A FORMER butcher, ex-Royal Marine and Special Forces veteran is riding the length of the country to raise money for charity.

He’s not the first person to cycle from Lands’ End to John O’Groats, but Nigel Thomas is the first to be doing the cycle on a single gear, 1940s Butchers Bike still fitted with its original hard saddle.

The ride is part of the Welshman’s campaign to raise £1million for charities that support soldiers, including Team Army, Hire a Hero and Walk on Wales.

In true military style, he is carrying his tent and provisions in the front of his bike, and camping overnight in fields and lay-bys.

He has already cycled through Taunton and Wellington, popping in at 40 Commando’s Norton Manor Camp.

Nigel said: “We rely on our soldiers to be there when we need them, so I’m doing this for all the boys and girls in the forces who need our help now, from helping them have a chance to play the sports so vital to their physical and mental well-being to finding a job after leaving the military or perhaps helping them recover from injury or illness.”

Nigel admits going off the rails as a young man, caring for his mother, who had multiple sclerosis, and he was taken under the wing of a butcher, which inspired his latest challenge.

He is also lucky to be able to walk, having broken his neck playing rugby in Australia.

He said: “Everyday life isn’t a walk in the park, but I’ve learned that staying motivated, happy and healthy is essential.”

You can track Nigel’s ride by visiting www.butchersbikechallgenge.org.uk and sponsor him by visiting virginmoneygiving.com/ButchersBikeChallenge