This article was published in 2008, in Newsletter 79.
I’ve been lent a book*, of a type I don’t usually enjoy, but at least it isn’t fifty quietest camp sites/walks/bike rides. I won’t be attempting to do all these rides on a Land’s End to Berwick-on-Tweed trip but it has caused me to get down some maps and do a few virtual bike rides in recent weeks.
In this time of ‘standards’ and ‘sameness’ with everything that isn’t average considered somehow bad, it is good to find an author who revels in finding the unusual and offering interesting explanations. So if you want to visit the steepest hill or the longest tunnel, or take your bike on a transporter bridge, this is definitely the book for you. In fact if you just like the eccentric nature of Britain, or should I say England and Wales, you should at least read it.
Although I’m mainly a utility cyclist, I have explored much of England and Wales over 50+ years, be it on foot, by train, in a canal boat or, dare I say it, in a car. I’ve seen quite a number of the sites mentioned in this book at first hand, often because I myself looked them out, but this book has certainly enabled me to ‘find’ a few new ones.
No one, not even me, would read this book at a single sitting, but it would make a good present for all those other eccentric cyclists you know, and over the past few weeks I’ve picked it up on numerous occasions, either to fill in a few odd seconds or to see if it makes a mention of say the Manifold Valley Cycleway (it does), which I believe was one of the very first tarmaced cyclepaths AND has a tunnel (it doesn’t say that).
It doesn’t cover anything north of the Border, so I’m mentally compiling my list for there (bridge over the Atlantic, longest bit of road without a passing place, most sustained gradient, site of world skimming championship etc).
Does it have only fifty quirky bike rides? Of course not, there are hundreds and hundreds more as for each one described in detail there are suggestions of other similar places you might explore. But for each of the fifty it also includes a café, an essential part of any leisure ride.
You’re never likely to actually ‘do’ all these rides, but there are bound to be some near you, and others can be explored with ‘Google Earth’ or real maps on long winter’s evenings. They might even tempt you to explore more parts of this country instead of flying off to dull distant places without your bike.
Must stop, I’ve got to give it back now, but want to read some more.
*50 quirky bike rides (for family and friends) in England and Wales by Rob Ainsley; Eye Books £9.99. A full list of contents and more information can be found on Rob’s website: www.bizarrebiking.com