Nothing beats a good old coddiwomple. A fabulous word meaning “to travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. I like testing my limits, planning routes and fettling gear. Never enough time nor money to do spectacular; yet I want to have inspiring adventures. I also want money and my lifestyle. The eternal, frustrated adventurer’s dilema!
Googling the word ‘adventure’ I am presented with images of slender, white, mostly male, mostly solo, individuals, kitted out in the finest gear, overly spectacular, scattered across the planet in otherworldly places, the most extreme environments. Google ‘bicycle adventure’ and the images aren’t so different. Just with bicycles, conveying the message, ‘the further the better’. Completely at odds with my life and the resources I have. Inspiring & idealistic: ABSOLUTELY; accessible & representative: not so much! I need to look closer to home.
There is a danger of letting media hyped images cloud the idea of adventure and what is available to us on the doorstep. Driven past it a million times, got off the bus there once, went to school there, used to live there, seen the local TV news, etc. Do we know the locale so well that there is nothing to plan? Can adventure be found closer to home?
Start with a Map
Minutes dissolve into hours staring at a map. Ultimate armchair travelling. Reading the landscape, tracks, place names. My attention piqued and I’m excitedly telling Mary and planning a ride to have a good look-see.
The seeds of Project 139 have been pulled into sharp focus by Covid-19. Fresh air and exercise in the great outdoors is now our sanctuary. The radius of our lives has been reduced to human powered distances once more.
Why Project 139?
Mary and I live on Ordnance Survey map Landranger 139. 1:50 000 scale. Thin blue lines neatly divide the area into 1600 1km by 1km squares of adventure. I keep 2 current copies. One to look at and a field copy to scribble on. I also have most past iterations of this map and love to meander through past landscapes. My favourite is the 1910 edition of the large sheet one inch series. Map number 72. A work of art, it represents unfathomable hours of fieldwork and hand crafting. Presented on durable cloth and folded to pocket size. All for the princely sum of 2 shillings (net).
Today, 139 is dominated by the pink urban sprawl of the West Midlands Conurbation and the thick blue lines of the UK motorway network. There are no mountains, great rivers nor swathes of green forest yet, amongst it all, there are hills and woodlands, castles and canals, river valleys, wetlands, geological and archaeological hotspots; all linked by ways old and new.
Mary and I recently cycled every street in our neighbourhood. Apart from it looking pretty cool on Strava, we also cycled 9 miles!! A 9 mile bike ride, never more than 9 minutes walk from home.
I now look at the map and know the streets, how they all relate to each other, where the hills are, how fast I can roll down them, the cut-throughs, the houses, the smells and the sounds. What it ‘feels’ like. When I returned home, I understood my place in it all a little better.
It didn’t matter that people had been there before. My route predetermined. Riding by design. If I’ve not been there before, it is unknown to me. I am exploring. It is an Adventure!
We have had a few 139 based adventures already:
The longer I look at the map, the more questions I have.
139 is full of adventure possibilities. Better than that, the map gives us ‘permission’. A playground full of curious place names, water, hills, woodland, housing & industry All of it reachable in a few hours by bicycle.
The map is our playground. Grab your bike and come with us. Let’s re-discover our own areas and coddiwomple on a local bicycle adventure.
See you out there
Sarah & Mary
We love to hear about your bicycle adventures. Head over to our facebook page and join our friendly Bicycle Adventure Club page and group to share your stories and pictures.
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