Pier we go for Orwell odyssey

Cyclists James Gartland and Martin Dutton get ready to cycle from Wigan to Sheffield
Cyclists James Gartland and Martin Dutton get ready to cycle from Wigan to Sheffield

Two charity cyclists will follow in the footsteps of one of Wigan’s most famous visitors when they set off from the town on a 70-mile ride.

James Gartland and Martin Dutton, who work at Wigan firm Estate Research, will commemorate the 80th anniversary of George Orwell publishing The Road To Wigan Pier by pedalling from the borough to Sheffield.

Solicitor James and genealogist Martin have put together the route to visit as many of the places the celebrated author visited when he came to look at industrial working conditions in the North West as possible.

Their choices of charities to support, a national lung charity and Wigan homelessness cause The Brick, have also been influenced by Orwell.

James, 35, said: “The route seeks to broadly retrace the route George Orwell took when he looked for himself at the conditions of the working man in the north of England.

“It starts at Wigan Pier and skirts south of Manchester and then goes on the trans-Pennine route that uses the Woodhead Pass.

“We’re not looking forward to all the hills in the Peak District but the prospect of a well-earned beer in Sheffield should keep us going.

“We’re massive fans of Orwell and I don’t think Wigan makes enough of its connection to the great man.

“We’ve tried to go with the George Orwell theme with the charities too. He suffered all his life with lung problems and ultimately died of tuberculosis and he also took great effort to help the homeless, spending time in Paris and London living like a vagrant.”

Wiganer Martin and Warrington native James are teaming up for their first cycle ride together and have never previously done a long distance fund-raising event.

James regularly cycles to work from his home but for Martin it will be a new challenge, with preparation involving buying a new bike especially for the ride.

James says there is also a personal connection to the charities the pair are supporting.

He said: “I used to work as an industrial disease solicitor and am aware what pain people go through when they have asbestosis or mesothelioma. Breathing air is a function we all take for granted until it becomes impaired.

“I feel there are more and more homeless people on the street and the best way to help those in dire straits is through organised charities.”

James and Martin hope to raise £500 from their ride early in September, with Estate Research matching any funds gathered up to that total and dividing it equally between the charities.