Dr Stockdale rides from the British Museum to the Acropolis, for the reunificaton of the Parthenon Marbles

Chris acropolis 2

Dr Christopher Stockdale is no stranger to pushing his physical limits to do his bit for the campaign to reunite the sculptures of the Parthenon. He swam for the Parthenon marbles from Delos to Paros on 01 July 2000 and on 15 April 2005 he rode his bicycle from the courtyard of the British Museum in central London to the Parthenon in Athens.

“Bottom line is you work hard, you have to get up and be motivated. Your body and the weather conditions bring their limitations to your own determination. Just 150 miles into France I had an awful accident and hurt my shoulder bruised my thigh. That injury and problems with my front wheel made it a challenging ride in more ways than one!” Concludes Dr Stockdale.

It started on 15 April 2005 with an early, 5:48 am train from the Midlands which arrived into Marylebone Station at 7:36 am. A short taxi ride with Margaret , 3 panniers and the bicycle took Chris and Margaret to Bloomsbury and the British Museum where Eleni Cubitt came to meet them at Starbucks for coffee and blueberry muffins.

Chris acropolis  BM and eleni 2

Chris had not told Eleni what he was going to do be doing so as not to make her anxious but judging by the expression on her face in the photo, she was worried, not because she did not believe in Chris’ outstanding abilities but because she was very fond of him.

Chris mentions that his inspiration came from Anne Mustoe and the start of the journey was uneventful as was the first 150 miles in France. Then disaster, Chris’ front wheel locked into a tram line just outside Rimes and he went headlong over his bicycle causing damage to his shoulder. It rained every day in France and the terrain plus his injury made the cycling tedious.

Memorable moments where plentiful including crossing the St Bernard pass…. It was still snowing. The cycle ride down to Aosta was another big challenge, Chris was suffering from hypothermia, he couldn’t remember where he was, he stopped in what he thought was a bar but in fact it was a tire shop. His front wheel was in need of repair and Carlo took this in hand and helpful souls took Chris in, got him to change out of his wet clothes, parked him by a warm log fire and plied him with strong coffee. Carlo Aribone with his dog Oliver rebuilt Chris’ front wheel and did such a great job that he also took away any uncertainty Chris had travelled with since his accident back in France.

Chris acropolis  repair tire

Milan, Bologna, all flashed by then he crossed at Brindisi by ferry to Patras and he regrets not having made the detour to Messolonghito pay tribute to Byron but there might be another time…

Once in Greece he tried the motorway, soon to realise this was going to be another hazard so he took the old the national road but when the two join up, he felt his life was not in his hands. As if by miracle he made it, riding into Plaka, feeling on top of the world…. Then there was the Acropolis. At the entrance gate he tried to tell the ticket officer that he had been riding his bicycle for weeks and for the campaign of the Parthenon Marbles, the man looked him up and down and simply said “Would you like a brochure?”. Chris did take this brochure and made it up the 39 marble steps too, as a happy bedraggled soul he held his bicycle over his head in front of the Parthenon.

Chris Acropolis  May 2005 compressed

Cycle run accomplished in 3 weeks, 3 days, 5 hours and 26 minutes! Chis had cycled a total of just under 2,000 miles, from 9 am to 4 pm daily, about 60-80 miles per day with a few rest days, some enforced as a result of his fall and injury in France. He fondly remembers the wonderful people en route, the many places that the bicycle, a 50th birthday present - Greg Lemond Alpe’d'huez - was stored, the great sense of achievement at the end.

A wonderful post cycle reception was organised in Athens by Elena Korka for the Ministry of Culture.