Monday, 29 June 2009

Day 9: Hebden Bridge to Leeds

Back in the saddle.

Up to the old Acre Mill site - a Cape factory that has been described as one of Britian's worst industrial disasters. Asbestos processing began in 1939 with the manufacture of gas masks. After the war production switched to a variety of asbestos related construction and insulating products.

Hundreds of former Cape workers locally have succumbed to asbestos related disease and cancer. Even through the factory closed in 1970 and the main buildings were demolished by 1979, the deadly legacy of Acre Mill continues to affect the health of local people.

We should never forget the legacy of Acre Mill.

Our journey continued over the Pennines then along the picturesque Leeds Liverpool canal to Armley - home of the former JW Roberts factory. The environmental and occupations scandal of this T&N subsidiary was uncovered by the Court of Appeal in the mid 1990's.

The cast from the Yorkshire Playhouse production of "Dust" greeted us in Armley.

more to follow...

Day 8: Restday

We are 'ordered' to 'rest' by doing moderate exercise and eat more protien than complex carbs.
Tommorrow we start our day by going up to the old Cape Acre Mill site set on Old Town high above Hebden Bridge.

I took a walk down the Spodden Valley to the 'hidden gem' of Healey Dell Nature Reserve.

After a week of meeting some incredible campaigners and brave people facing the cruel injustice of asbestos diseases such mesothelioma I recall a time many years ago when a Yorkshire Television documentary crew came to Rochdale. Canadian campaigners have put the following posts on YouTube. It brings the continuing issue of asbestos damage and injustice very close to home.

Part 1

Part 2

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Day 7: Liverpool to Hebden Bridge

A warm, sunny day

A rousing send-off by the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and the Merseyside Asbestos Victim Support Group.

We were joined today by a great group of cyclists.

Midday outside Manchester Town Hall greeted a fantastic crowd of Greater Manchester Asbestos Victim Support Group campaigners.

Off to Rochdale to meet the Mayor and Mayoress together with local politicians from all political parties and campaigners from Save Spodden Valley.

Up to Spodden Valley with Cllr William Hobhouse, Chair of the TBA Working Party that scrutinises the current health and safety aspects of the former Turner Brothers Asbestos factory site.

Finally up past Blackstone Edge into Yorkshire (where the sun disappeared to be repaced with gloomy dark clouds!) into Hebden Bridge.

We are all ready for a rest day tommorrow.

Day 6: Barrow to Liverpool

Barrow Town Hall send off.

A warm suuny day through the old County Palentine of Lancashire (before the local government re-organisations of 1974, both Barrow and Liverpool were part of Lancashire).

I can't help being biased, Lancashire is a beautiful county. But the ugly legacy of asbestos has made its mark in the places we visited from the Shipyards and railway sheds of Barrow, the factories around Preston.

Travelling along the Lancaster Canal.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Day Five: Penrith to Barrow

More sun in the Lake District make the views even more breathtaking.

images and more to follow very soon.

Day Four: Newcastle to Penrith

A long, hot sunny day!

words and images to follow

Day Three: Berwick to Gateshead

Northumbria- land of beautiful Castles and Coasts

A fine sunny day.

A great welcome to Gateshead.

more images and words to follow very soon.

Day Two: Edinburgh to Berwick

Cloudy but mostly fine.

Our ride from Edinburgh along the fertile agricultural lands of the Scottish lowlands towards the border at Berwick gave us an opportunity to reflect on the tireless work of Scottish asbestos campaigners and the differences between Scots law and that south of the border. Devolution has given asbestos victims some power to obtain some modicum of justice for the damage asbestos has caused to former industrial communities.

Scotland could be seen to lead the way for Britian on several asbestos related issues.

For example, next month, Hollyrood will enact legislation to reinstate compensation for asbestos related pleural plaques.

