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Community cycling

I’m going to take six weeks to cycle through the west coast of Scotland, both the mainland and the islands. I’m going to embrace the physical challenge and fully experiencing the landscape and the elements. My trip will also give me the opportunity to understand and participate in community groups along the way.

Why cycle?

I could make this trip in a whole number of ways, my parents have a great campervan which I’ve enjoyed lots of trips around Scotland in. However I think that you understand places differently if you travel through them slowly, it forces you to confront the physicality of the world. Linked to this I haven’t spent much time in rural Scotland/islands and feels like an excellent way to do it

This trip is the most significant physical challenge that I’ve ever done, I’ve set the daily mileage low, so I think its do-able, am equally scared and excited about the scale of the challenge. I also pledged the crowdfunder for the adventure syndicate books which I didn’t manage to follow through on last year and am determined to do this year — although this might be a slightly bigger trip than initially thought.

This is the kind of trip that will force reflection. I don’t naturally reflect on things so this trip will be an excellent opportunity to push me to reflect on the communities, the physical geography, the history of the places that I’m visiting and hopefully provide some space to think about my next steps in Scotland. I’m still the planning stages but am planning on taking the tent and camping most of the way, much to the frustration of lots of my friends, who’d like a nice hotel, I love camping and am looking forward to waking up to some epic views. I’m hoping it’ll be early enough in the season so that I can have some last minute hostels if needed/the weather comes in.

The route

I’d like to do a whole circuit from Glasgow coming back to Glasgow, however, partly because of commitments already in the diary and partly to test my kit, I’m going to do a test run from Glasgow to Oban at the beginning of May before setting off in the middle of May. Glasgow to Oban — via Dunoon 30th April — 5th May

I’m trying to plan enough to make sure I can schedule in visits with communities but also give enough flexibility to respond to things that happen on the way, my lack of fitness, the weather, meeting amazing people, etc. So I’ve come up with start and end dates for sections, these are relatively fixed some of them are the only ferry for a week and will be more flexible with how I get between those points.

16–23rd May Glasgow to Holy Isle 24th — 30th May Arran, Mull of Kintyre, Islay (Ferry 30th May Islay to Oban) 31st May — 15th June Hebridean way — Castlebay to Butt of Lewis (Ferry 15th June Tarbet to Uig) 16th — 27th June Skye to Oban — via Mallaig, Eigg, and Mull — (train Oban to Glasgow 27th June)

There’s a google map of the approximate route here and a spreadsheet with more detailed dates

Questions I’d like to explore on my trip

This is part of my ongoing work with Exploring Participation

  • How are communities involved in decision-making? How connected do they feel to decision makers, in their local community, in their council, in Scotland, in the UK?

  • How does community ownership work in practice, do people feel like they actually have ownership

  • How are intentional communities working, both in theory and practice

  • How have communities taken ownership of assets, how effective has it been, what are the barriers

  • What are examples of Social Enterprises in rural communities, what lessons are there to learn?

What am I offering?

I know groups get frustrated with lots of visitors, and I’d love to offer something in return for them sharing their expertise, I’ve got some skills that I’m happy to share.

  • I’m happy to help out wherever is needed, washing up, setting up spaces, joining in with volunteer activities, etc.

  • I’ve got lots of facilitation skills so am happy to share these or help facilitate discussions as needed

  • My professional expertise is as an interim manager in the charity/social enterprise sector so am happy to talk through challenges you’re having, strategic planning, innovative models of participation and leave you with an action plan www.em-power.me

Can you help? — I’ve got a few asks for help

  • If you’ve got suggestions for anywhere I should be visiting or contacts in those groups, then please connect me with them exploringparticipation@gmail.com

  • If you’d like to join me on any of my trip let me know — I’d love to have company for sections of it

  • Any suggestions of good reflection materials — books, podcasts, meditations, etc

  • Any suggestions on cycling routes, kit, places to stay — please send them my way I’m feeling slightly daunted about it all but think that I just need to start and it’ll all work out!

  • Please follow my social media for live updates on the journey on twitter or instagram