Worthing men cycle from Canterbury to Rome in memory of local geography teacher

Three Sussex men will cycle 1,300 miles this June in honour of Steyning Grammar School geography teacher, Jo Shepherd (née Clear). The cycle will start on 2 June in Canterbury, spanning eight countries to finish in Rome on 23 June, which would have been Jo’s 59th birthday.

Jo’s sons, Jack and James, and husband, Mark, wanted to pay tribute to her positivity and zest for life while raising funds for St Barnabas House, the hospice that cared for Jo in the last stages of her illness.

In 2010, four years after her initial diagnosis, Jo and her family cycled the length of France in a 600-mile tour from Bilbao in Spain to St Malo in France, raising money for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. “Cycling has always been a big hobby for our family,” says Jack, “from pub crawls in the summer to cycling holidays in Europe. Mum had a particular love for cycling and continued cycling through a lot of her illness.”

The route the group will take roughly follows a major European cycling route and a historic pilgrimage way. “We decided on the route before Mum died,” says Jack. “Mum knew we were planning this, so we were very keen to keep the route we had discussed with her.” The group has set a fundraising target of £10,000 and is already almost halfway there.

As well as Jo’s immediate family, other relatives and friends will be joining for parts of the trip. Still others will be following in campervans, so the cyclists don’t have to carry their own tents.

The whole team has spent the past five months cycling and building their fitness for this ambitious endeavour. “I would say we are mostly apprehensive of climbing over the Alps,” says Jack.  “We have one day which will be spent purely cycling uphill, climbing a mountain!

“For both my brother and me, the thing that will stand out is having the time to reflect on our amazing Mum and knowing that we are doing something that would make her proud

“St Barnabas were a fantastic help for Mum and the family at the most challenging period of our lives. Mum had a lot of difficult times towards the end of her illness and St Barnabas was always only a phone call away.

“When Mum stayed at St Barnabas in the last week of her life, she was able to get some respite from her symptoms, for which we were all so grateful. The nurses and doctors explained everything so well to us. They also recommended that James and I each said a private goodbye to Mum. We feel that allowed Mum to be at peace, as she passed away just after James finished his goodbye. It was as if she waited for us to say what we needed to. This thought has helped us a lot over the past few months, so I am very grateful to the care team at St Barnabas House.

“Mum was a kind, funny, strong woman – a best friend to many and an inspiration to lots of others. As you would expect from a geography teacher, she had a lifelong love for both learning and teaching. She taught James and I so much and has made us the men we are today. We are so immensely proud of our wonderful Mum and feel so lucky to have had such an amazing role model in our lives.”

Support Jack, James and Mark with their fundraising