This story begins with a picture and a sunny day.
Whilst looking for something else online I come across a photo of Pells Pool. The clear blue water of the pool, lit up in the picture by the bright summer sun contrasts with the stifling heat of south-east London and provokes in me a desire that’s visceral: I can feel myself stepping into the water, going bravely past my waist, then daring myself to dunk my shoulders and hold my breath as I dive under.
I open GoogleMaps. Thirty-nine miles and 4 hours 24 minutes by bike from where we are to Pells Pool is achievable. Leave after breakfast and we might be there for lunch. But on the move GoogleMaps will be no good to me: I don’t have a smartphone and George’s is unreliable. It’s Tuesday so I order Ordnance Survey Explorer 135: Ashdown Forest online and hope it will get to me for the weekend.
It arrives Saturday; we plan for Sunday: I find my highlighter pen and spread the map. The last part of the journey isn’t covered by it, so I return to Google and make line drawings of the route we will need to follow from Newick to Lewes, marking the turnings and significant landmarks.
On the day, as we cycle, I turn the map in its holder to keep track of the bright yellow trace I have made. I follow the twists and turns of the roads, the bridges we cross, the farms, pubs and churches and the contours of the landscape with my body and the map together. As we climb, descend and turn, I think of Flann O’Brien’s description of how cyclists ‘get their personalities mixed up with the personalities of their bicycle.’
We can think about the lines drawn on the map not as telling but as creating stories. We may use a map to plan a route in order to get from A to B, but in drawing the line and following the route we are exploring and discovering and our half-body-half-bicycle is forming new relationships with the landscape and places we pass through. Along this line, through this movement, new stories are written.
Pells Pool: We’re here. The water is deliciously cold, the sun emerges from behind the clouds to warm our shivering bodies, and I close my eyes and turn to face the sun.
Sometimes it is about both the journey and the arrival.
Louise Rondel is interested in production of space, bodies-cities, promises of monsters, be(com)ing beautiful, haptic geographies and space invaders. She lives in South East London.