Great Yarmouth firefighters get in gear for gruelling 165-mile charity bike ride

Ff Dean bracey, ff Andrew hooker, watch commander Martin Harris, ff mark trudgill, ff craig stoker,

Ff Dean bracey, ff Andrew hooker, watch commander Martin Harris, ff mark trudgill, ff craig stoker, ff Richard hooker, ff dale Wallace, ff charlie stringer and ff Derek almond. - Credit: Archant

Firefighters say they will have the best of inspirations on a brutal 165-mile cycle ride calling at every full-time fire station in Norfolk.

Four year old Oliver Duerden pictured at the family home in Mulbarton. Photo: Steve Adams

Four year old Oliver Duerden pictured at the family home in Mulbarton. Photo: Steve Adams

Members of blue watch at Great Yarmouth fire station say fellowship and fortitude will help them through the challenge.

But the biggest spur will come from being able to provide a specialist wheelchair for their workmate's disabled young son who suffers from a unique genetic disorder.

Martin Harris, blue watch commander behind the feat, said attempting the distance in a single day added to the challenge with even the best cyclists rarely covering so many miles in such a short amount of time.

He hopes the 35 or so riders pledging to take part on May 19 will all achieve the county-wide caper spanning Thetford to King's Lynn at a rate of 15 miles an hour, leaving Yarmouth at 6am and returning full circle for evening drinks at Gorleston.

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The former paratrooper who lives in Acle said everyone had to be fighting fit and serious about the journey with some of Norfolk's most talented club cyclists helping buffer weaker ones and set the pace.

He organised the fundraiser following a night duty chat with firefighter Ian Duerden, who lives in Mulbarton, Norwich, with his wife Caroline and two young children - one of whom, five-year-old Oliver, is the only person in the world with his chromosome abnormality, a curved spine and a host of other problems.

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The little lad who is said to be always smiling despite his difficulties now needs a £5,000 wheelchair and other equipment to make his life more comfortable.

Mr Harris said: 'He was telling us about how poorly Oliver was and about his operations and how the family always tried to stay positive.

'There is a drive at the fire service to raise money for the benevolent fund so I thought for a change it would be good to raise money for something closer to home.

'Anyone can grab a bike and do the Norwich Hundred, but that would not raise enough, it had to be something more challenging. Going round all the fire stations would have taken several days so we decided to limit it to the full time ones. If we have 25 riders raising £200 a piece that should raise the money.'

The effort was involving many people in various capacities in the small rural brigade where everyone tended to know each other especially among the full-time fire fighters. For those in the saddle it means months of training to build stamina as well as confidence. Mr Harris estimates the return leg from Kings Lynn to Yarmouth will be the most challenging and is appealing to drivers for patience.

'There is strength in numbers. Some of the guys are super fit and some are plodders in their fifties. But it is all about team work and going through it together. It will be a good day and if we can get that wheelchair for Oliver it will be fantastic.'

Mr Duerden will join Mr Harris on the Norwich leg, where young Oliver will cheer them on and hand out cupcakes at North Earlham.

Oliver's parents are currently setting up a trust, Oliver's Tree, to help pay for specialist equipment.

Anyone wishing to get involved with the fundraiser can contact Martin Harris at Yarmouth fire station on 01493 339901.

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