Get on your bike – and see the sights!

A new book encourages us all out into the great countryside of the north of England – on our bikes. Chase reporter ANTONY CLAY takes a look at the publication.

GETTING out and about in the great outdoors of the North has very much been on the minds of many of us in recent months, and the growing desire for health and fitness means people have been considering exploring the region on two wheels.

A new book, published by Wild Things Publishing, offers up 36 superb bike ride ideas in northern England, covering the wonderful landscapes of Yorkshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Northumberland and County Durham.

Written by Jack Thurston, Lost Lanes North introduces bikers to the lost lanes and forgotten byways which only two wheels will allow someone to explore fully.

It is a book full of great ideas and stunning pictures which show what is on offer in our glorious part of the world. Fells, moors, dales, coastlines and even some settlements are covered – with all important added information on wild camping, pubs and gourmets, history, culture, organised events, wild swimming and even ideas on keeping the kids amused.

Jack Thurston

Jack, who presents The Bike Show podcast on Resonance FM in London which has seen a million downloads, has also written for The Guardian, Cycling Plus, Sunday Times and Cycle.

More than half a million copies of the Wild Things series of books have been sold since 2012 so it shows there is a clear interest from people in exploring the most beautiful parts of our country by bike.

Lost Lanes North offers up a detailed but concise route for each of the 36 journeys suggested, with a map, written journey itinerary, and a little background information. There are details about the terrain – some routes are more arduous than others! – and plenty of photographs to show you what to expect. For each route you also get a list of pubs and pit stops, which will come in very useful when you are out there.

The book also offers ideas on the practicalities that should be observed when venturing out, such as ensuring you have the right maps and equipment (including suitable clothing to cope with our British meteorological extremes), advice on wild camping and which routes are best for long weekends, wild swimming, families, pubs, gourmet eateries, history, arts and culture, challenging biking and stunning scenery.

It’s a beautiful book to just sit and read but will really inspire you to want to get out there. It could also be useful for walkers who could venture along the same or similar routes.

The well-experienced cyclist who is out and about every weekend and holiday on his or her machine will find this book invaluable, but so will families thinking about a break away together. There are routes for the experienced and inexperienced. Some have very challenging ascents and descents in rugged environments, others offer a more subtle challenge, which is what makes the book so enjoyable.

But it is an fascinating read as well, perhaps just to remind one of a place visited in the past or as a stimulus to a future journey out.

So, let’s take a look at what Jack suggests for our part of the world here in deepest Yorkshire.
The section on West and South Yorkshire has five quite different routes but which encompass the area’s industrial heritage.

The Hammer and Chisel chapter, for instance, explores the landscape of the South Yorkshire Coalfield. The 41-mile route goes from Woolley Edge near Wakefield towards the majestic Emley Moor transmitter (bigger than The Shard in London apparently which makes it the tallest free-standing structure in Britain) and on to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park at West Bretton. From here it’s on to Royd Moor, Penistone and then Cannon Hall near Barnsley, Cawthorn, Silkstone and finally Darton.

The Where There’s Muck route explores riverside paths, old rail lines and forest trails north of Sheffield. It encompasses Wentworth Woodhouse, Hoober Stand and the Needle’s Eye, Elsecar and Wortley Top Forge.
The West Yorkshire route covers such places as the Five Rise Locks at Bingley, Ilkley Moor, Hebden Bridge, Heptonstall (where you can find the grave of poet Sylvia Plath in the graveyard), Haworth, Todmorden and Saltaire.

The routes through the rest of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Northumberland, County Durham and Cumbria are equally enthralling and full of surprises. All in all this is a book that makes one realise just how great our countryside is and what our rural places have to offer as travel destinations.

Other areas of our fair land are explored in the Wild Guides UK series of books from Wild Things Publishing, including central England, Wales, the South West, Scotland, the Lakes and Dales, and London and the South East.

There are Wild Abroad titles covering Scandinavia and Portugal, and wild swimming guides for Spain, France, Italy and Sydney.

Jack Thurston has written other Lost Lanes titles for the West, Wales and the South and there are other books by the same publisher on bikepacking, wild running, crossing France by bike, as well as guides on bothy walks, 50 secret islands, garden weekends, and wild ruins. That’s pretty much every type of wild holiday opportunity catered for really.

Jack said that he was keen to get people to explore places a little off the beaten track.

He said: “The routes in the book all combine quiet country lanes and traffic free tracks and byways with great places to visit, whether for a swim in a river, a poke around an atmospheric ruin or prehistoric monument, a great cafe for lunch or a pint in a cosy country pub. A day out on the bike isn’t all about cycling, it’s about exploring and experiencing the world around us in a relaxed and immersive way.

“Quite a few readers have shared their photos and experiences on social media using the #lostlanes hashtag, especially on Instagram. It’s great to see people enjoying riding my routes and to see how my favourite places and lanes change with the seasons and the weather.

“For me it’s about simplifying things and taking the stress out of going on holiday. We’re lucky in Britain to have so much wonderful countryside within easy reach of where we live. There’s no need to fly halfway around the world to have a truly memorable holiday. And rural businesses are providing ever more variety of places to stay, from traditional hotels, B&Bs and campsites to new glamping destinations like yurts, treehouses and shepherds huts.

“Travelling by bike is a great way to slow down and smell the roses, quite literally.”

Daniel Start, publisher of the book, said he was encouraged to go into print because of the author’s enthusiasm for the subject.

Daniel said: “Jack is a very talented travel writer and photographer, and already had a very successful cycling radio show, and a lot of routes ideas. We felt there was a need to rekindle the love of slower cycling, exploring ancient lanes and old ways, at a more leisurely pace, rather than sprinting around the main roads in Lycra.

“The old ways tell us a lot about the history of our countryside and landscape, but are lesser-known and it can also be tricky to create a route. Jack has spent years poring over maps, cycling thousands of miles, to find the most beautiful and enjoyable lesser-known lanes.

“Readers love Jack’s books, and the original guide to southern England has become the best-selling cycle travel guide in the UK.

“Many of the cycle rides can be accessed by train. We are encouraging a detox from urban life, hopefully a day travelling through a more old-fashioned countryside, where cars rarely feature, but where landscape and history are everywhere.”


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