Cycling Country Lanes & Byways (Suffolk), Al Churcher

An attractively produced return of ‘the cyclists’ favourite’ scale of maps that has much to recommend it but can be struggle for some route finding

Goldeneye 1 85965 132 1 folds out to 70cm x 48cm (double sided) £5.99

On my living room wall I have pasted thirty Bartholomew’s Half-Inch-To-The-Mile maps from their mid-1960s showing Britain south of the Humber. With them, I can trace the minutiae of possible journeys from Holyhead to Ramsgate. I am an enthusiast.

The reappearance of this scale, and of shaded contours in Goldeneye’s new series of cycling maps, gives me a good measure of delight.

Goldeneye’s maps are explicitly aimed at cyclists – as were the early Barts’ variants. As well as the roads, rivers and landmarks that you would expect on a map, the National Cycle Networks are clearly shown, as are some good byway routes that have been devised by the cartographers. They are also covered in protective plastic coating and include a detailed gazetteer. There are 15 in their series to date, covering popular leisure-cycling areas of England and Wales.

The maps are beautifully designed, not least in the way that they fold – a system which is massively easier for cyclists to use than the Ordnance Survey maps. And both sides are used, to minimise the paper needed. Indeed, it is impossible to understate the pleasure of once again being able to navigate serious day rides on a single sheet.

This is not quite a ‘two thumbs up’, however.

During the period when Barts were without challenge as ‘the cyclists map’, it was possible to travel by bike on major road routes. By way of example, consider the A140. It was for many years popular with cyclists’ as a route between Ipswich and Norwich, despite what Cycling described, in 1919, as its ‘rather poor’ road surface. A half-inch-to-the-mile map was an ideal aid to checking your progress along its route.

Last Sunday when I rode along a short stretch of the A140 just east of Woodbridge I was passed by around 60 cars a minute. Not an experience to be repeated.

Today, of course, the magic of cycling in Suffolk, is that there are so many other roads. On Suffolk’s B roads you can generally expect to see fewer than 60 cars in an hour. If you plan your journey carefully, and travel on the really tiny roads, you can sometimes find yourself passed by only 60 cars in an entire day’s cycling.

And this is where Goldeneye’s problem arises. Following tiny, tiny roads, when you are unfamiliar with a route, is the devil’s own job with a 1:25,000 map. At 1:126,000, keeping track of where you are is all but impossible. Indeed, the chunky purple dotted line that traces the suggested circuits is sufficiently thick to cause confusion. Working out whether a dog-leg turn is to the right or to the left is critical at many junctions – a big purple dash makes it nearly impossible with a map at this scale.

Now this problem may be unique to Norfolk and Suffolk, where the web of small roads is without parallel. Navigating, the roads in hillier counties with such a map would be significantly easier, as there are fewer roads from which to choose. Nevertheless, a time will come when the tiny detail is a frustration.

I still love the scale. And I love the way that Goldeneye have used it in these maps. Seeing a county a sheet is far more satisfying that the various OS scales – but they might be a more practical backstop on familiar routes than a tool for picking out new ones.

Tim Dawson June 09

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