Golden Days Awheel, Albert Winstanley (1991)

A second collection of spirited touring reminiscences that are a fireside delight

Owl Books 0951433393 Paperback 134pp £7.95

Albert Winstanley’s obituary appears here.

The seventeen articles collected here are more from the pen of one of the most evocative touring writers. Here, Winstanley recounts ventures in Ireland, the Hebrides, the Cotswolds and, of course, Lancashire and Bowland.

Always writing in the first person, the author follows trails of his own devising, in search of spots that have inspired writers, engineers, centurions and even a senior civil servant. From these he constructs fabulous whimsies, that are rooted in the landscape though which he travels. There are also rather more photographs than in Golden Wheels.

Preparing to cycle the Roman ‘high street’ that goes over some of the highest Lakeland ‘tops’ he sets out what it is that he loves the most.

“The week-end was true to our usual pattern, the Friday after-work rush, the meeting at the appointed hostel, the pre-supper chores , and the, ah, that lovely feeling of being able to relax over a well-filled tea pot, with the map spread out on the table. How I relish this satisfying feeling of a good week-end before me, in good cycling company, with the awaited joys of the morrow. Such pleasures, fostered from my younger days, are, in my veteran years, cherished so much more. My crowded cycling life has been good to me, and yet there is so much more I want to see and do in my remaining years.”

By the time this book was published, Winstanley was in his mid-70s. Read beside articles in cycling magazines today, they might appear old-fashioned in their composition. But there is something timeless in his fascination with people and places.

It is intriguing, nonetheless, to consider how such articles might be published today. It would be great to see a lot more photographs. A GPX file would allow readers to follow Winstanley’s actual routes. And a narrated slideshow would bring life to his routes in a whole new way. All impossible in the early 90s. Today, anyone with an internet connection and a modicum of technical savvy could put something like that together, without risking a penny. Let’s hope that it is not too long before a cycle tourist with a touch of Winstanley’s brilliance realises this and starts recording their experiences in that way.

Winstanley’s first collection is reviewed here.

PS Jan 10

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