After Heriot’s Blog

The next instalment of After Heriot’s features a very inspirational story from Leanne Farmer, including how she continues to distribute chearfullie after leaving Heriot’s.

Please get in touch if you wish to share your story ‘after Heriot’s’.

Leanne Farmer, Class of 1991

What is you current role?

I am the owner and founder of A Wee Pedal. Cycle tours, learn to ride lessons, bike maintenance classes and community led rides. I founded the business as a cycle tour company in April 2019 with a busy and fairly successful first year, winning 3 National awards for Best Start-up small business. With no tourists in 2020, I started to teach children and adults to learn to ride, deliver bike mechanic sessions and other cycle – support related activities. The learn to ride programme is now 80% of the business and is growing.  We now have 3 part time staff as well as sessional staff to keep up with demand. We also ‘give back’ every Friday at a charity organisation offering free led rides, bike maintenance and balance bike classes for families that may not have the means otherwise.

What was your journey to get there?

I did my 4 year teaching degree in Liverpool and once I completed my degree I travelled for 2.5 years, ending up in New Zealand to take a teaching position in a predominantly Maori school. I knew then I had found the perfect combination of a job I adored – teaching PE and travel. I taught for 10 years in English boarding schools and my husband and I knew we wanted to return to Asia, so we taught in Shanghai where our son, Jack was born and moved to Hong Kong when he was a baby. It was our home for 10 years. We travelled a lot of Asia with cycle tours being the focus for our family holidays.

Age 7, our son had developed Perthes – a childhood condition which meant he had to stop all physical activity and used a wheelchair for almost 2 years. I sourced a handcycle for him, so we could continue to cycle as a family and this led to setting up our charity, Pedal Through Perthes that helped raise awareness about the importance of keeping active throughout Perthes and raise money for Perthes Org UK. This unexpected turn of events took us to travel again for 6 months, ‘the long way home’ to Edinburgh. We volunteered in Columbia, Peru and Galapagos home-schooling Jack. We then lived a short time with a Nomadic family in Mongolia before travelling to Moscow 5 days on the Trans-Siberian. Our last leg was to cycle for charity across Austria with Jack in his handcycle. It took us 10 days and his little arms pumped round and round determined to finish it himself. It was on that last leg that the seed was planted to ‘give back’ to cycling. It had kept us sane; when an active family suddenly had to stop all the sports they love doing, the handcycle meant we could still be active together.

On our return to Edinburgh, Jack was cleared of Perthes and I volunteered for various cycling organisations which confirmed that the next part of my adventure would be to run a cycle tour business with a ‘give back’ ethos.

What are your achievements to date?

I feel very lucky to have lived in lots of different countries doing what I love doing most – teaching students and working with inspirational colleagues. This gives me a huge sense of achievement – knowing that I have (hopefully!) made a positive contribution to young people’s lives who may not always have the support from home.  It’s always the students who found things hard, that I appreciate making a difference to the most.

I am also proud of how my husband and son and all our friends in Hong Kong handled our son’s Perthes condition. We ran a charity event raising over £5000 and 250 people took part in a charity cycle event that required months of planning and acquiring the endless paperwork that Hong Kong Local Authorities require! It was a true lesson in resilience and sheer determination!

Tell us your two abiding memory of Heriot’s:

Playing at Goldenacre for the first time! I went to a small primary school, having hardly heard of hockey! I walked out from the changing rooms in the Grandstand on the first Saturday morning, looking over at Edinburgh Castle in the distance. I was given a bib that said CF and just thought it was someone’s initials – not realising it was the position! I LOVED it! The sensation of learning this new game and scoring goals was the best feeling ever! I was hooked from that day on.
The other memory is always being amazed that so many pupils can go up and down the turret to (MFL or English or maths – I forget!) without incident – but it worked! All those kids ‘keeping left’ with our big heavy ‘Rucanor’ bags slung over one shoulder and hockey stick in one hand! The turret packed with kids – all peeling off at the floor they needed for the right classroom still makes me smile today. Mr Buchanan, our French teacher, was never too happy though as at least one of us was always late due to being stuck at the bottom, waiting to ‘get on’ the staircase!

And your two ‘takeaways’ from Heriot’s days:

I met such a diverse group of friends at Heriot’s and it opened my eyes to other opportunities out there. Although sport was always my world, I learned to love learning. Being surrounded by young people with different opinions and values was a real education for me. Heriot’s is without doubt, the reason I became a PE teacher.

The importance of giving back. The school motto ‘I distribute cheerfully’ is still with me today. Encouraging and helping others in whatever capacity can mean so much to someone.

Any top tips for current pupils when planning their future?

Have adventures and take risks!  Travel lots; live in other countries and embrace their culture. Volunteer at some stage in your life – either at school, or at University or when you graduate – give back if you can and if your means allow. Try not to be too fixated on the ‘traditional timeline’ – you will find your place in the world at the time that’s right for you. Go and love life!