The Environment

Pedal 4 Parks | Championing Nature By Cycling Through Climate Solutions

Isaac Kenyon wanted to do a cycling challenge in the UK that would celebrate climate crisis solutions, and the mental health benefits of being in nature. In August 2021, he did precisely that

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. 

Photo: Amber Munro-Fellowes

“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.”

Pictured: Lukas Haitzmann (left) and Isaac Kenyon (right) approaching the Isles of Scilly on waterbikes, Photo: Ollie Axon
Photo: Amber Munro-Fellowes

As the team cycled across Great Britain, they passed through six National Parks. But while many of us simply arrive in these places, they got to experience the changing landscape between these pockets of nature. After a two hour sea crossing from Orkney, the route took them south from John o’Groats to the Cairngorms, down to Loch Lomond and into Glasgow. As they hit their first built up area, it was a huge shock to the system. 

“It was just so stressful. There were traffic lights, shouting, arguing, there were people beeping. It was just loud. We’d spent three or four days surrounded by scenery, taking in all these lovely stories, talking to National Park rangers and just being in nature. Then coming into Glasgow was like an explosion… I’m not saying Glasgow is a bad place or anything. Just the comparison was really, really stark.” This is the environment that most of us live in.

“Going outdoors and into green spaces gives people that sort of escapism from everything”

“And then after we got to the border, between England and Scotland, we realised that what we saw in Glasgow just got worse in England, actually. It was pretty bad around the Carlisle, Preston sort of area. Just no green corridors. There is no way biodiversity can migrate. There’s just too much infrastructure for miles and miles and miles.” It was only once they reached Wales and the South West that it started to feel more like Scotland again.

Isaac went to school in Luton, which was failing Ofsted reports. “It wasn’t on the agenda at all, to even think about green spaces. It was just about getting people to pass.” He believes that appreciation for nature and outdoor education should start at school, but in places like Luton there are certainly challenges. “The teachers are struggling. A lot of the areas are underprivileged, there’s a lot of poverty. I wouldn’t say heavy poverty, but there is poverty and really difficult lives for a lot of kids. They’ve got drug dealer brothers, prostitute mothers – there’s all that going on. Especially in the school I was in: it was closed down halfway through my Year 8 and got reopened again with new funding. The focus is on trying to fix all that. Bringing in green spaces is way, way, way back on the agenda.”

Photo: Ollie Axon

I asked whether creating more green space might help somehow. “Going outdoors and into green spaces gives people that sort of escapism from everything but it’s, to be honest, unsafe. I wasn’t allowed to go to parks. My mum wouldn’t let me. And when I did go to parks I remember I got chased a few times, people trying to mug me and things like that. It was not a great place to be. So when you’re trying to promote ‘everyone go outside’, everyone’s like ‘I’m not going to that park, I’ll get killed’. It’s a really difficult challenge.

“But I still think school programmes like the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award [which Isaac completed at university] are quite important in those places.” Simple things like visiting the woods in geography or doing some outdoor education as part of PE would be steps in the right direction. “It’s just that those simple things aren’t happening. And I think that would help a lot… The greatest way we could possibly make an impact is behaviour change.”

Photo: Amber Munro-Fellowes

On the Pedal 4 Parks cycle, the team passed through the Lake District. “We met up with an outdoor educator for the National Trust. He was taking the school kids, albeit a bit more privileged than general school kids, but he had school kids there and he was teaching them crafts and outdoor skills.” He discussed how they connect through nature too, “When they first come they’re not that sociable. But then after a couple of days they are extremely social with each other.”

“You can find solutions and projects, but it’s completely drowned out by negativity”

With every person and organisation interviewed on the Pedal 4 Parks journey, Isaac wants to shift the environmental focus to positivity. Raising the profiles of solutions and successes, in terms of climate and green space, rather than just pointing at the problem. “There are just negative headlines constantly… and not a lot about what’s happening, who’s doing things. You can find solutions and projects, but it’s completely drowned out by negativity.”

“There’s a lot that we can do, it’s just getting that behaviour change out – and the more people thinking like this about the future and climate change the better, I think. Even now, just on a personal level, I watched a lot of climate change documentaries when I was younger and I didn’t really do much. I just watched it and was like, ‘Oh that’s sad. Ok let’s go watch the next thing.’ So actually getting in there: getting into a company, for instance, and getting them volunteering; tree planting: getting people to do actions; taking the kids out into the woods: doing the actions.” That’s how we make an impact.

Photo: Ollie Axon
Photo: Amber Munro-Fellowes


You can find out more about Pedal 4 Parks, including their podcast Mind the Green Space and details about the upcoming documentary launch, on


Read our Green Issue here.

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