can to raise awareness as not enough is known about the disease.

“I want people to take a few minutes to read-up on this demonic disease. I want people to see the devastation of what it does to you, but I also want to say to people don’t ever give up. You’ve got to keep going.”

Using hand bikes and specially adapted tandems, John and the Bandits battled their way through a heatwave and atrocious weather to complete their amazing John O’Groats to Land’s End bike ride in just 13 days.

The team were also joined by various companions along the way, including John’s wife, Arlene, and their 14-year-old son, Christopher.

John said: “Motor Neurone Disease shuts down your muscular system until you are literally cocooned inside your own body. Your brain is still compos mentis but you can’t move, you can’t breathe, you can’t eat, you can’t speak and your body eventually will just close down.”

Pilgrim Bandits’ patron, former Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson was among the team. Ben lost both legs and suffered brain damage while serving in Afghanistan in 2006.

He was not expected to survive, let alone speak or walk again. But he defied these odds and has since taken part in many Pilgrim Bandits’ expeditions – becoming the first double amputee to cross the Hardanger Plateau in Norway and one of the few to conquer the mighty Yukon River in Canada.

More recently, he took on the charity’s Winter Survival Course in Sweden, trekking across inhospitable terrain and sleeping in snow holes at minus 20 degrees.

Ben, who rode a tandem with the charity’s CEO, Matt Hellyer, described the ride as being “a walk in the park” in comparison to his previous feats.

“It’s been a long time in lockdown and I hadn’t seen anybody for months. I couldn’t wait to be part of the team again. There’s always someone struggling and this was my chance to support John to get him on his way.”

Support for thas come from Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York; Oscar winning actor Eddie Redmayne; and from SAS Who Dares Wins’ Mark Billingham.

Donations can be made via the Operation Ride UK Total Giving page: https://bit.ly/3fadwvw