Healthier heroes get on their bikes to Wigan

Healthier Heroes founder Mark Kelly, centre, is leading the trip arriving in the borough on Armed Forces Day
Healthier Heroes founder Mark Kelly, centre, is leading the trip arriving in the borough on Armed Forces Day

Veterans at a newly-launched military organisation will get in the saddle­ this week for a ride arriving in Wigan on Armed Forces Day.

Healthier Heroes is putting on its first awareness-raising event with a cycle ride to the borough from the Cumbrian town of Whitehaven.

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A group of Wigan veterans will spend two days pedalling across the Lake District and down through Lancashire, setting off on Friday morning and arriving around lunchtime on Saturday during the celebration of the military and those who serve on the front line.

The cycling soldiers hope to commemorate in particular the four soldiers from the borough who were awarded the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, for extraordinary heroism during World War One, 100 years ago.

Healthier Heroes has been set up by former Queen’s Lancashire Regiment member Mark Kelly, who hopes to use the great outdoors and getting fit to help those returning to civilian life thrive.

Mark said: “We were going to originally do this as a walk as I thought walking through the Lake District would be a good challenge but we couldn’t sort it out so we’re on bikes instead.

“Some of the veterans doing the event have had issues in the past but they’ve come through those and begun to challenge themselves.

“It will be a good achievement. We’re setting off Friday and then staying overnight at Carnforth before arriving in Wigan around 1pm.

“Healthier Heroes is going to offer veterans holistic support but it will be heavily based around fitness, getting out and doing activities. It’s about getting them off the sofa.

“One of the attractions of this is being able to do things as part of a team again. You see a goal, do the training and then get the achievement.

“Doing that gives them self-belief and allows them to kick on and do other things. Hopefully veterans will do the activities and then become peer mentors to be Healthier Heroes staff themselves. It’s an exciting new development.”

To create Healthier Heroes Mark has teamed up with Laura and John Ingham of Rochdale-based concern Activate which does a lot of work on health and wellbeing and outdoor events.

The organisation will move into the new council-run armed forces hub based at Withnall House close to Wigan Little Theatre. It is hoped the building will be opened next month.

The new organisation is also an extraordinary reunion of a kind as Mark and John both previously served in the same Army regiment.

Mark says he is particularly keen to get ex-personnel returning to civvy street and coming to Healthier Heroes’ doors trained and qualified so as many of the new organisation’s services as possible are run by people who are themselves ex-forces.