“Have you ever dreamt of escaping to those beautiful, barely populated countryside corners of England? Of swinging your leg over the saddle and setting off along narrow lanes, gliding through spectacular scenery in your own sweet time, and pausing wherever you wish?”
This is the introduction to Escape Routes by Matt Carroll and it is exactly what the book delivers. Covering 60 handpicked routes from all corners of England.
Let’s get one thing out of the way immediately about this book – it’s not really for the more hard-core cyclists amongst us. It’s meant for casual, everyday cyclists. Therefore, the routes you’ll find in here range from 5 to 20 miles. I.e. 1 to 3 hours rides at gentle paces with lots of stops. This is a book less about the pedalling and more about the enjoyment of the things you’ll see along the route.
The first thing that strikes you when you thumb through the book and you get that waft of new book smell is the illustrations. Hundreds of gorgeous pictures of parts of the UK that beckon you to see for yourself. From colourful huts lining a beach to small cottages in the middle of rolling English countryside. You find yourself stopping to check where exactly this scene is so you can make a note to explore it soon.
Spoilt for choice
There is a little bit of a paradox of choice in Escape Routes. You hardly know where to start. Fortunately, the publishers seem to have foreseen this and provide you three good ways of finding your first ride. The first, and probably the most likely method, is from the large map where you can pin point the nearest ride to you. The second is by picking a ride from a theme such as history or by the river. Finally, the routes are categorised by area.
Following a ride
My first choice was the Aldbury to Frithsden. The ride is the one nearest to me. Having said that, even this route is 30 minutes train ride away to Tring before a short pedal to the starting point. You can’t help but feel is it worth my time for a short 15 mile route?
None the less, we had a great cycle around the area and the directions were easy to follow. I scanned the relevant page in the book so I didn’t have to carry it with me as it is a little heavy.
Inside are also plenty of great stops such as 19th century pubs, vineyards and woodland trails. These help turn the ride into more of a day out rather than just being about pedalling.
There’s plenty more rides I’d like to try out although I think I’ll be incorporating them as part of a larger trip as they are a little too short for my liking.
Review of Escape Routes in a sentence
Beautifully written and illustrated, great locations, will inspire you to ride but would have liked some longer routes. 4/5
Where to buy: Amazon.co.uk £11.46
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.