Tuesday, 8 March 2011

More routes

We visited Barters second-hand bookshop in Alnwick a couple of weeks ago. They have a "Cycling and Extreme Sports" section. It's a daft category, but in it I discovered this CTC route guide from 1980 by Christa Gausden and Nicholas Crane. At the time they had worked in the CTC Touring Department. Nicholas Crane must then have been in his mid-twenties.

The book is thirty years old now. As evidenced by the 118 cyclists on the front cover it's somewhat dated. But then the same could be said of me, so I like it. It took quite a clever approach, and they carried it out well.

The nearest equivalent that I already had on the shelf is "Lonely Planet: Cycling Britain". Apart from being from different eras, the two books differ in their approach. The Lonely Planet Guide is constructed around 29 longish routes, each designed to take about a week. It describes these in some detail, with elevations, information on places to stay and other facilities, and suggestions of places to visit. The result is useful, and practical - if a bit prescriptive.

The CTC guide on the other hand, was constructed around 365 shorter rides. Most of these would take a day or less to cover. I suppose you could ride the whole lot in a year - if you were minded to. The sections join together, so the idea was that readers would arrange different elements to assemble a longer route which suited them. Maps show the different ways that sections interconnect, but the text only provides a limited amount of information on facilities and other local highlights.

Both books cover England Scotland and Wales. The Lonely Planet guide includes routes in Northern Ireland, but the old CTC guide covers the whole of Ireland.

For anyone that wanted a book to help plan a route in the UK today the Lonely Planet would be the obvious choice, but the old CTC guide offers an interesting alternative. The routes were tested thirty years ago by members of the Cyclist Touring Club, but the network of minor rural roads can't have changed that much over the last thirty years. So with a degree of checking against modern maps it should still have some value.

Locally the choices cover some of the routes that I have already discovered for myself, as well as some that I haven't (yet). Part of the appeal is that this way of constructing new trips out of bits of old ones is similar to the way that I plan my own outings: though in my case the different sections are all floating around in my memory, rather than being properly documented. I like the approach. I reckon it was worth a couple of quid, and it should be a useful addition to the shelf.


ian... said...

Sounds like a good find.

You're probably right about it still having value as a route guide, but with the added interest of comparing the descriptions of places to the present day as you ride through them.

Michael said...

Hey, my family used this book for a tour in East Anglia in 1986. My parents still have to book around.

I found it really useful and a kind of benchmark - some months ago I tried to find out if there's some kind of successor. What I liked most is that you really have a network of routes so you always have the choice where to go.