Title: Cycling Climbs of South-West England - A Road Cyclist's Guide
Author: Simon Warren
Publisher: Frances Lincoln
What it is: 75 'climbs' across the South-West of England (Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall)
Strengths: Pocket-sized format with bite-sized profiles
Weaknesses: More about giving directions to the climbs, the reasons to want to ride them are absent
Simon Warren's 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs and Another 100 Greatest Cycling Climbs are probably familiar to most of you, even those who didn't realise that there were two hundred great cycling climbs in the UK. After having expanded the franchise to the continent (Hellingen 'did' Belgium and 100 Greatest Climbs of the Tour de France 'did', well, the Tour de France) Warren has been busy churning out little pocket guides to the regions of the British Isles. There's been Cycling Climbs of Wales, there's been Cycling Climbs of Yorkshire, there's been Cycling Climbs of the Midlands, there's been Cycling Climbs of South-East England. Now there's Cycling Climbs of South-West England. Cycling Climbs of North-West England, Cycling Climbs of North-East England, and Cycling Climbs of Scotland are all scheduled to arrive before the end of the year. When the Isle of Man, Ireland and the other islands will be added I know not.
For Cycling Climbs of South-West England Warren picks off the six English counties in the bottom left of the map: Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon, and Cornwall. His selection of 75 climbs runs like this:
|Symonds Yat||Symonds Yat||Gloucestershire||1,800||116||6.40%|
|Bear Hill||North Woodchester||Gloucestershire||1,350||129||9.60%|
|Hackpen Hill||Broad Winton||Wiltshire||2,300||99||4.30%|
|Milton Hill||Milton Lilbourne||Wiltshire||1,575||78||5.00%|
|Bowden Hill||Bowden Hill||Wiltshire||2,320||138||5.90%|
|Shaft Road||Combe Down||Somerset||1,200||106||8.80%|
|Porlock Toll Road||Porlock||Somerset||6,750||364||5.40%|
|Zig Zag Hill||Shaftesbury||Dorset||2,075||93||4.50%|
|Piddle Lane||Cerne Abbas||Dorset||1,340||112||8.40%|
|White Way||Litton Cheney||Dorset||1,050||132||12.60%|
|Chineway Hill||Ottery St Mary||Devon||3,360||188||5.60%|
|Old Greystone Hill||Milton Abbot||Devon||2,700||124||4.60%|
|Crackington Haven||Crackington Haven||Cornwall||1,900||132||6.90%|
|Bodmin East Moor||Trebartha||Cornwall||1,350||122||9.00%|
|Grove Road||St Mawes||Cornwall||650||56||8.60%|
|Blue Hills||St Agnes||Cornwall||770||58||7.50%|
|Porthmeor Hill||St Ives||Cornwall||860||67||7.80%|
Each climb is given two pages, one for a photograph which gives some indication of the character of the climb - the road surface - and the other offering a description of the climb along with a basic map and gradient profile. Less a book for curling up and reading, this is something for the tick-list obsessive in your life, even going so far as to provide the user a tick-list at the back of the book where they can cross off the climbs as they do them. What prize you get when you collect the lot I know not.
For me, Warren's little guides are functional books that there's not really a lot to say about other than that they do what they say on the tin (though there is plenty of scope to argue over the selection of climbs, especially when 74 metres of tarmac is being sold as a climb). They're not the sort of books I'd buy but I can imagine how they appeal to others. Me, I'd like to know why I want to scale these climbs. Me, I'd like to be told stories about the region I'm riding through. Me, I'd prefer to see the climbs stitched together into proper rides, joined up climbing, and not left to sit there all on their lonesome, their geographic proximity only discoverable if you go to the bother of marking each of them on a map (unlike other British cycling guidebooks reviewed here, Warren doesn't seem to do GPX files for his readers). I'd also prefer to see a guide book that looked like something I'd get upset about if it turned to papier-mâché in my jersey pocket, something with a bit of artistry to it.
I'd like a book to inspire me. But that's me: I don't do tick-lists. Maybe you do.