AN Ilminster woman has smashed her fundraising target but wants to keep going to raise as much as possible.

Nicola Potter, who previously worked at Holyrood Academy for nearly 17 years, set out on a challenge to cycle 1,000 miles in three months.

She started cycling everyday from June 17 earlier this year, and even cycled from Ilminster to Paris during the 40 degree heat.

Her aim is to raise as much money as possible following the birth of her grandson.

She said: “I decided to do this for the SNICU at Musgrove Park Hospital in Taunton.

“My daughter had her first baby in April this year. She was unwell with pre eclampsia, and her baby, Rupert, was born a couple of weeks early.

“While in the maternity unit you realise not all babies are born as healthy as Rupert was.

“I wished to choose a charity which really meant something to me, although we didn’t need the services of SNICU - I wanted to raise money to benefit those parents, grandparents and families who desperately need the valuable medical help and support from the unit.”

Deputy headteacher of Holyrood, Sam Davison, asked who wanted to join her in cycling to Paris, and Mrs Potter was one of three others to take part.

Mrs Potter, Ms Davison, Pauline Lamond, year head at Holyrood, and Caroline Markham, support officer at the school, set off on July 21, arriving in France the following evening.

She said: “We were on our way to Evreux and stopped at a little bar.

"The waiter told us it was 42 degrees Celsius outside.

“It was excruciatingly hot.

"We had to stay out of the heat for an hour of so, and we started jumping in rivers to keep cool.”

The group arrived into Evreux at around 9pm that evening, before another hot day on their bikes.

“We all felt initially that we wouldn’t manage as it was so hot again,” she added.

“There were weather warnings on French TV about temperatures.

“We set off around 8.15 a.m, it was very beautiful countryside through all the corn and barley fields.

"It was almost like cycling through a sea of gold.

“The only refuge from the heat was rivers and water along the way.

"We had to keep stopping to either get in the river or wet our clothes.

“We decided to stop and sleep during height of sun, between 1pm-3pm.

"We wouldn’t have managed otherwise, it was a very long, arduous day.”

Finally they arrived into Paris at 10.20pm on their last day.

So far the dedicated cyclist has raised £1,000, but she wants to carry on to raise as much money as possible for the hospital unit, and she has just started a new job within the NHS.

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