Catworth fundraiser challenged to charity cycle ride by Fern Britton

Paul Westerman.

Paul Westerman. - Credit: Archant

It’s not every day that you travel to Edinburgh to meet Billy Connolly and are challenged to a charity bike ride by Fern Britton.

Fern Britton.

Fern Britton. - Credit: Archant

But that’s just what happened to a Catworth man who has been rubbing shoulders with the stars in aid of his Charity Oars campaign.

In April, The Hunts Post reported how 47-year-old Paul Westerman had been collecting signatures on a pair of oars which will be sold at auction for Lifeblood: The Thrombosis Charity.

His fundraising mission has seen him collect autographs from Britton, along with London mayor Boris Johnson, Paralympian Tanni Grey-Thompson, and comedian Steve Coogan to name just a few.

But Britton’s support didn’t stop with her autograph. While Paul, of High Street, Catworth, was busy getting Connolly to ink his autograph on the oars, she sent him an email and Twitter message challenging him to join her on a mammoth bike ride from John O’ Groats to Land’s End in May next year.

Stephen Merchant.

Stephen Merchant. - Credit: Archant

She is undertaking the ride, called Challenge57, in aid of the Genesis Research Trust, which finances research and teaching in the field of gynaecology, obstetrics, and paediatrics.

Paul said he’s almost been convinced to take part.

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“I am about 85 per cent there – I will give some training a go once the weather settles down and I can start cycling again. My friends and family have been very supportive and it’s a good way of saying ‘thank you’.”

He added: “Fern’s very persuasive – I did say I’d only do it if her husband Phil Vickery does the sandwiches.”

Steve Coogan.

Steve Coogan. - Credit: Archant

Paul started fundraising after he almost died from a pulmonary embolism in 2011. He collapsed in his bathroom when a blot clot travelled from his knee, where he had suffered deep vein thrombosis (DVT) following an injury, through his heart to his lung. He was taken to Hinchingbrooke Hospital, Huntingdon, where staff saved his life.

He later hoped to run a half-marathon in aid of Lifeblood, but he and his wife Elissa were seriously injured when a car drove into the back of their broken down car in August last year.

He said: “It is a physical recovery and a mental recovery. But when things like this pop up it is a fantastic opportunity to give yourself a new goal and a target. I expect it to be quite a daunting thing to do because of the distance and the commitment to the training.

“I can’t run anywhere so I’m not sure how I’m going to cycle it. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.”

The oars will be sold at auction on World Thrombosis Day (October 13) next year, when there will be a dinner and speeches at the Houses of Parliament.

INFORMATION: For more, go to,, follow @charityoars on Twitter.

Paul is also seeking support from a cycle shop to help with a bike for the challenge.

He can be contacted via the form on the Charity Oars website.