I went to someone else’s talk the other evening. It was much more relaxing. Jack Thurston is a famed bikewriter, podcast host, cycling advocate and all round good egg. A couple of years ago he wrote a book exploring ‘Lost Lanes’ around the south east of England, in essence, those within pedal distance from London. I bought a few copies and gave some to friends. He has just released a sequel, “Lost Lanes Wales“, coinciding with his move from the city to the wilds of Abergavenny. It’s a paean to the rugged and beautiful countryside of the principality and the quiet roads that dip and lean around the contours. Jack’s talk was measured and engaging, he spoke of a love of cycling and the need to find quieter roads to escape the hostile traffic densities of the modern world. The book (and the talk) also articulated the idea of the journey being what matters, perhaps more than the destination. In some ways it’s antithetical to my book, and it’s arguably more egalitarian, but there is a clear common ground in terms of the transcendent beauty of the landscape and the transformative power of cycling.
Last April I went on a three day mini-tour in the Black Mountains, heading out from Bristol to Talybont, then on to Hay and over the Gospel Pass to Abergavenny, returning via the Usk valley and Caerleon. Many of the roads feature in Jack’s new book. My touring buddy Will and I met up with Jack in Hay-on-Wye for a ride back over the Gospel Pass, through the low shrouding mist and up through the cut. Jack is a roving Baedeker, and he pointed out things I’d never have known otherwise, from Eric Gill’s commune, to endless views across the Wye and Usk Valleys. He was armed with a camera and took some nice snaps, some of which have ended up featuring in the book. Will confessed himself ‘a bit overpleased about this’.
It’s a super book and has already got me planning new trips and excursions for next year. If you haven’t yet listened to the bike show podcast, then you should do so. It’s the best there is.