Review: Lost Lanes West
We all have favourite routes that we go back to time and time again. There’s so much to be said for familiarity, dependable cafes and hills in all the places you expect (and none of the places you don’t). However, it can be easy to get stuck in a rut and just ride the same old routes for years, or even a lifetime without venturing further afield. Which seems a shame as to me, the bicycle is ideal for travel and exploration.
One of the best things about Sportives is that you can turn up somewhere you’ve never ridden before and follow a well thought out route where everything is taken care of for you. Sportives and organised rides take out the guess work so you know you’ll have a good time. Jack Thurston’s Lost Lanes in some ways delivers the same but with added adventure and DIY spirit. And no feed stations…
I have a copy of Jack Thurston’s Lost Lanes Wales on my shelf and it’s a tome I enjoy to pull out from time to time when I’m dreaming of a ride that’s a little out of the ordinary in that it’s not in my immediate locale, but not so out of the ordinary as to require an immense amount of preparation or equipment. Sadly, I’ve not actually made to Wales yet to try any of his brilliant sounding rides but when Lost Lanes West was released I was keen to grab a copy as I thought I might be able to actually do some of the routes detailed within (seeing as I live in the South West).
The book is packed with 36 rides in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Avon and Wiltshire. It’s a pleasing book to dip in to for some ‘arm chair’ travelling – nicely laid out and illustrated with photography that inspires pride in our peaceful, beautiful countryside and coast line.
The into gives some fascinating information about the region and its geology, local customs, industry and the waxing and waning fortunes this area of England has seen. I’ve really enjoyed reading through rides that I’ve no firm plan to go on just to learn a little more about the area – the book is incredibly well researched. There’s some useful stuff about the kind of terrain you might encounter, what kind of bike you’ll need (any!), clothing, luggage and keeping safe.
Each ride has 6 pages dedicated to it, so there’s enough attention to detail to get you interested – the book somehow inspires rather than instructs. You are told the where the ride starts and finishes, how long it is, how much climbing to expect and what kind of terrain you’ll be riding on. Then rather than giving us turn by turn instructions, you have an overview of the route with useful and interesting snippets about each section of the ride, for instance the type of road, the villages you’re passing or the local heritage. Each ride has a list of ‘Pubs and Pitstops’ so that you can plan your lunch, dinner, pint or overnight stay and having tested several of them, I do declare that Mr Thurston has good taste!
A handy index makes it easy to quickly whittle down the rides that might suit before you begin reading through the chapters. The routes are very varied, ranging in length from 26 miles to 65 miles and with the option of adding together more than one ride for some extra miles there’s definitely enough to suit most people, whether you’re Lycra clad, towing a child trailer or looking for an all day amble with plenty of cake.
There are chapters that give an overview of the camping, food or pubs you might expect to find along the way, each one pulling together a selection of the best routes for those interested in sleeping out, wild swimming, dining on seafood or riding with children. These suggestions can be handy if you’re struggling to decide which ride to do, which I certainly was after a quick read – I already thought the south west was awesome and now I’m kind of overwhelmed!
I’d recommend this book if you enjoy travelogues, regional history and plotting your next escape. Though it is a guide book, it’s actually something you’ll want to read for pleasure rather than just for information. It’s a paperback so I actually think its a bit pricy at £16.99, but on the other hand the sheer amount of work that’s gone into producing it, the level of detail and the photography make up for it. Plus, if you’ve already got a bike and you go on any of these fantastic rides, you can enjoy a wonderful, free day out. So it will pay for itself in smiles.