We’ve biked to Malawi

The idea of biking virtually to Malawi didn’t seem all that odd in the context of Covid-related restrictions. We are so grateful to all the people who engaged with the idea and enthusiastically at that. It was fun and people responded in all sorts of ways, increasing their engagement with us and with our work in Malawi.

Livingstonia ahead…

We made it to Bandawe, North Malawi with a few days to spare – 10,679 miles. Bandawe was home to Mamie and Jack Martin for most of their time in Malawi. Having arrived we exuberantly undertook a victory lap of Lake Malawi and completed over 1,000 miles on that extra ride. These miles/kms were made up of short, medium and long trips by our Bike2Malawi riders. Everyone will get a certificate, stating their own total. This is not, and never would be, a competition or race and so no comparative data is being made available. Your distances are your achievements. Well done to you all. Here are some of the images you shared.

  • 67 people registered including two children. 36, more than half, of those riders were new to the Mamie Martin Fund. This expansion of our supporter base is a real achievement for us and we are delighted to engage with so many new people.
  • Those riders live in Scotland, England, Germany and Ireland, in order of the numbers in each country.
  • There were 583 separate logs of distances ridden. These started on the day of the launch and finished after 10 pm on on the final day.
  • 11 riders set up fundraising pages and raised £2,207.18 between them, not counting gift aid.
  • A further 34 people donated to the VirginMoneyGiving (VMG) fundraising page and several others to the main MMF page; funds donated outside of the VMG page were added to the total showing on the VMG page.

Bike2Malawi has been a huge success in terms of engagement and profile-raising. We have also raised more than £7k, a new record for MMF which is likely to be broken this year by the #Pledge100 team. That success could not have been achieved without the help of Andrea Adden during the planning stage; her managing the numbers once we started was also invaluable. Our launch could not have been professional and effective without the generous help of Jade, Craig and David from the Scotland-Malawi Partnership and the video work done by Richard Robinson.

Mixed cycling weather – report of a friends’ ride

Continuing our series of posts by Bike2Malawi riders, Liz Hall writes:

“It was a grey day when I set out to Waverley train station for a Bike2Malawi biking adventure in Northumberland. My first time on a train for some time, but the train carriage was empty and in a blink I was in Newcastle, and met by yellow t-shirted Moira and Heidi. We made our way to Cycle Hub café to meet Alan and Shelagh. It became clear that unlike Moira, cycling in sandals and bare legs was not going to keep me warm enough in the wind and rain that had just started. What clothing would Jack and Mamie have had I wondered as I pulled on my “waterproof” trousers.

The first day was a challenge cycling North to Amble against 20mph winds … the tail end of a storm from Norway. The biggest drama was turning the corner barely being able to stand in the wind and Moira’s bike pannier cover taking off and flying over the road being rescued by a young lad who darted across to fetch it before it took off for ever. We were in this together, made slow progress and abandoned all idea of visiting the art installation at Newbiggin-by-the-Sea; at least the wind dried our clothes. Relief to reach the hostel in Amble which was so comfortable and well equipped. Nothing beats pasta.

The wind had halved the next day but we got drenched, not before spotting yellowhammers and stonechats amongst other wildlife. Blyth was a welcome break with hot food but we were too wet to admire the scenery and carried on to Seahouses – a beautiful fishing village where we managed to nearly dry out (stuffing newspapers into our shoes). Nothing beats pasta. We could sit outside in the morning for breakfast in sunshine. Then we had a glorious day of cycling from Seahouses to Berwick upon Tweed with some sunshine and a fair wind. We could see the Farne Islands and had magnificent views of Bamburgh Castle. A highlight was cycling across the causeway to Lindisfarne and back. We finished the day arriving in Berwick at the pristine YHA hostel with approx 115 miles on the clock. Time for a rest, a day’s exploration of the town and a chance to walk the walls and have a curry. Nothing beats pasta but pashwari naan with cream came close.

Berwick to Tweedbank was the last day of our adventure passing by Paxton House and stopping for soup and lunch at Floors Castle. What stands out for me on this trip was the camaraderie, the beautiful scenery, the wildlife, the chance to stop and stare at the poppies in the fields and when somebody’s bike played up there was no question …we look after each other, go the speed that suits us all and have fun on the way clocking up the miles to Malawi, hopefully raising awareness of the lack of opportunity for girls to have a decent education in Malawi.”

