A TAUNTON cyclist has completed a cycling challenge of his lifetime while raising over £2,000 for a charity.

Stuart Hooper cycled more than 490 KM (300 miles) over four days from the Tower of London to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, in a bid to raise funds for Swindon-based charity ‘Best Mates’.

The charity works with the Cygnet Hospital Taunton, the 54-bed mental health hospital for men, where Stuart engages service users in enrichment activities, helping them stay active through one-to-one or group physical engagement sessions at an intensity that suits their needs.

‘Best Mates’, which aims to make a difference in people’s lives through financial, emotional, and physical support.

Stuart decided to support them after they enabled service users at Cygnet Hospital Taunton to stay active with gifts of footwear and sporting equipment.

(Image: Contributed)

He said: “Having witnessed the support given to our service users, I felt compelled to give back in some way.

“The team at ‘Best Mates’ were very generous with their donations, which made a real difference to the service users at Cygnet Hospital Taunton.

"We set off for Paris on a cold Tuesday morning and had to push hard to catch the ferry, as its departure was moved forward, adding extra pressure to an already demanding schedule.

“On our journey, we paused to pay our respects at one of the Commonwealth War grave sites in France, allowing us to reflect on the resilience of soldiers during the Battle of the Somme, giving us a poignant perspective on overcoming adversity.

“After four days, we arrived in Paris and were greeted by the sight of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. As we approached the tower we were welcomed by hundreds of members of the public.”

Stuart raised over £2,000, and collectively with the other 14 riders, the team raised more than £30,000.

This contribution will support counselling sessions for people recovering from substance misuse, aid with mortgage payments during illnesses, provide transport to hospital appointments, and offer free regional park walk events.

These initiatives are all provided by ‘Best Mates’ to assist those in need.

Despite facing punctures, injuries, and challenging weather conditions, Stuart expressed immense pride in completing the challenge and highlighted the camaraderie formed with the other riders.

He added: “I am proud and honoured to have shared this experience with the other cyclists taking part, who have now become my close friends.”