On Thursday 7th October, a courageous group of Dulwich Prep London Alumni and staff set off from the Royal Oak in Betws-y-Coed, embarking on a four-day, 400km journey back to the Betws Building at 42 Alleyn Park. The immense cycle ride was planned to commemorate just over 80 years since the pupils of Dulwich Prep London were evacuated to Royal Oak, Betws-y-Coed during the Second World War.
The Betws to Betws Cycle Ride was inspired by the story of Colleen Shilstone, whose brother, Bruce, was one of the pupils at the Dulwich College Preparatory School, Royal Oak. When Colleen’s brother Bruce was moved from Cranbrook to Betws-y-Coed, Colleen cycled 240 miles from her home in Streatham to visit her brother in Wales. It took Colleen three days to reach the Royal Oak in Betws-y-Coed. She spent the weekend visiting the Cadw Castles with her brother and enjoying the sunshine, before cycling all the way home. The Betws to Betws Cycle Ride followed Colleen’s route home, raising money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital as well as the Dulwich Prep London Bursary Fund.
On the morning of 7th October, the starting flag for the Big Bike Back was waved by Gordon Dearing, now 93, who was evacuated to Betws-y-Coed in 1940. Accompanied by the team mascot, Betws the Bear, the riders set off from Wales, cycling 115km to Shrewsbury. They quickly learned that whilst Wales is incredibly beautiful, it is also extremely hilly. After a stopover in Shrewsbury and a hearty breakfast, the team were on the road again. The team had lunch in Ironbridge, where the DCPS contingent reminisced about trips with Alumnus, teacher and House Master Neil Smith. After the occasional mechanical and one medical mishap, the team reached Stratford where they were joined by Miss Davidson. Having learned that they had raised over £6,000, the team were ready to hit the road again, heading for High Wycombe, a route with a few more hills than the riders were hoping for. Luckily, Ali and Ann were on hand to supply water, tea loaf and jelly babies! The final leg of the journey saw the team cycle from High Wycombe to Dulwich Prep London, where they were greeted by adoring fans and a delicious and well-deserved spread at the Alleyn’s Head. The whole team did a tremendous job, helping to raise £7600 for Great Ormond Street Hospital Charity and the Dulwich Prep London Bursary Fund. Thank you to all of the riders for showing us what the spirit of togetherness can achieve.
The event kickstarted the Big Bike Back, a fortnight of cycling activities undertaken by the whole Dulwich Prep London community to commemorate this momentous occasion and to celebrate coming back together once again. The Big Bike Back is a fortnight of cycling activities bookended by two major events, the Betws to Betws Cycle Ride and Velocity @ the Velodrome in Herne Hill. Next Sunday, the Dulwich Prep London community will be attempting to ride the same distance in one day as it takes to ride from Betws-y-Coed to Alleyn Park.
If you would like to show your support for the Big Bike Back, please follow this link.