THE WESSEX NEWSLETTER Edited independently in our three areas and published quarterly. Please contact your section or the access the club website for information on any events
DA SECRETARY Peter Loakes, Church Cottage, West Stafford, DT2 8AB (01305) 263272 BOURNEMOUTH & DISTRICT CTC David Chesworth, 52 Newstead Road, Bournemouth BH6 3HL (01202) 432852 SALISBURY CTC Alan Clarke, “Hill House”, Kelsey Road, Salisbury SP1 1JR (01722) 322188 WEST DORSET CTC Mike Durham, 74 Westhill, Wyke Regis, Weymouth DT4 9NE (01305) 770140
Main Calendar Dates For 2008 Sunday 6th Apr Sunday 6th Apr
Dorset Coastlet 100km Dorset Coast 200km
Peter Loakes Peter Loakes
01305 263272 01305 263272
Saturday 26th Apr
Cycle Jumble Sale, Burley
Sunday 11th May Sunday 11th May Sunday 11th May Sunday 11th May
New Forest Challenge 50km New Forest Day Out 100km New Forest 150km New Forest Excursion 200km
John Ward John Ward John Ward John Ward
01590 671855 01590 671855 01590 671855 01590 671855
Sunday 18th May Sunday 25th May
Dorset Downs 100km 50 in 4
Mike Walsh Shawn Shaw
01202 429985 01202 685014
W/E 14th -15th Jun St Lo Twinning in Normandy
Sunday 13th Jul Monday 21st Jul
100 in 8 Sunrise at Stonehenge
Shawn Shaw Gill Anlezark
Sunday 7th Sep Sunday 7th Sep Sunday 7th Sep Sunday 7th Sep
New Forest 50km New Forest and Coast 100km New Forest 150km New Forest On & Off Shore 200km
John Ward John Ward John Ward John Ward
01590 671855 01590 671855 01590 671855 01590 671855
Sunday 14th Sep
Dorset Dirt 50km offroad
Sunday 21st Sep
Bournemouth Square 200km
Sunday 5th Oct
ALL WESSEX ACTIVITIES CAN BE FOUND ON:
Spring 2008 Time flies and it’s Spring again, or nearly, and amongst the D.A events taking place in that historically busy season are two of the oldest - the Dorset Coast (together with its offspring, the Dorset Coastlet) and the Dorset Downs. The ‘Coast’ is 31 this year with the ‘Downs’ a mere stripling of 21 ! Over the years these events have brought fame to ‘Wessex’ – some might have said ‘notoriety’ after undertaking a ‘Coast’ in unhelpful weather conditions – and still cyclists travel from far and wide to participate. So I hope to see you on those days, not forgetting John Ward’s quartet in May and I hope you will – RIDE - but if, like myself, those days have gone ……. HELP on the day - but if the organisers already have sufficient assistance – SOCIALIZE - by turning up at an appropriate time just to renew acquaintance with cyclos from other sections and to meet participants from different parts of the country. But of course, if you prefer, you can still spend these days doing the same old rides, with the same old people - as you’ve done umpteen times before!!
Norman Payne, President Wessex CTC 3 Cycle Ink #148
“LITTLE” RON LEWIS IS 90!
On 5 February 2008, Dawdlers Club Meeting, Dominoes at Ron’s house, the members arrived and within 45 minutes another 30 had arrived to help celebrate Ron’s 90th birthday – Ron was suitably surprised and the afternoon was a successful get-together of some of the cyclists he has ridden with since he joined Bournemouth Section in 1985. Ron was born in 1918 and has cycled since 1927, joining his first club in Ealing in 1932. When he started work in 1932 he was an order boy for a Hardware/Grocery Store, of course riding a tricycle with the large “box” on the front! He joined the Territorial Army in 1939 and when he was called up joined the Catering Corps – for which we are very grateful as he has made some beautiful cakes over the years. After leaving the army he worked for London Transport and has never He moved to Dorset in 1983 with learned to drive. his wife Nora, who sadly died in 1998, and is still living in his
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house in Bear Wood. Since 1985 he has ridden with various groups, the Inters until well into his 80’s, the Potterers, Dawdlers and Easyriders who he led for some years; he still joins in for the first part of the rides. In the mid 90’s he featured in the “Dawdlers Day Out” on South Today, in fact the presenter had to borrow Nora’s bike as she failed to bring one with her! When asked on camera why he liked to go out cycling he said “To get away from the wife!” When Nora died the undertaker was rather surprised when Ron arrived on his bicycle with a box on the back to transport the ashes home – yes Ron is one of life’s characters and we all have a very soft spot for him. We hope he will have several more years of cycling to come.
