When Gary Hewitt-Long’s weight ballooned he turned to cycling.

Worried that he might die prematurely, like his father did, he set himself the challenge of cycling 47 miles as part of the British Heart Foundation’s sponsored ride which sets off from Seend.

That was last September and now the 40-year-old from Parkfield, Devizes, has completed an unassisted cycle ride from Devizes to Paris and back again, a distance of more than 900 miles.

Mr Hewitt-Long used to be a farmer but when he got an office job his weight increased from 11 stone to 14 and a half stone.

His body mass index (BMI) indicated he was severely obese and that is when he decided to turn to exercise.

Mr Hewitt-Long, who lives with his partner and has two sons, said his father George, who ran Devizes Motor Company in New Park Street, died aged 47 of a heart attack. He added: “I was a bit worried I was going to go the same way. I saw a leaflet for the British Heart Foundation 47 mile cycle ride. It seemed to be apt (47) so I trained for it.

“The first time I cycled 14 miles I nearly died. I was carrying a lot of extra weight and going up hills was a nightmare. But I was surprised at how quickly the weight started to come off. Going up Dunkirk Hill (a steep road in Devizes) is a lot easier now.”

Mr Hewitt-Long completed the 47-mile ride and this year he decided to cycle to Paris and back, raising money for the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. So far he has raised more than £600 while healthwise his BMI is normal and his weight is just over 11 stone.

Mr Hewitt-Long, who is purchasing supervisor at Bulk Hardware in Chippenham, recently joined Chippenham Wheelers and has got the cycling bug.

“It’s a bit addictive,” he admitted. “I have gone from having one bike to five bikes. I feel a lot healthier. When I was at my heaviest I was knackered in the evening after getting in from work. I’ve got more energy now.”

Mr Hewitt-Long said he knew two people who had been helped by the Wiltshire Air Ambulance.

He said: “I think the air ambulance does a fantastic job. I think the Government should be paying for it.”

Mr Hewitt-Long has an online page for donations to the Wiltshire Air Ambulance. Go to http://gplhl.atwebpages.com