My family loves biking in the Lake District. Imagine our delight when we discover some new technology that allows us to show our love; a smartphone app from Strava that uses GPS to create a physical picture of a journey. We decide to use the app to try and draw the shape of a heart on a map of the central Lakes. We study physical maps, roads and contours to see if we can come up with a heart shaped route suitable for cycling. It begins and ends in Newby Bridge and follows several classic Lakeland rivers and lakes. We set out on an autumn weekend. One of the highlights of the journey turns out to be the new West Shore cycle path along Windermere, packed with families also expressing their love for the Lakes. Like all the best hearts, our i nished Strava shape is imperfect, upside down, and almost broken in places. But we love it.
Cycling the Heart of the Lakes
The heart shapes the journey. Like the poets before me, I record my love
of the Lakes. Not in their words, or mine, but curves and fine lines on a map.
Freehand at first. Without heed of contour, or traffic free trail. I trace
Cupid’s shape in the space between lakes. Before doing it for real. On an app.
I tap GO on Strava, manoeuvre my bike onto still, empty lane. I slice through
light mist. Hill at my heels, I feel the ridges and fells. I know this terrain
from paddling the arteries of the English Lakes; the Leven and Crake,
where salmon and sea trout nibble on bait as fishermen scan the sky for rain.
On Coniston’s bank it arrives in folds. In this flat white light, jetty holds
horizon’s weight, before Brantwood takes shape; a firefly in the dusk.
I inhale the woody warmth, drip-drop the day on Jumping Jenny’s floor
while night falls outside, balancing on prickle of conker husk.
In a smudge of track and a sludge of dark Hawkshead Hill appears,
a last minute dash of hopes. Aching muscles battle the slope. And I win.
Deep sleep. New morning. Esthwaite is shrouded in cloud. While sheep
keep the view neat, a shard of glass attacks my tyre mid spin.
On the screen too I pay for my stay. The heart appears broken
until Windermere fills in the other half with its new cycle path.
This track was once a secret getaway. But today I share the trees,
roots and leaves with welly boot kids. They splash in shallow mud baths.
while I swiftly weave round the seam of the lake; digital doodles
scrawled in my wake. GPS beating in time with my pulse. I bike on.
I ignore the sweet lure of the honeypot town. Catch ferry at Sawrey
while tourist boats circle Brockhole and Bowness like hungry swans.
One last steep incline, time to unwind at Strawberry Bank. And then back
to the little stone bridge where my journey began. My job almost done.
Searchable, shareable, adorable, wearable. A GPS sketch in dots.
Now the red lines join up. I press STOP. A heart, in art, on my home.
Etched by my bike. The words to my poem. The shape of my love
of the Lakes. Forever inscribed. And downloadable now on your phone.
This poem also produced as a Video Poem: Etching a Heart in The Lake District