2021 is a special year for MMF

It was in 1921 that the young newlyweds, Jack and Mamie Martin, undertook the long and arduous journey to Malawi (then Nyasaland) where Jack was to take up his post as a Church of Scotland missionary. Thirty years ago, in 1991, their daughter Margaret returned to visit the land of her birth and to see her mother’s grave and the church her father built in Mamie’s memory. It was during this visit that the idea of the Mamie Martin Fund was born.

We would like this special year, 2021, to be a bumper fundraising year as girls’ access to secondary education in Malawi is still challenging.  This is where you, our lovely supporters, come in. We will have a bike ride, where our friends and supporters and their friends will contribute cycling distances to get us all to Malawi, virtually following the route taken by Mamie and Jack.

As part of ‘Pledge 100‘, we would also like folk to come up with ideas of their own to raise money – 
e.g. doing 100 walks, swims, cakes made etc
Or if 100 seems too much then 30 somethings.

So, thinking caps on, and email us with your ideas at admin@mamiemartin.org

Meanwhile we wish you all a good New Year and health and happiness in 2021.

Reflections on a day’s cycle

Monday, 3 August 2020 – Day 4 of the Story on Bikes – Inversnaid Bunkhouse to Killearn

Setting off from Ayrshire to meet up with the riders for the fourth day meant a crack-of-dawn start and a 2-hour drive. The road to Inversnaid from Aberfoyle is the road we would be cycling from Inversnaid to Aberfoyle in just a few minutes. That dull overcast rainy morning drive up and over the hills hadn’t exactly filled me with enthusiasm but after the obligatory photo and video opportunities three cyclists set off: Moira, Shelagh and me (Willie Sinclair, Mamie Martin’s grandson). The gradients seemed more manageable in real life than in anticipation. I was a bit disconcerted, though, while toiling up one hill when a car pulled up beside me. The occupants wanted to know how to get up Ben Lomond! I heard myself say “If I was doing that I wouldn’t start from here!” I suggested they head for Rowardennan, a 35 mile drive away.

The midges were out but pedalling steadily and keeping my mouth shut I avoided the worst of them. However, we had a rendezvous at Kinlochard Boat Club with cyclists from Strathendrick Baptist Church and that meant stopping beside the mirror-flat Loch Ard. The ever-generous Wrights were waiting for us with coffee and the most amazing cycling fuel I’ve ever experienced. We were only 10 miles into our actual day’s plan but it seemed important to share Ian’s load by eating as much of the “snackery” as possible: parkin and flapjack. Mmmmm. While we consumed calories, the midges consumed us. I stopped counting bite-marks after 35 and just kept pacing about trying to avoid them. Meanwhile Moira was interviewing Kathleen for the video that is on here.

We followed the Wrights through the Loch Ard Forest trails over some pretty bumpy surfaces, our skinny-tyred road bikes coping well. Forest rides are great for avoiding the wind but you do need to know where you’re going. Food was a theme of the day. A picnic stop at Lochan Spling (any Gaelic speakers who can shed light on that name?) and a lunch stop at Gartmore Village Hall were the Wrights’ subtle way of preparing us for the Gartmore to Drymen leg of the ride. Childhood memories of journeys from Milton of Buchanan to Aberfoyle by “The Old Gartmore Road”, and the excitement of leaping out to open the gates for my Dad (and whatever bunch of friends/relatives were visiting us) to drive through, didn’t include the hill we had to go up. I suppose in the 1960s we would have been going down North in a car instead of up South under our own steam. The term “unrelenting” could have been invented for this climb. We live in Angus so most of my cycling now involves hills, but the steep ones are short and the long ones are more gradual. Gartmore to Drymen is both steep and long, with many false tops luring the unwary cyclist into a disappointing not-yet-final effort. My usual approach is “head-down-and-grind-away” in the lowest gear possible, ignoring everything and everybody around me. My reward, as I finally reached the top was the glorious view and an Osprey casually checking out the Muir Park reservoir as it flew west towards Loch Lomond. (There’s a nest site at the Lake of Monteith, just a few miles East of Aberfoyle.)

