So Sabina, please tell us a little bit about yourself?
I have been a resident in Kew for twelve years now. We love the area and being close to the river and Richmond Park, and the variety of nationalities of our neighbours who come from different parts of the world. I am Australian/Italian and married to a Welshman, so our three children are a great reflection on what makes London so special: multiculturalism!
What is a typical day like in the shoes of Sabina?
Ideally a good breakfast and some form of exercise involving cycling or running before getting stuck into my work schedule. Everyone in the family is an outdoor enthusiast.
I am a business development consultant and mostly work from home or on client sites, although undoubtedly spend far too much time at my desk on the computer and phone.
The plus side of having my own business is the flexibility to get out if the weather is nice – or even if it isn’t – but it also means you never quite switch off as work is just a few steps or keyboard taps away at all times!
You recently cycled from London to Bruges, a total of 255km in 36 hours – very impressive! Can you tell us what that was like? Any interesting stories to share?
What started as an idea became a reality when it was put to the parent community at our local primary school (where all three of my children have been pupils) and it literally grew from there. The true challenge was getting parents involved who had never ridden a road bike before, let alone cycled more than 50km at any given time.
It was a commitment in all senses as a financial outlay was necessary from every participant: we did the ride fully supported with two vehicles who carried our kit, supplies, food and spare parts. This was as much for comfort (no fun having panniers on a road bike) as for safety, plus the added bonus of one of the drivers being a bike mechanic. The team behind the support crew goes by the name of The BMC (Bicycle Moaning Collective, very appropriate) and were brilliant in helping sort out logistics, routes, schedules and much more.
We started training in earnest in January, through the cold, wet and icy conditions that winter throws at you. There were numerous occasions where mastering cleats (clip-in cycling shoes) failed, quite a few punctures and mechanicals, lots of explaining of terminology (cadence, drafting, false flats, chain gang, derailleurs, bottom brackets, to name some), and gradually longer and faster outings. Suffice to say that all the novices are now true converts and proper bike geeks! Nothing fazed them and indeed the community spirit that has grown amongst people who otherwise might never have known each other is incredible.
The ride to Bruges itself was split: day one was 145km to Dover with 1200m of climbing, racing against the clock to make the ferry in time. Day two was 115km from Calais to Bruges, almost pan flat but fast. We had rain, sun, wind, cold and warm conditions to wrangle with, but everyone made it. A huge sense of elation rolling into Burg Square at our destination on the cobblestones and quite a lot of champagne corks popping later to celebrate!
Funniest story? Possibly when one of the cyclists dismounted after a long training ride to Henley and back, and was so tired she couldn’t stand and promptly fell over her garden wall into the neighbour’s newly laid flowerbed.
We loved the cycling tops you had designed (we have one hanging on our walls!) – can you tell us a bit more about the design and idea?
We wanted this event to be something the whole school participated in, so we held a competition for all the children to design a unique cycling top for us.
The entries were so good that the judging panel chose five designs and merged them into one, which was then transformed into the real item by Huez, the manufacturers, with the names of the winning cycling top entries on the back of the shirt.
Huez were so impressed with the design they created matching cycling shorts which have become quite a collectors’ item with their zebra stripes down the sides (all the classes at our school are named after animals, as per the book ‘Giraffes can’t dance’ by Giles Andreae).
Can you tell us about the money that you raised and what this went towards?
The fundraising money is still coming in! It will go towards developing outdoor areas for the children: creating and maintaining sustainable vegetable and fruit plots, providing Forest School education, sourcing gardening supplies and building an adventure playground.
We are fortunate to be one of the few local schools with a dedicated – and large – field which will be the main focus for improvement. Our wonderful head teacher Darren Norman has many inspiring and innovative ideas for this area which will now get underway.
We understand you do a great deal for the Kew Riverside Primary School. Can you tell us about the school and what makes it so special to you?
All three of my children have been pupils at Kew Riverside, the youngest is now in year 6 and will be joining his siblings at secondary school next year at Richmond Park Academy.
I have been a governor at the school for the last five years, of which three as chair of the governing body. It is a one-form entry primary school and has an inspirational and dedicated leadership team behind its success. This is my last year as a governor and as chair and I will be handing over to a great team come the next academic year. I wanted to contribute to a lasting legacy as a sign of my appreciation for all they have done for my children and for me too – I have learnt and enjoyed my time here so much!
The school is truly unique in both its set-up and how it puts children at the centre of everything: from the layout of classrooms (no doors, and all having direct access to the playground) to being on first-name terms with all staff; from the active participation in child-led learning to the Head’s Award programme (a mini Duke of Edinburgh scheme championed by the school). Not to mention the wide array of nationalities and languages spoken amongst the families: forty-six at the last census!
More than anything, Kew Riverside is special to me as it reminds me of the amazing primary school I attended many years ago (a small Anglo-American school in Zug, Switzerland): multinational, happy, welcoming, engaging and teaching children to be independent, socially responsible, respectful and enthused about learning.
I may be biased, but I certainly cannot but recommend it highly enough for any new Kew resident looking for a primary school for their children.
As a Kew local, what are your favourite things about the area?
Being close to Richmond Park, the river walks, Kew Gardens and the beautiful hills of Surrey – great for cycling – whilst having easy access into and out of London. An ideal location.
Do you have any local insider tips for our customers visiting the Kew area?
Go for an early morning walk along the bridge: a 5km loop along the towpath across Chiswick Bridge, down the north side of the river and crossing back at Kew Bridge. So much to see and enjoy, and finish up with a great coffee and breakfast at Antipodea in Kew village!
What is next for Sabina, will you be doing any other fundraising activities?
None scheduled right now, but undoubtedly something else will catch my attention. The most rewarding result – aside from the money raised to date – has been making new friends through this venture and seeing them all continue to get out and about on their bikes. They are giving me a run (or cycle) for my money, literally!
Finally, if our customers want to get in touch with you and help support your philanthropic endeavours, how can they get in touch?
Either via the school or on social media: my Twitter handle is @londoncitymum and my alter ego is far more shouty than I am!