A CHARITY worker is setting off on a 270-mile cycle challenge in memory of a close friend.

Jon Ainley will ride from the headquarters of The Encephalitis Society in Wheelgate, Malton, to Abergavenny, South Wales, where he hopes to arrive in time for the charity’s biannual retreat this weekend.

He is cycling in memory of Harry Swindlehurst, a member of the Society, who died last year.

Jon, who is the charity’s support co-ordinator, said: “The 270-mile journey has been designed with Harry in mind.

“I am starting at the headquarters of the Society and will visit Birkenhead, which is Harry’s hometown and also the University of Liverpool, a world leader in encephalitis research, before finishing at The Retreat in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

“Harry loved the Retreats at Buckland Hall and campaigned - as only he could do - to make it a four-day event.”

Jon, who also volunteers as a Yorkshire Ambulance Service Community First Responder in the Malton and Norton area, said: “Harry loved a challenge and would have enjoyed anything that raised the attention of the cruel condition that is encephalitis and the Society itself.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Harry’s spirit and the charity than the Cycle4Harry challenge. I have some very special memories of my time with Harry at The Retreat. This will be an emotional time, but we will also be celebrating his courage and undeniable charm.”

Jon, who lives in Norton, is raising money for the helpline of The Encephalitis Society which he has worked on for nearly 14 years, supporting thousands of people who have been directly and indirectly affected by the brain condition.

He said: “I have had only eight weeks to prepare and to reach the 70 miles a day fitness levels that I will need.

“It has been a tough ask and I estimate I have ridden about 1,400 miles in that time. I was lucky in that I started riding with a few local cyclists on a Monday night. Even though I was quite apprehensive, they were and continue to be really supportive of me.

“I am hoping adrenaline and a decent tailwind will help to push me through the fatigue and get to Wales for Harry.”

To sponsor Jon, visit justgiving.com/Cycle4Harry