Simon Sinclair from Surrey and Sam Swain from Kent set off today to cycle over 1000 miles from Kingston-upon-Thames to Barcelona, Spain.
Their route, which started at Kingston’s Memorial Gardens this morning, will take them one month, cycling an average of 50 miles (80 km) each day.
Simon and Sam have two goals. First, they want to raise awareness of – and money for – the campaign against oil and gas exploration in Surrey and Sussex, with a specific focus on the controversial oil site at Horse Hill.
Secondly they are supporting Kingston charity The Full Cycle project, which fixes up old bikes and gives them to those in need, especially people on a low income.
Their first stop today was Horse Hill, near Horley, where oil company Horse Hill Developments Ltd has recently been granted planning permission to produce oil for 20 years.
There they met with local campaigners, including Sarah Finch, who is challenging the planning permission through the courts, supported by the Weald Action Group.
Sarah’s case will be held in the Court of Appeal in November 2021. Simon and Sam’s bike ride is raising funds towards the court costs and legal fees.
Simon Sinclair says: “A lot of people are worried about climate change but don’t know there is currently oil drilling happening in the pristine countryside of Surrey. When I found out about it, I was horrified. Surrey County Council has to take some of the blame as it recently gave UK Oil and Gas (HHDL’s parent company), permission to produce oil for the next 20 years.
“UKOG are planning to build and develop more sites like this, in Dunsfold and down to the Isle of Wight, as well as in Turkey. This will increase our carbon emissions and destroy natural habitats when we’re in a climate emergency – and just as the International Energy Association has called for a ban on all new oil, coal and gas development. We think more people should know about what is happening here.”
Sam Swain says: “Cycling has become a huge part of my life and something that’s helped me overcome difficult moments, including battling with addictions and depression. The hardest part was starting but once I got over the initial hurdle and built up my fitness, I found I couldn’t live without it.
“Simon and I feel cycling is one of the best ways for society to move away from fossil fuels, while also benefiting mental and physical health. We met six years ago and since then, no matter where I’ve been or what I’ve done, Simon has always been there for me. I could not think of anyone better to share this trip with.”
Sarah Finch said: “Thank you, Simon and Sam, for raising money for the Horse Hill legal challenge on your amazing journey. With the world facing up to catastrophic climate change, the full impacts of fossil fuel developments need to be taken into account in the planning process. I believe that Surrey County Council’s failure to consider the climate impact of burning the oil produced at Horse Hill was unlawful. I look forward to taking the case to the Appeal Court.”
The men have been planning this trip for a while, originally intending to cycle through France to Spain. But the COVID-19-related restrictions on Brits entering France meant a change of plan. They will now cycle from Kingston to Portsmouth, take the ferry to the north coast of Spain and cycle west to Lugo, then cut east across the centre of the country, finishing in Barcelona. While the same distance, the route will be more mountainous – and the conditions hotter.
Simon and Sam will be visiting renewable energy projects and sustainable communities along the way. They’ll be talking to campaigners, politicians, experts and residents, comparing situations and experiences in the two countries as they go.