Tour de France memories are made of this

Peter with one of the bikes he has presented to be used at the West Yorkshire Playhouse by the actors onstage in Beryl from 30 Jun – 19 July

Peter with one of the bikes he has presented to be used at the West Yorkshire Playhouse by the actors onstage in Beryl from 30 Jun – 19 July

What is a memory? These days we can use videos, photographs and social media to create artificial memories which are great to look back on. But what if your day to day memory started to let you down? Should you resign yourself to not being able to join in events with your friends and family?

Leeds is a Dementia Friendly City and wants to show it is possible to make a global sporting event accessible to everyone including those people living with memory problems and dementia. The Tour de France raises powerful memories as shown by Peter Jervis, a person living with dementia, who reflects on sharing a cuppa with the famous Beryl Burton in his cycling youth.   And thanks to the Sporting Memories Network there is a way to store new memories.  

Sporting Memories Network volunteers, will be based at spectator hubs and in the City Centre on Saturday, and are dementia aware will be able to share information about the condition to anyone attending the race. There will also be an army of Memory Makers to interview spectators about their own sporting memories to create a lasting legacy that can be used by generations across the UK.

Network founder Tony Jameson-Allen said of this opportunity:

“It’s not surprising that Leeds City Council has fully supported this initiative because without their fantastic support, we simply couldn’t reach out to the many people living with dementia in Leeds. The scale of the Grand Depart in Leeds is unprecedented in the city and yes, we want to raise awareness and an understanding of dementia, but also to be there for anyone that might need us on the day.”

As enthusiasm for the Tour de France and the Grand Depart has risen, many forgotten bicycles have been dusted off and in some cases, taken out on the road once more.
For 77 year old Peter Jervis who is living with dementia, the event has stirred happy memories of a time when he cycled along country lanes, up steep hills, thought nothing of cycling to Filey and shared many a cuppa with Beryl Burton, an English racing cyclist and one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes.

I met Peter when he was attending the Weekly Men’s Support Group at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. The Group which is for men living with dementia provides a way to share tips and support each other and is run by Leeds City Council’s Peer Support Team. Here I heard Peter reminiscing about his cycling days. I wanted to find out more so we got together for a chat.

Peter got his first push bike when he was just 14 years old. He spotted it in the window of Roger’s bike shop in Castleford. It was gorgeous so, when his parents gave him the choice of holidaying in Cornwall with them or having the bike, he chose the bike.

He joined the Castleford Cycling Club, the Featherstone Road Club and soon started to take part in local races in Otley, Ilkley and the Dales. Mass-start road races, time trials and hill climbs, Peter loved it all. Why bother catching a bus when all you had to do was jump on your bike and go?

He tells me most of the week was taken up with cycling;

Wednesdays – watching group track racing at Roundhay Park
Thursdays – time trials at the Great North Rd (A1) near Ferrybridge
Saturdays – maintaining the bike, you had to do it yourself, you couldn’t trust anyone else! Peter’s bike was a Joco Ronde dan Nederland which was given to a friend when he went on National Service, he never saw it again.
Sunday – it was race day.

At weekends and after a ride, cyclists would get together for a natter and a cuppa. Peter often chatted with Beryl Burton in an Otley café, just as cycling buddies. Another favourite rest spot was a café in Knaresborough.

Once Peter’s parents drove out to look for him while he was taking part in a Junior Nidderdale race but he was so focussed that he didn’t even realise they were there. 


Peter, far left, and friends enjoying a cycling break in Ireland

Peter, far left, and friends enjoying a cycling break in Ireland


But it wasn’t all hard work; there was lots of fun times too. When he was 17, Peter and a group of friends, went on a cycling tour to Ireland and stayed in youth hostels.

Peter said: “It wasn’t just the cycling or the excitement of competitions, it was the camaraderie, taking part in something together with your mates.

“We could use two caravans at Primrose Valley, between Filey and Bridlington, and we decided to cycle over for a weekend break. Well, the weather was awful, pouring down with rain. We got as far as Malton and decided to stay at the youth hostel but it was full, so we had to carry on. It was night by the time we got to Filey and we were soaked! We stayed up all night drying our clothes, drying the bikes and the gear. And then, next morning we cycled back again.”

In the 1960s, Peter’s cycling club was allocated two places to take part in the Milk Race, a cycling tour of Britain, sponsored by the Milk Marketing Board. It was a multi-stage race on British roads, with riders competing to finish in the fastest time. The fairest way to choose who would take part was to put all the members’ name into a hat and pick them out. Peter’s name was drawn out. It was a great honour but one he was unable to complete as he couldn’t get any financial support.

Peter’s cycling days came to end when he got married and the bikes were stored safely in the shed. Peter has donated three of his bikes to the West Yorkshire Playhouse for their production of ‘Beryl’ – a play about Beryl Burton. Details of the production here:’s-on/2014/beryl/

It is a part of his life that he still remembers with great fondness.

And thanks to his cycling experience, Peter who now lives in Oulton, has been able to choose the perfect spot to watch the Tour De France, Barkisland. As it is at the end of one of climbs, the riders will have slowed down, only 30/40mph when they pass.

“I’m hopeful of another British win,” says Peter. “Chris Froome has the experience and the talent, his chances are excellent.”

If you would like to find out more about the Tour de France, the route or where you can go to see the race, click here

For more information about living well with dementia click here.

 Debra Kerr, ASC Communications Officer

About betterlivesleeds

Health, social and age-related care services working together to make Leeds the best city for health and wellbeing
This entry was posted in Dementia, Health and Wellbeing, Independence, older people, Social Isolation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tour de France memories are made of this

  1. Tim Sanders says:

    Great story, how lovely to have that from Peter and that he comes to one of our peer support activities.

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