Peter Mann decided at the age of 48 to cycle anti-clockwise around the coast of Britain on his Moulton. His life had reached a seminal point, "I had taken early retirement (from his twenty year job as a curator at the Science Museum in London) ... was divorced, had no children, and was living on my own in a small flat in the centre of London ... I could afford to please myself what I did with my time."
So off he went on his Shimano Deore equipped Moulton APB 14, with just one change of clothes. This book is a fascinating insight into being alone for a long time, travelling, sightseeing, and exploring the country of your birth. Peter recorded his journey by sending postcards back to his godson Jamie, who subsequently pinned them up on his bedroom wall. A detailed account of a journey which happened to be taken by bicycle.
(Life After The Museum is the newsletter for former staff of The Science Museum, London)
Postcards from the Edge is Peter Mann's description of his epic 5000 mile circuit of the coast of Britain on a Moulton bicycle. But this is no mere travel book; more a total sharing of eight months of the author's life, meticulously retold in vivid detail and with soul-baring honesty - entries for 'euphoria' and 'exhaustion' are adjacent in the index. Peter sets off in spring, and initial apprehension gives way to the elation of summer days in the Highlands. But illness and family events intrude, and it is late November when dogged determination brings him (still smiling in the photograph) to Land's End. Finally, fortified by innumerable plates of fish and chips and 39 different beers (not all at once) he pedals back down Kensington High Street two days before Christmas.
Read this book for its insight into the physical and mental challenge of this amazing venture, for an armchair tour of the coastal sites and sights guided by a genial and informative host, for a thought-provoking soliloquy on the nature of history, Heritage, tourism and the anorak, and not least for its glimpses of fellow-inhabitants of Youth hostels including the 'Flatulent Italian', the 'Overweight Hungarians' and the sinister 'Pacer'. (What nicknames did they invent for Peter, I wonder. The 'Pedalling Philosopher' perhaps.) With colour photos, maps, appendices, a bibliography, and two entertaining indexes, all the documentation is here for anyone who wishes to repeat the feat - and for the rest of us to share the whole experience without any of the pedalling. A remarkable account of an extraordinary achievement.
Faced with redundancy/retirement at the young age of 48, Peter Mann, a non-cyclist (but now a V-CC member), decided to embark on what was by anyone's standards an epic journey, following the coastline of Britain. Peter puts his total mileage at 5430, this was calculated by using a map measure on the OS 1:250,000 Travelmaster Road Atlas, but anyone who has used a map measurer, then compared the mileage with mileometer or cycle computer will know, with all the ups and downs and twists of country roads, the mileage is often much greater.
As a non-cyclist, Peter took advice from various quarters on equipment for his journey. Each experienced cyclist will have his/her own preferences, but by the end Peter was the experienced cyclist, more experienced than many, and his choices worked for him, that is all anyone wants from their equipment.
From the early days of the journey full of expectation, excitement, and a little trepidation, we share with him the highs and lows of each day, from the chilly spring, through high summer and on to mid winter. From the crowded holiday resorts, and patches of industry, to the solitude of the Scottish coastline. Anyone who has made any cycle journey will feel the pleasure of the good days in this well written book, and also of the days when everything, time, health, weather, all conspire against you and you wonder, why?
My first session with this book had me in my chair for 12 hours as I travelled to Oban with him, I then had to retire to bed, but I remounted my armchair immediately after breakfast the next day to continue 'our' journey.
For many there will be familiar recollections, for those setting out on a venture there is much to glean which will be of use or which you may have overlooked.
Recommended reading, even for armchair tourists.
(The magazine of the Moulton Bicycle Club)
Ever been cycle touring? Ever thought of cycle touring? Peter Mann hadn't until the day of the Big Idea. What better challenge for an active walker and mountaineer, (but non-cyclist) to circumnavigate the coast of England, Scotland and Wales on a bicycle?
Peter had recently taken early retirement as Curator of Road Transport at the London Science Museum and had time to spare. His research into cycle technology led him to Phoenix Cycles of Battersea where he bought an APB 14 Shimano.
After a short bout of training, Peter left his central London flat, turned left and rode off along the Thames Estuary on his anti-clockwise 5,000 mile, eight-month odyssey.
Methodical and meticulous appear to be Peter's middle names for he records in great detail almost every place he visits, the hostels and B&B's he stays, the people he meets and the food and drink he consumes.
But never laboriously. You find yourself getting sucked into the physical and emotional experience of mile after mile of riding in all weathers in all kinds of coastal landscapes.
From my days of cycling on the east coast of Northumbria, this account brought back vivid memories of the places and the open spaces of that most beautiful part of the country. It felt like comparing notes with a friend, his experiences were so vividly recorded.
The 'Postcards' in the title derives from the postcards he sent at regular intervals to his godson Jamie, and the text of these form the introduction of each leg of the journey. Long standing club members may recall Peter's account of his tour, written while 'in progress', appearing in The Moultoneer issues 42-44. Indeed he records writing these accounts in the book. He also gave an after dinner talk at Bradford'96 weekend.
Peter's eye for detail, especially for things scientific, mechanical and transport orientated, punctuates the account. He has things to say about the industrial, military and 'heritage' facilities he passes on the way. You also share in the joy and the boredom, the exhilaration and the frustration that such a long tour inevitably holds.
Peter was blessed with spectactularly fine weather during much of the Scottish portion of his trip during the height of the summer. There is sadness too, for he started the journey knowing of the ill health of his father. As fate, or timing would have it, Peter was at his father's bedside when the old man died, shortly after his arrival at the parental home in St Anne's, near Blackpool some 3,900 miles after leaving London.
But such a journey must continue, and so it does. Peter started his journey in April 1995 and completed it that December. The month long interval in Lancashire sorting out his father's affairs resulted in a decision to cut short the coastal tour and omit the south-east corner in order to be home by Christmas, but this in no way devalues the achievement.
Peter is a good photographer too and thirty-five of his colour photographs are reproduced. I, for one, could have done with more.