Timmy Mallett’s curiosity has certainly taken him far – 4,730 miles, to be exact. He’s spent 118 days on his bike circumnavigating Britain, finishing his epic ride in August. Timmy is well-known as the star of 80s and 90s TV and radio shows, a lead in pantomimes and a talented artist. Now he’s famed for his incredible journey, too.

It was a paper map at home that sparked the idea for his adventure. It’s filled with dots, marking where he’s performed in shows across Britain, but there are still some gaps to fill. “I started thinking, that’s different, that’s interesting, what would I find if I was to go there?” explains Timmy. Ultimately, it was about seizing the day, an attitude inspired by his late brother Martin. “For Martin every day was the best day ever. He had Down’s syndrome and lived every day in the moment,” says Timmy. “My way of being in the moment is to cycle and to look at things to paint.”

Timmy MallettPacking up his paint brushes, Timmy set off from Paddington station on a sunny morning in March. Gazing at the Thames, he knew the next time he saw the river would be when his circumnavigation was complete, a “wonderful” feeling. From London, he travelled south-east, then south around the coast, making his way around England, Wales, Scotland and then England again, before returning to Paddington last month. Timmy travelled on a characteristically colourful e-bike, which he painted himself with the help of a specialist company. The TimmEEEE bike is anything but boring, with its rainbow of colours, sparkle and picture of the iconic Pinky Punky.

With a life-long love of cycling, Timmy’s got several long-distance bike rides under his belt, and plenty of experience with regular bikes, as well as electric ones. He’s biked through Northern Ireland, Lincolnshire and Cumbria. He also took on the challenge of cycling the renowned Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, charting the experience in his Utterly Brilliant! autobiography. Timmy’s circumnavigation of Britain is his biggest adventure yet though, and one he took the time to prepare for. He chose his bike carefully – opting for a Giant Explore E+ 1 bike – and did plenty of training rides too.

Navigating his way around Britain was quite a feat but one he achieved with the help of printed and digital maps. Ordnance Survey created six different A4 books of maps, customised to cover Timmy’s entire journey. Each day, he would use these to plan and tweak his route. When he finished a map, he’d send it home and start on the next one. “I’ve kept the OS maps and I’m delighted with them,” enthuses Timmy. Along the way, he also used Komoot to plot his route and transfer it onto his bike GPS, Wahoo. Strava came in handy as well and let fans follow his journey.

He decided to brave the ride without the safety net of a support team. But he wasn’t without good company, enjoying encounters with friends, family and fans along the way – both planned and unexpected. In Norfolk, he met fans who’d driven two hours to find him and offer their support. At Fraserburgh, he went for a sunset swim with a group of wild swimmers. In Duthie Park, Aberdeen, a long-time fan flagged him down with a Pinky Punky. “Very quickly, I made it a rule that I would always stop,” says Timmy. “The journey has strengthened my love of this country because of the smiles and reactions I’ve had along the way.”

Timmy wasn’t in a rush and savoured all the moments of his venture, both big and small. “One thing I was clear on is that it’s not a race,” says Timmy. “Less is more!” He set off with the idea of cycling 40 miles per day but quickly reduced this to 30-35 miles per day, with plenty of rest days and some visits home. Timmy extended the length of the circumnavigation and would venture down extra routes if they caught his interest. “It’s about seeing where my curiosity takes me,” he says.

It’s this curiosity that led him to explore Britain’s coastline, from tourist hotspots to forgotten corners of our islands. He describes North Wales as “absolutely fantastic”, parts of Lincolnshire as “glorious” and the coast of Fife as “really lovely” but will not be drawn on his favourite part of the journey. “I’m hesitant to say I’ve got a favourite place because there’s an opposite to that and that’s a least favourite. I wouldn’t be that rude to somewhere!” What he will say is that even in places he thought he wouldn’t enjoy there was always something to celebrate. “This is a gobsmackingly beautiful country, and every single bit has got something joyous”.


That’s not to say the circumnavigation wasn’t without its challenges. The Highlands could be remote and lonely, despite their beauty, while the hills between Cornwall, Devon and Somerset were physically hard. Frustrations could also arise with flat tyres and cycle paths that led to nowhere. Yet despite it all, Timmy pushed on. Certain points on his journey were milestones to celebrate. Noticeable corners of Britain stood out for him, from Ness Point to Lands’ End and Cape Wrath. “These compass points have a certain magic, that reminds us how brilliant it is to attempt something and to succeed.”

He also achieved an impressive feat with his artwork. Incredibly, Timmy sketched on every day of his journey. The result is a unique catalogue of Britain’s coast, that he plans to keep working on for some time. He was inspired by painters that had gone before him, John Constable, J M W Turner, and L S Lowry, to name a few. Timmy would often stand in the same spots they once frequented, looking at the same “sublime” views. He would turn his sketches into paintings there and then or work them up in his accommodation on an evening, before posting them home.

Now he’s back, he plans to turn the watercolours and pictures into bigger oil paintings, which he’ll be doing for “quite some time”. And what about his next adventure? “I’ll have to have a discussion with Mrs Mallett!” he laughs. If his many bike rides are anything to go by, it won’t be long until he’s back in the saddle. Whatever he comes up with next, we’re sure it’ll be utterly brilliant.

All images © Timmy Mallett

 

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