A CYCLIST who has completed an incredible ride from Australia to Bolton for charity says he is delighted to be back home.

Jimmy Hailwood started his epic fundraising journey in December last year, and has returned to his family and girlfriend Ashton Duerden after being apart for more than a year.

Mr Hailwood, aged 29, had been working as a wall and floor tiler in Australia and, after deciding to return home, he wanted to arrive back to Horwich in style.

His near 20,000km trek has raised almost £17,000 for Derian House Children's Hospice, with donations continuing to flood in.

To mark his return home, Mr Hailwood arrived at the Chorley-based hospice on his bike, and was given a rapturous reception as he was welcomed onto the pitch at his beloved Bolton Wanderers at half time during the game against Fulham.

He also enjoyed a well earned celebration with friends at Horwich RMI on Saturday night.

Reflecting on his amazing journey, Mr Hailwood said he would do it again in a heartbeat — but admits long days spent on his bike alone were tough.

He was joined for part of the journey by his friend Colin Nash, from Walsall, but completed most of it alone.

Mr Hailwood said: "It was a big learning curve. To see so many different countries and ways of life has been fantastic. It has been difficult, but I will never forget it. It has really boosted my self confidence, being able to live in such a simple way."

Some of the countries he took in during the 12 month expedition include Indonesia, Burma, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Germany and the Netherlands.

Mr Hailwood, of Pennine Close, added: "Seeing the Taj Mahal was quite surreal. I don't so much remember places from all those countries, just the people there.

"They were all so welcoming and friendly. You had to be a bit wary in India, just because it is such a busy place and being a westerner on a bicycle, people were staring at me.

"It was difficult in Europe as well, I was going through Austria when it was snowing and about -7C, and in the Czech Republic it was raining really hard."

His regular routine involved spending seven hours on his bike a day, often riding three days in a row before taking a day off, and sometimes taking a week off to recuperate.

He said: "My legs feel like steel now. It was tough being alone for so long. Often I would go for three or four weeks without having meaningful conversations, because people didn't speak English."

His sleeping arrangements involved camping out in tents, and he was given a place to stay and food at a mosque in Malaysia and a monastery in Thailand, even in police stations in Indonesia.

Mr Hailwood said: "It was all about keeping the cost down. People were so hospitable, everyone was happy to help.

"I would do it all again, but I am going to stay home for a year at least. I have got a couple of things floating around in my head for another challenge.

"But it is great that we have raised money for Derian House. They really helped a friend of mine who lost his four-year-old daughter, it is a fantastic charity."

He is glad to be back home for Christmas with his family, sleeping in his own bed and enjoying some well-deserved rest, but plans to go back to work at the end of January.

Miss Duerden, aged 28, who also lives in Horwich, has been with Mr Hailwood for three years, and she said it felt surreal to have him back home.

She said: "It is amazing to have him back, it doesn't feel real yet, I keep thinking he is going to disappear again!

"It has been 15 months waiting for him, and it is fantastic he is home for Christmas now.

"I can't believe the support he has had, I am so proud. People who don't know us have been asking how they can donate and sending money."

To donate visit: justgiving.com/backtobritainbybike