A retired policeman is now safely back in the UK after his charity cycle ride across France proved challenging in more ways than one.

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Inspired by his wife Lynne’s battle with breast cancer, former detective Mark English, 54, from Attleborough, set off last month to ride the 398 miles from Dune du Pilat on the Atlantic coast of France to Cap d’Agde on the Mediterranean coast.

The problems began when, three days into the ride, he fell ill after a “dodgy cassoulet”.

“I was really ill and probably would have gone home and tried again another time, but it was for charity so I kept going,” said Mr English, whose adventure has so far raised almost £800 for the Association for International Cancer Research and East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices.

“The next day I cycled about 38 miles after a night ill in bed and just two hours’ sleep – that’s the achievement I’m most proud of during the whole trip.”

He arrived at Cap d’Agde on October 7, but then lost a pannier containing all his clothes and his main wallet with most of his cash and cards on his return journey between Sète and Montpellier, after his bags got damaged on a particularly rough part of the trip. He cycled back 15 miles looking for it but without success and returned to his lodgings in Montpellier.

“Picture me in a supermarket the next day in just grubby and used cycle shorts, cycle shirt and trainers to buy new gear... embarrassing!” he said.

Finally, he made it back to London, to find his bike unrideable after getting damaged on the train.

Nevertheless, despite the mishaps, he is delighted to have completed the challenge and raised so much more than his £500 target.

“It was a challenge I wanted to do. Maybe it didn’t go as smoothly as hoped, but challenges were overcome and it could have gone wrong early in the journey but it was at the end, which was good,” he said.

“And it’s raised some money for charity, so I’d like to say thank you to everyone who sponsored me.”

To make a donation in support of his achievement, visit www.justgiving.com/Mark-English-AICR or www.justgiving.com/Mark-English-EACH

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