The high life: raising money for charity on a penny-farthing

By on May 6th, 2016 in Editorial

Now, his sights – and centre of gravity – are set much higher, as he prepares to raise money for charity by cycling the 255 miles from Marble Arch to the Arc de Triomphe on a penny-farthing, with a brief 24-mile interlude to give his legs a break as he kayaks across the English Channel.

“It’s just a knack, rather than an art or skill. Anybody… can be quite proficient on a penny-farthing”

The money raised for this ambitious endeavour will go to the Jigsaw School in Cranleigh for children on the autistic spectrum.

He sets off on Monday 18th July. Oh, and the day before he’s playing a game of Penny Farthing Polo – as you do. In fact, it was this twist on the refined sport that got him into penny-farthings in the first place.

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Neil began to play regularly for the Penny Farthing Club and, before he knew it, was invited to play at the penny-farthing polo’s most prestigious event.

He says, “They asked me if I’d like to play in the Penny Farthing Polo World Cup at Cowdray – the same day as the World Cup Polo on horses. That was a bit of a lark!”

“You don’t want to stop too quickly. That’s where the expression ‘breakneck speed’ comes from”

It seems like mastering the penny-farthing would be a tall order, but Neil makes it sound (and look, in this stunt-filled video) outrageously easy. “It’s just a knack, rather than an art or a skill. Anybody that can ride a pushbike will – with a little bit of tuition – be quite proficient on a penny-farthing.”

There’s an element of danger too, though, in the rider’s elevated position. “You don’t want to stop too quickly. That’s where the expression ‘breakneck speed’ comes from; people on penny farthings would fly over the top, land on their chins and break their necks,” says Neil, merrily.

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Why the Arc de Triomphe, though? Why involve a body of water, and a floating plastic banana? These questions do not concern Neil – he describes coming up with the plan as if it were the most straightforward idea in the world. “I just thought it would be quite a fun thing to do. I don’t think anybody’s ever done it before, so I knew it would attract some attention to raise money for the Jigsaw School.”

We really admire Neil, and not just because of his devotion to a form of transport styled after denominations of currency. We salute his audacity, his determination and the eccentric shape his philanthropy has taken. We feel a kinship with his unconventional determination, and are proud to announce our sponsorship of his highly worthy endeavour.

If you would like to donate please visit his page at Just Giving


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James is freemarket’s Chief Commercial Officer. He has a history of finding new ways to solve age-old financial challenges and was responsible for launching some of the first online money transfer and prepaid card initiatives in Europe.


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