Featured Image Credit: Amber Munro-Fellowes
In August 2021, the Pedal 4 Parks team cycled the length of Britain top to bottom, from the northern tip of Orkney to the Isles of Scilly. And I mean that literally. These five friends pedalled every stroke, including two sea crossings by water bike. Their two week ride was “a cycle through climate solutions”, riding about 100 miles per day and averaging around 2,000m of daily ascent. Never mind meeting and interviewing 26 different organisations along the way, with the aim to create a documentary and later a series. “Three layers all at once,” said adventurer Isaac Kenyon, who founded Pedal 4 Parks. “It was quite intense.”
“I was under all this stress and started getting panic attacks, I realised that actually I hadn’t been outside for a couple of days”
Isaac had done plenty of big adventures before, but he wanted this one to be different. “I thought about it during an Atlantic row crossing about two or three years ago. I wanted to do something that really meant a lot to my mental health and my physical health… I spent 40 days at sea just thinking to myself, asking what I care about – and out of it all, nature was right there at the top of the list. I realised everything I do from now on has to be involved with that.”
With the classic John o’Groats to Land’s End challenge already in mind, he also wanted to become a more responsible adventurer. “I started thinking: I get a flight there, I dash off here, tear up the trails there. This isn’t really the way to do it. I’m promoting people going into nature, but I’m not educating them in how to be around nature.” Simply showcasing a cool challenge or adventure wasn’t enough. “They’re just going to go there with no knowledge of how to preserve or protect the environment… So I started thinking that I wanted this challenge to be a bit more of a behaviour change.
“I’m not saying I was terrible, I did always take my rubbish with me and things like that – but there’s a lot more I could have done and there’s a lot more I can do even now. I’m always trying to figure out ways that I can improve. So I’m trying to create an impact campaign which gets people to think differently about doing outdoor activities and adventures.” The aim of Pedal 4 Parks was to create something very much more than an adventure, that kept going long after they dragged their waterbikes up through the seaweed onto Porthcressa Beach.
“I’m trying to create an impact campaign which gets people to think differently about doing outdoor activities”
Isaac grew up in a city and learnt first hand how beneficial time in nature can be. “I was one of the millennial generation who got bombarded by the social media age. I got a lot of anxiety trying to keep up with digital technology: thinking I can’t miss a text and need to reply instantly because they’ve seen I’ve read it.” “I started developing a lot of issues and I kind of didn’t go and get any help. I started getting panic attacks and all these things… I didn’t know what it was. I went to hospital once thinking I had a heart attack and they said no, it’s just stress… and I thought oh God.”
“The first time I was under all this stress and started getting panic attacks, I realised that actually I hadn’t been outside for a couple of days. I’d just been working on my laptop doing my Masters thesis. So I went outside and I felt so much better. It was amazing. Just walking in a wood… I thought I really had to do more of it. There are a lot of things that we took for granted years and years ago, but we’ve been slowly stripping it away from ourselves as we get more and more techy. And we’re realising that our tech is not the same as what nature was giving us.”