Saturday, 20 June 2009

Day One: Glasgow to Edinburgh

The start of our Breathtaking Journey. A great send off by John McFall MP and campaigners from Clydebank and Clydeside

end of Day One outside of the Scottish Parliament

Saturday 20th. Light drizzle, sunshine and showers.

We start on the eve of the longest day with one of our shorter journeys. About 70 miles to get our legs warmed up. Starting from the River Clyde in Glasgow and ending at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

We were given a great send off in Glasgow from the incredible campaigners from Clydebank and Clydeside groups. We couldn't have started from a more appropriate place. Far too many have died as a result of asbestos exposure from Scotland's former industrial heartland.

Shipyard workers were exposused to huge amounts of asbestos during ship construction and refurbishment. Seafarers were exposed when working on the ships. Dock workers when unloading the deadly asbestos cargoes from Canada and Southern Africa.

Most of the past heavy industry has now gone. But the legacy of asbestos cancer deaths continue.

As we cycle along beside of the Clyde, the regeneration of Glasgow is clear. New offices and homes. But perhaps the biggest surprise is just how green this former industrial area is becoming. Regeneartion has been much more than pouring concrete. Large amounts of green, public open space has been created.

As we Cycle to Edinburgh along Cycle Route 75 we pass new schools and civic buildings. Part of the old railway lines is being re-engineered for rail use. Navigating the changed route puts a few extra miles on the jouney but we end the first day with a welcome to Edinburgh by campaigners from Asbestos Action Tayside outside the Scottish Parliament.

A great start to out Breathtaking Journey.

M6 musings...

Day Zero. The evening of 19th June. Driving up the M6 to Glasgow...

Our journey is to highlight some of the breathtaking facts about asbestos - still Britain's biggest workplace killer.

Over 2000 people die of mesothelioma each year in Britian. More people than die on our roads. About the same number die of asbestos related lung cancer. The trend continues to rise.

Exposure to the deadly fibre occured decades ago. People are usually retired when they present with the cancer. The workforce and premises that caused the death sentence are often gone. Because of this, asbestos related disease has been characterised as a hidden killer.

Is asbestos just a historic artefact of a past, heavy industrial exposure?

No. It appears it isn't.

Does asbestos still threaten workers and the British public a decade after all forms of asbestos have been banned in the UK and EU?


Exposure to deadly asbestos fibres in 21st century Britian should be preventable.
It is a breathtaking fact it is still occuring.

Going to work shouldn't carry a death sentence.

As we drove up the M6 to start our journey in Glasgow we passed too many places where people have died simply as a result of engaging in a days work. The towering cranes and building sites of urban regeneration schemes. Morcambe Bay. The railway that heads north beside the motorway.

Preventable deaths of people that left home one day never to return.

As we head towards the 'silicon glens' I wonder about the suspicious cancers and illnesses that have been linked to semiconductor production and other profitable high tech work.

Some say that nanotechnology could be the "next asbestos".

It would be truly breathtaking if the injustices of the past are repeated in the future.
The knowledge that a hugely profitable material carried devastating health risks. The official lies, the denials, the obfuscation, the avoidances of responsibility, the 'creative accountancy' that can avoid and employers, or insurers legal liability. The manouvers seen in the past few decades regarding asbestos deaths and the search for justice has been truly breathtaking.

People want to work. Jobs are important. But if the tragedy of asbestos tells us anything it is that we must always ensure that people must be put before profit.


Friday, 19 June 2009

Our Route...

The journey of (over) a thousand miles starts with a single peddle...

Friday 19th June: Day Zero (light drizzle).

Scotland here we come.

Here is the route of our Breathtaking Journey...

20th June: Glasgow
21st June: Edinburgh
23rd June: Newcastle
25th June: Barrow
26th June: Liverpool/Manchester
28th June: Leeds
29th June: Sheffield
30th June: Derby
1st July: Birmingham
2nd July: Royal Albert Docks/Barking
4th July: Southampton