Eccentric Ed & the 1st Annual Wuyuan Wheelbarrow Rally

By Ned Kelly, September 27, 2021

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Englishman Ed Gawne moved to Shanghai in the search of a life less predictable, and found himself in career in corporate market research. As he was still pre-mortage, pre-kids and pre-things tying him down, he saw a chance and ran away to the countryside, never to return.

He now runs Wuyuan Skywells, and the newly opened Victoria House Hotel with his Jiangxi-born wife Selina Liao. On October 30, he is hosting the 1st Annual Wuyuan Wheelbarrow Rally. Intrigued, we decided we needed to know more.

How did the idea for the Wheelbarrow Rally come about?
I grew up attending all these weird races in little towns back home and never thought anything of it until I left really. I remember carrying people around on a stretcher through all the pubs in my hometown, pushing my dad around Dartmoor in a pram for his 60th birthday and watching cheese rolling and bog snorkling on TV.

In Britain, eccentricity is a mark of a life well-lived, and I see a lot of that here in the Chinese countryside. I’m aware how lucky and peculiar my situation is – owning two hotels here in the middle of the Chinese countryside, and I was thinking what cool stuff I could do with it.

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How does it work in terms of teams?
You’ll need someone in the wheelbarrow, and some people to push. I’ve done it pushing one by myself and its hard work, but possible. The maximum is six per team, or it will feel more like substitutes. There are only so many people that can push one wheelbarrow!

Watch Ed take on the course below (VPN off):

What sort of people do you hope to attract?
It’s a cliche to say ‘everyone’ – people who like the great outdoors and have an open mind. You’ll need some people in your team with a bit of oomph, although it might be a good idea to persuade a child to be your rider if you want an easier go of it. If you don’t like exercise or the outdoors, it’s probably not for you. 

It’s Halloween weekend, will people be dressing up?
It’s as mandatory as I can make it without turning people away. If you are spending your Saturday not pushing someone through the hills in a wheelbarrow dressed as Batman, I’ve got to question how well you are spending your weekend.

What else is going on over the weekend?
We’re going to finish with a big garden party and BBQ at our new place – Victoria House. Prizes include quickest finish, best fancy dress and best family. At this point, piling into the river for a swim cannot be ruled out. The RMB500 team race fee will be 50% split between race costs and a donation to Heart to Heart. It’s good to do good things.

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Victoria House Hotel

Tell us about the new place, Victoria House Hotel?
Victoria House is closeby to Wuyuan Skywells, but wildly different. We’ve built an English Country manor here in the Jiangxi countryside, to primarily focus on Chinese families who may not enjoy rambling old houses as much as crazy foreigners.

It’s a beautiful spot, decorated with old maps from my family, two acres of gardens with a river bend at the front and tea fields at the back. All are welcome; There aren’t many places where you’ll find a large lawn to roll about on in southern China!

Any other wacky events planned for the future?
There are big outdoor theaters in the villages out here in Huizhou where we are based. Opera troupes have travelled around them for centuries performing one of China’s oldest musical forms. My vision is to put on a modern music festival. If you build it, they will come…

READ MORE: Wuyuan Skywells: Rural Qing Mansion Antidote to Overtime Culture


Add Ed on WeChat (ID: EdGawne) for any questions about the Wheelbarrow Rally, Wuyuan Skywells or Victoria House Hotel by scanning below:

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[All images courtesy of Ed Gawne]

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