I’m something of a scant planner and it’s perhaps fair to say that I’m usually guided by whim, fancy and misfortune rather than global positioning systems. Any plans beyond ‘I’m going that way’ are seldom adhered to as I find myself easily distracted by all and every track and path that beckons me with a seductive finger and the promise of the unknown or cake. I know there are those people who’d shudder at my seemingly free-style approach and require an evening with Komoot, a gps with spare batteries and a packed lunch before heading out for a pint of milk and a bar of Whole Nut. However, most people probably fall somewhere in that vast grey area between those two opposing extremes.
Given my planning lethargy, I’m probably not the type of person for whom guidebooks are written, yet I have a substantial collection of them. Why then, if I’ve little intention of ever following one for the entirety of its contents? Well, I tend to view guidebooks as a source of inspiration providing the spark to ignite the fire of adventure and leading me towards places I may not have considered otherwise.
The Pennine Brideleway starts not too far from where I was born. It’s a waymarked trail that uses the existing network of tracks and bridleways plus new sections where required to link Middleton Top to Street way off in the north. The new PBW guidebook breaks the route down into sections ranging in length from around 60 to 70km and also includes details of an additional three loops that can be tacked on if the mood should take you. The guide’s full colour and includes not only easy to follow directions but also OS mapping, so there’s little excuse should you get lost. However, what you’ll also find inside are sections that highlight interesting things about both the past and the present – trust me when I say, that knowing these things can make a real difference and will certainly enhance your enjoyment. Interspersed amongst the words are a generous selection of photographs which really do put some meat on the bones and give real life to the words; obviously, they also provide a very good idea of what you may be letting yourself in for as do the included altitude profiles.
As you might expect, it’s a ‘pocket sized’ book which allows you to easily fit it within a pocket and at 185g, it weighs less than most gps. Okay, that’s somewhat flippant but I think you could quite easily navigate the entire route quite successfully using only this book with no electronic devices or additional maps, which must surely be a measure of how good any guidebook is. Whether you’re planning to ride the route in its entirety, as a series of day rides or simply fancy a little exploring, then it’ll be a worthwhile addition to your bookshelf … and I’m not just saying that because there’s a Bear Bones jersey on the cover.
The second book in our surf an’ turf double feature may seem somewhat out of place here because it’s not about ‘cycleways’ but ‘waterways’. Paddle Scotland is, as the name suggests, a guide to paddling in Scotland but given the potential for adventure when bicycle is allied with packraft, I think it could provide the inspiration for some truly memorable trips.
The contents are broken down into five geographical areas with an additional section devoted to ‘cross Scotland routes’. It includes loch, sea and river routes and provides details of access, water levels, tides and local amenities. The descriptions are concise, easily understood even for those without a paddling background and do include specifics about likely hazards or things you should be aware of. Besides colour photographs, there’s also a good selection of large scale maps that show the different bodies of water in relation to each other within a given area. For the ‘bikerafter’, I think that’s very useful as it furnishes you with an overview that quickly allows you to see the possibilities for linking the wet bits up by way of the dry bits.
Paddle Scotland isn’t written with packrafts in mind but it doesn’t exclude them either. In fact, it appears to be written in a very inclusive way that encourages all types of paddle craft from open canoe to SUP. I’d perhaps consider it more of a ‘planning book’ than ‘guide book’ but that’s largely governed by the nature of water and the fact that there’s little need of ‘turn left after 2km’ type directions. However, as an aid to planning, it would be invaluable, so if you do indulge in a bit of paddling, I’d recommend a copy to put alongside your PBW guide.
Pennine Bridleway by Hannah Collingridge
Paddle Scotland by SCA