I am a cyclist, writer and painter. My first book Adventures in Mind was published in 2013 and my second A Bicycle Ride in Yorkshire in 2014 (this was created with a Kickstarter project). A third book I co-edited and contributed to is the recently published Waymaking.
My current project - A Cycling Year - takes its inspiration from an old map and my love of writing, painting and cycling in Yorkshire.
Around 15 years ago I was walking through a flea market in Hawes up in Wensleydale after a particularly wet and windy mountain bike ride. Flicking through some old books and maps, I found a copy of Bartholomew's Sheet 6: Wharfedale. I love maps and live in Otley in Wharfedale and was excited to find this one. Printed in 1938 and bound on cloth, this map was aimed at cyclists to help them plan routes and to stick it in the back pocket of their jersey and find their way around them.
While the map covers the length of the River Wharfe - from its source near Cam Head in the central Yorkshire Dales to its lower reaches where it meets the River Ouse at Cawood near York - it also details much other wonderful ground. The south-eastern edges of the North York Moors, Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland, Hebden Bridge and the South Pennine Moors, and more besides.
I had the map framed and hung it on the wall above my kitchen table. From there I see it all the time and use it to plan adventures.
Over the years I have found myself increasingly painting and writing about these adventures. I love to paint scenes I've seen when cycling. Doing so helps me to relive them, and to further appreciate the way natural colours and light changes through the year.
A Cycling Year is about riding my bike around routes inspired by this map, and the landscape it describes. From Otley to Scarborough, by Knaresborough, the Wolds and the North York Moors. From Hebden Bridge to Garsdale along the Pennine Bridleway, bivvying on the side of Ingleborough en route. Cycling to the Malham Show in late summer, a winter's ride to the Piece Hall in Halifax, the crazy and wonderful Three Peaks Cyclo-Cross. There is a chapter for each month of the year, each one the story of a bike ride.
The book also explores the ways in which other writers and artists have been inspired by cycling, nature and landscape. Edward Thomas, Eric Ravilious, Rebecca Solnit, Madeleine Bunting, J B Priestley and others. In turn they have inspired me and my bike rides, and this is reflected in the book.
A Cycling Year will have around 170 pages and around 30 colour illustrations. I will also include a print of the original Bartholomews Wharfedale map, folded and stuck in back of the book, much as they used to with the old Ward Lock Guides.
It has been a fantastic year so far, enjoying these routes, writing about them, and painting my favourite scenes. Some of my paintings are shown here – more are displayed in a gallery on my website, and this will grow in the coming months.
Risks and challenges
The risks and challenges to this project are pretty much all around getting the paintings and writing together to ensure I can get the layout design, typesetting, editing, etc., complete for early 2019 so it can be printed to be ready for publication in April 2019.
I successfully published my second book, A Bicycle Ride in Yorkshire, funded by a Kickstarter project. Like this previous project, I am again self-publishing, working with an experienced (Yorkshire-based) editor, designer and publisher who are used to working to such deadlines. My paintings and writing are coming along nicely and will be completed by the end of the year, so I'm very hopeful all will be fine!
- (30 days)