Along with old railway lines, a slight pleasure is taken from old maps too. Maps play a core part in any touring, but within recent years I haven’t touched a paper one and instead used (and sometimes printed off) Google maps or Open Street Maps (cycling view) instead.
They have great benefit but the one thing you cannot do is to spread them out onto a table and have a large view of the area and the best route through it. If I had a massive monitor I would lay flat on the table, it might be halfway there. Another downside of electronic maps is that they are always up-to-date, which sounds like it should be a positive thing (which it is) but you loose the snapshot of time without even noticing it. Once a new road is built or an existing one altered you quickly forget what was there before and how an area has grown and expanded. Paper maps are always the same, a moment in time. I remember my first occurance of this was looking at the “family map” as a child of the local area and noticing the Broadbridge Heath by-pass (the first one, not the new one “by-passing the by-pass”) had been drawn in by my father at some point. A lifetime of getting excited in WHSmiths near the new year looking at the new road atlases and spotting new/updated roads was born, and a love of drawing my own updates to old but still serviceable maps was started.
I kept it as my own little secret until the power of the internet came and I discovered I was in fact normal, the guys at Sabre Roads Forum say so….
A local CTC member was looking to get rid of a number of local maps, of which I throught might be a mixture of some not so old and so still useful and others that are more for historical reference. I pondered about it for a while and in the end, seeing as no-one else wanted them and they were off to the bin, I would I would have them. This also gave the required opportunity to do a bike ride for the 40 mile round trip and get the new year started (rather late this year) with bike riding. With my new job requiring 20 miles a day, weekends have yet to be fully used for cycling, a lot to do with me having to recover from the weekdays! This week however, I had got the train and so all would be good.
It would be the first time using the bike with its new handlebar bag that I had fitted the previous month but not yet used. For my bike at work I used to have a basket on the handlebars which was very practical for putting my bag and bits in for the day. I was told though, it wasn’t really that manly and so over the years it got replaced by a single pannier instead. I had always missed the ease of the basket though, just chuck stuff in it while having everything to hand at all times. I did have a small bar bag which was just big enough to fit my instant camera and some small snacks, but having replaced my small instant camera with a large “compact” DSLR, it would mean a new larger bag (no point having a camera if you have to stop and unpack every other mile just to take a photo). Along with my bid to create better photos while out on the bike, I also purchased a touring handle bar bag, something more acceptable than a basket (although touring with a basket should be more popular I am sure). After a bit of swearing to get it fitted around bike cables while still being able to mount my GPS on the handlebars, it was all done and gave the bike with a serious touring looking (along with the Brooks I think I am there now!).
I loaded my bike with both panniers (I was not too sure how much space I would need for the maps once I picked them up) and set off early in the morning before breakfast. The bike was reassuringly heavy (compared to the weekday bike) which felt good as I set off along now familiar route towards Shoreham to stop for a quick McDonalds breakfast.
The breakfast stop allowed me to discover how our new cats had at some point decided to use my biking gloves as a good place to have a wee. My hands felt sticky as I peeled off the gloves and had a not particularly pleasant smell of a thousand incontinent cats. Not wanting to put myself or anyone else on the next table, off my breakfast, I washed my hands first, very well.
After the quick food stop, and having put the smelly sticky gloves back on, it was still early meaning I would get to Cowfold, the location of the house with the maps, by 9 and would in theory be back home with plenty of the morning still remaining. The route would not be anything too special, up via Partridge Green (with the option to stop for coffee at the Bike Shack) and then back down following small roads, bypassing Henfield -and re-joining civilisation at Small Dole.
Needless to say, the ride was uneventful but pleasant, quiet as I rode through small clumps of forest with bright bluebells giving on a good show in places. I got to witness the huge task of laying a large electric cable from the currently being built wind turbines out in the sea all the way through to the control centre the other side of the downs, a bit like a very long extension lead. It has meant a new ‘road’ has been dug across the Downs, viewable by all, crossing many small roads and rivers, and within time we will completely invisible once again. On the way home I got to use the newly resurfaced Downslink which is actually currently quite good and flat compared to how it was. A route I normally avoid due to bumpyness and mud, but is now a very useful and hand route and alternative to the up and down country road on one side or the very busy and narrow A road the other.
When I got home, I cleaned my hands and scrubbed off the smell of cat wee, made a coffee, sat down and looked at maps….
Total Miles: 36
Number of horse riders: lots
Number of electric cable crossings: surprising a lot of small country roads needing to be crossed
Number of maps collected: a nice little pile