A RETIRED firefighter has raised thousands of pounds after completing a gruelling cycling challenge from one end of the country to the other.

Robert Bocking has long been a keen cyclist when he was a serving soldier before moving into the fire service.

He then upped his mileage following his retirement before deciding to try the biggest challenge he could in the UK.

The Sauchie man then decided to cycle the huge 1,000-mile distance from Land's End to John O'Groats in just 11 days.

Robert said he was always going to do it, but decided that he might as well raise money in the process so that other people can benefit from him being fit and healthy enough to do it.

Rather than just doing it for himself, Robert made the decision to also raise money for five different charities – The Firefighter's Charity, Parkinson's UK, Teenage Cancer Trust, SFRS Family Support Trust and Help for Heroes.

The reasoning behind a host of charities was that it meant there was something for everyone to donate towards.

After completing the gruelling challenge, Robert told the Advertiser it was an amazing experience – despite the various cuts and bruises he sustained after a nasty collision with a tram track in Sheffield.

The journey also got off to a bad start when his train from Edinburgh to the starting point was cut from eight carriages to four, meaning he stood for long parts.

He said: "I set off on the Friday on the train, but there were only four carriages instead of eight it was very overcrowded. It made it a real crappy journey.

"I had 10 days of good weather then on the final day it was raining, which was really nice. It was actually a real relief to get some rain that day.

"I only had one puncture during the whole journey so I was pleased with that. In Sheffield, however, I flipped on the tram tracks and was left with some injuries and damage to the bike."

Luckily for Robert, a bike shop in the area decided to fix his bike for free because he was doing a charity ride, although he dropped in four bottles of wine for their troubles.

One thing which struck Robert was the generosity of strangers throughout the trip.

Every time he stopped and told locals what he was doing, he received online donations.

Robert continued: "The public was really good the whole way through. I raised over £200 just from giving out cards along the way, including giving one to someone while we were sitting in traffic."

All in, Robert has raised more than £1,900 at the time of printing, which is just shy of his £1,999 target.

To add to the total, please visit tinyurl.com/y4aqaomp