Lost Lanes West (first impressions)

Lost Lanes West, by Jack Thurston

‘Lost Lanes West’, by Jack Thurston, is an excellent resource, describing thirty-six circular tours, which cover many of the most scenic areas of the south-west of England.

I came across it when browsing the shelves of Mr. B’s Book Emporium (an independent bookshop in Bath), but you can buy signed copies direct from Jack Thurston’s own website.

I was initially drawn to the book’s eye-catching and retro-look cover, which is reminiscent of travel posters from the early decades of the 20th century (cycling’s heyday in the UK?).

Jack commissioned Andrew Pavitt to illustrate the covers of all three of the Lost Lanes books he has already published, giving them an attractive, coordinated look (the other two are ‘Lost Lanes South of England’ and ‘Lost Lanes Wales’). However, one shouldn’t judge a book solely by its cover.

As I scanned the pages of Lost Lanes West for the first time, it became obvious that the putting together of this book was a labour of love. It has a lot of character, reflecting the passion that the author has for cycling, and the thoughtfulness with which he decided what a reader would want to discover in such a guide book.

Yes, there are the practicalities – the necessary metrics for each ride, maps, colour photographs (lots of photographs), and lists of tea shops, pubs and shops – but there are also the idiosyncrasies of a commentary that does not adhere to a strict travelogue format. Basically, if Jack finds something interesting about an area he is passing through, and if he can find an appropriate way to fit it into the narrative, he is not shy of doing so (witness him noting that two women – who were life partners for 39 years – are buried side-by-side in a village churchyard, past which one cycles in ride No. 7).

The book also gives links to online resources, including .gpx files of the routes for you to download to your sat nav, and comprehensive turn-by-turn route cards, which you can print out and take with you. I have found both of these very useful and real time savers (I take a printed copy of the route card, as well as using a sat nav … it’s good to have a back up in case the sat nav’s battery were to die).

At the time of writing I have completed two day tours described in the book:

Given that there are thirty-six rides from which to choose, it seems fair to describe this review as ‘first impressions’, until such time as I have completed a few more. What I can comment on now though, having read them all thoroughly, are the opening chapters at the front of the book, which cover a range of helpful topics, such as: ‘Best for Gourmets’ (as in best rides), ‘Best for History’, ‘Best for Wild Swimming’, and so on.

Cycle touring is so much more than just covering the miles, and these opening chapters of the guide book certainly reflect this philosophy. It is a book to which I will return often, both for direct inspiration – in the form of rides that are mostly within reasonable reach of where I live – but also for reflection, about what it is to be travelling by bicycle through the UK’s wonderful countryside, enjoying the good things in life.

Lost Lanes West is published by Wild Things Publishing, a publisher whose books I am coming across in increasing numbers in bookshops. Their list of titles is growing steadily, and already impressive (with a focus on open-water swimming, cycling, and ‘wild’ exploration).

If this review has inspired you to purchase your own copy of Lost Lanes West, please buy it from Jack’s own website, or order it from your local independent bookshop. Yes, Amazon do sell it cheaper, but given the relatively small print run for books like this, the margins that actually make it to the publisher and author are even more marginal than usual.

Also, with a cover price of £16.99, you are paying less than 50p per ride, which is a bit of a bargain. As Jack says on his own website, all of those people paying a fair price for his guide books are helping to ensure that he is in a position to produce further guide books, covering other areas of the UK.

[ No, I’m not affiliated to The Bike Show or Wild Things Publishing, I just like supporting independent authors and businesses, who are doing worthy things well … the last three books I ordered from my local independent bookshop were the same price as Amazon were charging, and in stock for collection within two days each time. ]

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