Moira and Shelagh are uphill heroes and downhill demons with well-set-up bikes (Moira’s has disc brakes) while I was riding a 1970s Raleigh Carlton with braking technology that was devised in the 1950s. So, despite my greater mass, gravity got them to Drymen before the rest of us. Part of the final leg from Drymen to Killearn via Gartness was shared with the West Highland Way. Ian warned us about absent-minded walkers. We managed to dodge them. My faulty childhood memory banks had Drymen and Killearn a long way apart so I was delighted to see the rooftops of our destination much sooner than I expected. But it was up one final hill. A spectacular evening meal topped off a memorable day in the saddle and I was exceedingly glad NOT to be doing the next leg to Falkirk: the forecast was for heavy prolonged showers.

The success of this whole Story on Bikes has been a surprise. It had looked like the Pandemic Lockdown had killed the plan but changing and adapting resulted in the participation of many more people in many different ways. I was ‘lucky’ that Eileen volunteered me to do a stage in reality. I also clocked up miles beforehand in the #Stay-at-Home version, as did 42 other people!

Moira spent a lot of time during each ride filming, photographing and interviewing followed by a huge effort editing it all into manageable wee chunks to be uploaded to our YouTube channel. Take the time to watch the video of this day and then please hit the Like button, subscribe to the channel (no cost involved) and SHARE SHARE SHARE!

Thanks to all our stay at home riders and donors!

Thanks are due to:

– all the riders, Stay-at-Home or on-the-day

– Eileen for being my co-driver and for meeting us at the end of the day’s ride

– the un-named friend of the Wrights who delivered them, their amazing food and their bikes to Kinlochard in the morning

– Moira for organising and editing and shepherding the whole project.

And finally.

It wasn’t designed as a fundraiser so much as an awareness-raising event. Thank you, however, to all who donated to the Mamie Martin Fund.

Story on Bikes launch

Our ‘Story on Bikes’ bike ride has been a real success. An important aspect of that success has been the connections made or strenghtened with like-minded organisations. We were grateful to be able to launch the ride from the birthplace of David Livingstone in Blantyre, Scotland on Saturday August 1st. Douglas Hay, a Trustee of the David Livingstone Trust, welcomed us to the site where our Scottish Patron, Alison Cameron, sent the riders on their way. They were headed to Tarbet, Loch Lomond, the home of Mamie Martin. 

The site in Blantyre has been sadly neglected during lockdown but we all hope to visit again once it is possible to have volunteers back on site and when the restoration work is complete.

The cyclists had ridden from Edinburgh the previous day and they cycled to Balloch from Blantyre, visiting Tarbet on the Sunday. A warm welcome awaited them there – and look out for that video story. Mamie would be happy to know that connections between Scotland and Malawi are still so strong and that her conviction about the necessity of educating girls is now widely accepted as true around the world. The Story on Bikes project raised more than £5k for the education of girls in Malawi. Thanks to the numerous people who made this possible. 

MMF cyclists welcomed to the Livingstone Centre

Our cyclists were delighted to be welcomed to the David Livingstone Centre in Blantyre today. Both organisations paid tribute to David Livingstone and Mamie Martin, Scots who were important in the history of Malawi-Scotland relations. Douglas Hay, a Trustee of the David Livingstone Trust, welcomed the riders to Blantyre. Douglas said ‘it is a pleasure to welcome the Mamie Martin Fund to the birthplace of David Livingstone, thereby bringing together the stories of these Scots who contributed so much to Malawi. We are delighted that the legacy of their work so long ago is continuing to benefit Malawi through the education of its girls.’

The David Livingstone Birthplace site has been undergoing a major refurbishment project, which will be a vibrant new visitor destination that includes an exciting new exhibition, which will engage all ages, as well as a transformed shop and café.

The bike ride was launched by Alison Cameron, who was a nurse in Malawi and is a Patron of the Mamie Martin Fund. The ride is heading to Tarbet, Loch Lomond, where Mamie Martin grew up. Mamie left there in 1921 to go to Malawi with her husband Jack. Mamie saw the need to support the education of girls in Malawi and that work which she started is continued today by the Mamie Martin Fund. An extract from Mamie’s letters was read at Blantyre and another piece will be read at Tarbet. 

As well as those who are cycling the route, 42 people are doing the equivalent distance at home on the stay-at-home version which has been so popular. The stay-at-home riders are based in Scotland, Ireland and England – an international effort! You can encourage the riders on the fund-raising page.