Map to Adventure

How to find an adventure on a map

Map Gazing is a journey in itself. Curiously following thought to a conclusion and turning it into action. Whether to increase knowledge, test a limit or simply just because. Inspiration, curiosity and motivation are all that are needed to find adventure anywhere. Oh, and a bicycle!

Project 139 is based around the Ordnance Survey Landranger series 1: 50 000 scale maps. Map number 139 in particular because it is where Mary & I live. In the introduction I set this out as our playground. It give us a boundary so we can look for adventures closer to home.

How do you find that adventure? In this post I want to try and take you on that journey. The journey from map to adventure.

 “Maps encourage boldness. They’re like cryptic love letters. They make anything seem possible.”

Mark Jenkins

Ideas Spark From Inspiration

I love bicycles and I love to learn. Throw in some geography and history and I have a healthy list of adventure inspiration. These interests were the reason I cycled down the Pacific Coast Highway. To see Mount St Helens – a volcano in Washington, and the San Andreas Fault in California. Mary has different interests and reasons:

I love to explore. Especially the city. To see how it has changed. A bicycle makes exploring accessible. I can get to so many places that are too far to walk and not accessible by car. I love to be outdoors, in the elements. It makes me feel younger, capable and stronger. I love to look back on the memories and tell people about what we achieved. 



My hand smooths the paper.  Land falling away to the river plain in the North East. Rivers Tame, Rea, Cole and Blythe sucking water from across the Birmingham Plateau.  Onward through the urban sprawl to the confluence at Blythe End where the Tame continues alone, flowing off the Northern edge of the map. 

Like staring at an autostereogram the map begins to pull into focus, ideas flowing like water, becoming ever clearer.

The Spark

We could ride the rivers! Follow the Tame from the source and across the urban landscape. Ride the streets that bury the stream. Cycle the culverts and green corridors. Follow the water to the edge of the map. Maybe throw in a little packrafting into the mix? I am excited and my mind whirrs. There is an adventure there but I can go back futher, to the very beginning. Where do the rivers come from? 

On the West of 139 lies the upland watershed. The physical divide between the Rivers Trent and Severn. Water arising and gathering on the south faces of these hills flows out through the Bristol Channel; water falling to the North eventually ends up in the North Sea. My eyes dart along the peaks of Clent, Waseley and Lickey Hills in the south west then north towards the hills of Halesowen, Cradley Heath, Dudley and Sedgley. 

Lines, routes and ideas buzz excitedly: What is the highest point on 139? Where is it and how do I get to it? 

Through the Looking Glass

I scan the western ridge for viewpoint symbols and follow the gathering contour lines, the hills reaching up towards me until I find the peak. A small black dot with the height in metres printed next to it. 

Clent: 304 metres above sea level. The closest point to the sky on 139. No – the adventure isn’t there. I have ridden to and explored Clent many times over the years and I don’t feel that tinge of excitement. I wander further across the paper to Windmill Hill. Part of the Waseley Hills and 287 meters up in the air. Rather excitingly it is also the source of the River Rea (pronounced Ray), Birmingham’s very own river and a tributary of the River Tame.

I continue to the 298 metre summit of Beacon Hill in the Lickey Hills Country Park. A place I haven’t really explored before. I see a visitors centre and an area of mixed woodland. Hills, trees, visitors; all are good signs for a bit of mountain biking. I dart back to Clent; can’t leave it out….

Huzzah! A three Peaks Challenge or Ride the Ridge! This is exciting. This could be an Adventure!


A quick count across and down the blue square map divisions and I determined the hills are roughly 30 km away or 18 miles in old money. At a leisurely average of 8mph it will take just over 2 hours to get there.  Add in a cafe stop, some time to explore and mechanical contingency, makes it a 5-6 hour round trip. We could ride out to and up a hill then ride home. A half day run or leisurely full day adventure. What if we threw in a bivvy. An overnight on the top of one of the hills. Ride out one afternoon, ride home the next morning!

I scan the map and see the nearest train station to the hills is Barnt Green, on the cross city line. We can always jump on the train to get home if we need to. Or even better get the train there and save the legs for the ride around the hills.

Simply identifying an area of interest on the map allows the formulation of all sorts of adventure possibilities to fit all timescales and challenge levels.

  • Find an inspiration – what interests you
  • Find an area – get curious, ask questions
  • Figure out how to get there – motivation through learning

At this point I am ready to go. I could take my map and a compass, get on my bike and head for the hills, to see what I find with nothing but a can of pop and a banana & sugar sandwich. 

A little bit more planning is required. There are a few things to consider before setting out like: timescales, safety, gear & expectations and I will cover next time in – planning a bicycle adventure.

Thank you for reading.

See you out there.

Sarah & Mary

#bicycleadventureclub #rethinkadventure #project139

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.

A cup of tea for Mary & me

If you have enjoyed our site please consider buying us a cup of tea.

2.00 £

5 thoughts on “Map to Adventure

  1. I’d buy you both a cup of tea but unable to do it via your newsletter. Keep those wheels turning but keep safe. Dermot

    On Fri, 1 May 2020 at 10:00, Bicycle Adventure Club wrote:

    > Bicycle Adventure Club posted: ” How to find an adventure on a map Map > Gazing is a journey in itself. Curiously following thought to a conclusion > and turning it into action. Whether to increase knowledge, test a limit or > simply just because. Inspiration, curiosity and motivation are ” >


    1. I’m sure we will see you for a cuppa soon Dermot. Stay safe x


  2. OOh, I’ve been up a depth and down again, following rivers I cannot see, and I haven’t left my armchair… yet! Brilliant blog xx


    1. Glad you liked it. Thank you for our cups of tea 🤩


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close