Motorbiking vicars rev up for their biggest test yet

Five vicars from the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales will taking part in a challenging five day motor biking ‘pilgrimage’ from Yorkshire to the island of Iona on the West coast of Scotland next week.

The vicars are members of the ‘West Yorkshire and the Dales Motor Cycle Club’ which was formed from clergy and lay motorbike enthusiasts when the new diocese began a year ago.

A total of ten bikes will set off next Monday April 20th, and as well as the clergy bikers there will be five lay riders and four pillion passengers  - a party of fourteen clergy and lay people – all taking part in the five day ride, the longest yet by the club which has so far only made single day trips around the diocese.  

The 725 mile round trip will take in the Kielder Forest, Edinburgh, the spectacular scenery of the Trossachs, Glencoe, Mull, Oban, Iona and then Glasgow and Gretna Green on the return leg.

The bikers will be ‘revving up’ and setting out from various parts of the diocese on Monday April 20th, before meeting up and officially setting off as a group at 11am from St Matthew’s Church Leyburn , the church of one of the biking vicars, the Revd Canon Michael Hepper (pictured right).michael hepper

“This is very different kind of retreat to any I’ve experienced before”, said Michael. “I will be riding an Indian-built Royal Enfield single-cylinder Bullet made for the India Army and flying the flag for Wensley Deanery.  Since this will be virtually the bike's maiden voyage I hope I won’t spend the trip stranded on the roadside!

“We will be riding as a group so it will be a good exercise in caring for one another along the way” he  added.  “It should be both a spiritual experience and an adventure but we will probably all need a holiday afterwards to recover!”

Day One of the pilgrimage, a 200 mile leg, takes them to  Barnard Castle, over the moors to Hexham, then the Kielder Forest on the A68 to  Jedburgh  and on to Musselburgh (Edinburgh). Day Two is a no less strenuous,  175 miles via Callander and the Trossachs, Glencoe to Corran Ferry, before crossing to Mull and a scenic route  to Aird of Kinloch and Fionnphort.  With Day Three comes the destination of the pilgrimage and a day spent on Iona, described as the ‘cradle of Christianity’ where St Columba landed  by coracle from Ireland and brought the Gospel in 563 AD

A more experienced rider, the Revd Neal Lefroy-Owen, Priest in Charge of St Hilda's Halifax and St John's Warley, has made several long distance trips including a 4000 mile ride across the USA last year. “ I'm really looking forward to this trip, “ he said. “ It's great to be able to share my love of riding with fellow Christians from the new diocese and to get to know them better, a visit to Iona for the first time is the icing on the cake.

The other motor cycling vicars are the Revd Canon Stephen Kelly, Priest in Charge of Woolley with West Bretton and Area Dean of Wakefield; the Revd Canon Paul Tudge, Vicar of Farsley  (Leeds EA)who will be riding with his wife Rosie as pillion passenger; The Revd Vic Iwanuschak, Incumbent of All Saints Pontefract. They are joined by priest in training, Phil Maries  and his wife Belinda, Brian Sanderson, Matt Dowson, Neil Crossley with wife Sonia, and Michael Beevers.


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