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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 1 October 2009 10:12 UK
Great-grandmother bikes the world
Mary and Warren Askew
Mary and Warren Askew eloped to Gretna Green and married in 2007

A great-grandmother from Reading knows how it feels to be saddle-sore.

Mary Askew, 65, was 58-years-old when she and her partner embarked on a cycling tour of the world through 15 countries in three continents.

For two years Mrs Askew travelled on two wheels after only previously cycling a mile-and-a-half to work.

She has now published her memories of her travels through Europe, Asia and Australia in a book called Four Cheeks To The Wind.

Mrs Askew says she was unfit, overweight and approaching retirement when she had the "mad" idea to cycle round the world.

"Initially it seemed just like a dream," she tells BBC Berkshire. "For the Millennium we made a New Year's resolution and said we'd do it."

After two years planning the £24,000 trip became a reality. Mrs Askew and her now husband Warren Askew set off in June 2002 on bespoke 27-gear bicycles, with frames made-to-measure by a specialist in Newcastle.

Mary Askew
Mary Askew's trip was suddenly cut short after 9000 miles

"We were carrying a lot of equipment: camping gear, pots and pans, wet weather gear," says Mrs Askew, who has published her book under her maiden name Bryant.

"My brother took us to Dover, we went across to Calais, and we just aimed south."

She adds: "We had a vague idea of where we were going to go, but no fixed plans.

"We didn't know whether we'd go over the Alps or go down to the Mediterranean."

A self-confessed "plodder" on the bike, it only took a few days before Mrs Askew had second thoughts about the trip.

"For the first few days I really thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew," she says. "I wasn't enjoying it as that first bit of France was quite hilly.

"It took us six weeks to get to Marseille and that's just over 1000 miles."

The pair travelled through Europe, India, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia before heading to Australia and Tasmania.

They returned home to visit families before heading to Japan and Malaysia.

Mary Askew
In India school children would surround the pair when they stopped

However the trip was suddenly cut short after 9000 miles following an email from Mrs Askew's brother informing her their mother had passed away.

The Askew's adventure was also marred with ailments.

"My hands and my neck ached," she says. "I discovered later that it was the beginnings of arthritis, which was exacerbated by the cycling. The drop handle bars put all the weight on my hands."

After suffering from balance and hearing problems, the former legal secretary was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a benign brain tumour, in 2008. Long-distance cycling is therefore no longer possible for the moment.

However, Mrs Askew, who married Mr Askew in 2007, hopes that after treatment she will once again set off on her bike to continue the cycling abroad that she loves.

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