Welcome to my new blog! Named after Walter, my Raleigh Race bike, who is in turn named after the explorer Sir Walter Raleigh, this blog unites my two hobbies of history and cycling to document my adventures around my university city of Manchester and further afield. I'm in my first year of studying politics and modern history at the University of Manchester and am enjoying exploring the rich history of the city and the surrounding area, as well as seizing the opportunity of the centenary of the First World War to discover more about the fascinating and tragic conflict.

Ready for adventure in Pembroke, 2012

The main impetus behind writing is to document the planning and adventure of my five-day cycling tour of the Ypres Salient in Belgium this August. There is a lot of information on the internet about cycling in West Flanders and about touring the Great War battlefields but surprisingly little on doing both together. I hope that by documenting my experiences I can help inform others embarking on similar trips, as well as to share my experiences of visiting such interesting yet harrowing places.

However, in the six and a half months between now and then there are many smaller adventures to be had. This weekend I bought National Trust membership and plan to cycle to many of the properties local to Manchester (Especially excited to see the reconstruction of the Great War field hospital at Dunham Massey.). I will also leave the bike at home to explore the museums and landmarks of the city centre on foot, chronicling it all right here.

Walter taking a well-earned rest in Berkeley, 2013

For me, history is about experiencing things; feeling what came before. There is only so much you can gain from secondary-sourced books and dark old photos and drawings. While those things can be great, there is something disconnecting you from the places they describe. It is easy to cast them off as something distant, almost like fiction that bears no impact on you today. Actually being there is what counts and what makes the lasting impact. This is the problem with the Anne Frank Huis in Amsterdam. With the constant stream of tourists through it, it doesn't feel like Anne Frank's house. There is no sanctuary and safety as it is constantly open and buzzing with visitors.

This is why I love exploring and 'doing' history by bicycle. You move fast enough to cover a lot of ground and to see lots of things, but slow enough to drink in your surroundings and experience the area. You can go at your own pace, stop off the beaten track and discover things you may not have seen from the main roads. That's essentially what I hope to convey in this blog. Not only to describe where I've been and what I've discovered but also to reflect on what it made me think and feel. This may all seem terribly clich├ęd but I think it is also an important and interesting thing to share.