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What’s On ? Blackmore Vale Section Rides Cycle Rides arranged by Richard & Margaret Nicholl. All rides meet at the Cafe at 10:00am for coffee, departing at 10:30am. Please note that some rides are on a Saturday and some on a Sunday. Details (01963) 32840 Sat 8th MAR Sun 23rd MAR Sat 5th APR Sun 20th APR Sat 3rd MAY Sun 18th MAY Sat 31st MAY Sun 15th JUNE Sat 28th JUNE Sun 13th JULY Sat 26th JULY
MEET: EAST STOUR, Udder Farm Shop LUNCH: Shillingstone or Child Okeford MEET: STOURHEAD, National Trust Cafe LUNCH: Longleat, Cellar Cafe MEET: MILBORNE PORT, Wheathill Lane Garden Centre LUNCH: Yetminster, Crafty Times Art MEET: STOURHEAD, National Trust Cafe LUNCH: Crockerton, Furniture Store MEET: SUTTON MONTIS, Bramble & Sage LUNCH: Somerton MEET: STALBRIDGE. Dike’s Supermarket LUNCH: Hazelbury Bryan MEET: SHERBORNE, Castle Garden Centre LUNCH: Evershot. TEA: Sherborne MEET: YEOVILTON, RNAS, Museum Cafe LUNCH: Athelney. TEA: Yeovilton MEET: STURMINSTER NEWTON, Poets Corner Cafe LUNCH: Puddletown. TEA: Sturminster Newton MEET: FROME, Sainsburys Supermarket LUNCH: Dundas - Midford - Wellow. TEA: Frome MEET: WOOKEY HOLE LUNCH: The Strawberry Line. TEA: Wookey Hole
Informal Wayfarers Rides to Burley This ride happens every Saturday and is completely informal. There is no leader and no back up, but generally an experienced cyclist somewhere around. The route is designed for beginners but joined in by all abilities.
Start 08:45 at Pioneer Supermarket, Christchurch every Saturday
Or just make your own way to the New Forest Tea Rooms, Burley for 10:00
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CTC Bournemouth Section - Cycle Jumble Village Hall, Burley. 10:00 to 14:00 Admission 50p Light Refreshments Available All CTC members and Everyone Welcome Contact Jim Hatton 01425 280889 to book a table
THE EASYRIDERS – START OF A NEW ERA Jeanette King After many years of starting at Bear Cross Roundabout on a Sunday morning, we feel that the time has come to alter things slightly. Instead of having an alternative start point, rides will no longer start at Bear Cross Roundabout but at a number of other places. ALL START TIMES WILL BE AT 9.30 AM. Ron will continue to be the “contact”. We look forward to seeing old and new friends when possible.
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INTREPID CYCLIST CHICKEN FEEDER
A keen cyclist known to us all keeps half a dozen or so chickens in his back yard at his home in West Parley. They need feeding and he buys corn in 1 cwt sacks from a farm a few miles north of Ringwood. Being carless, he uses his bike plus a trailer to convey the said corn to his home. On his last trip recently, having collected the corn from the farm and whilst returning to his abode, the trailer had a puncture. Our intrepid cyclist did not have a spare inner tube or puncture outfit, surprising for a cyclist of vast experience, so what was to be done? He could have left the trailer with the corn on the road side and returned later but would the said trailer and corn still have been there on his return? No. Not willing to chance it, he decided to continue his journey home with one flat tyre on the trailer. A journey of some five miles odd to his home, pulling a trailer with a flat tyre and I cwt of corn is no mean feat but then our intrepid chicken feeder is no mean cyclist - a couple of solo end to ends under his belt to prove it. He made it home and surprisingly the punctured tyre was still intact and the wheel undamaged.. The inner tube, however, sadly had not suffered so well and now had not one puncture but twenty two! Solution? Simply buy a new tube? Oh no, hard earned money cannot be frittered away on a new inner tube. The tube must be repaired; all twenty two punctures are patched up. Yes, twenty two! Our little story has a happy ending, the tube, (good as new?) is back in the tyre and back on the trailer ready to fetch the next whack of grub for the chickens.
New Cafe Opening at Easter, the old Royal Yeoman pub at Grimstone, we went in for booked coffee and got two cups each from the pot with biccys, ÂŁ1.20 each and very nice. I suggest any visit phone first the number is 01305 261145, Sue and Gary Steel. Now called the Royal Yeoman Centre.
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THE NUTS IN JANUARY
Yes it was obvious that many of our Thursday friends thought we were a bit out of our minds to go cycling in Spain so soon after Christmas and I was beginning to have second thoughts myself and didn't bother to pack shorts or short sleeved cycle wear. How wrong could I have been and how right John & Greta Lumbers were when they invited us to join them after we met in Majorca last year. They had lead an East Anglia group to Denia on the Costa Blanca for many years staying for four weeks each January and said the weather had generally been very good. During these years they had explored the area very well and had found so many cycling friendly routes out of Denia and into the Sierras. They were also aware of many delightful Spanish style cafes and bars away from the tourist haunts. The weather was excellent with only five minutes rain one afternoon and although it was often a bit chilly first thing in the morning and after tea in the afternoon most riders had stripped off into shorts before coffee. Our group of thirteen together with John & Greta's twenty two made a very happy bunch of traditional cyclists. Everyone was keen to show us the routes they had found and although there was quite a difference in ages and abilities, each morning we set off in small groups that suited us for either a long or short ride and I usually opted for the easier ride lead by John or Greta. The immediate area near the hotel was relatively flat to the north and for a few miles inland and ran though orange and lemon groves. To the south however and close to the coast the road climbed for 3 miles before a steep decent into Javea, which was a delightful resort with an interesting fisherman's church, been built recently in 1960. It was whilst we were riding in the sierras that we saw the nuts, loads of them still left on the almond trees together with the opening blossom, a real picture. We are not sure why the nuts hadn't been picked last year. The ones we picked from the trees we cracked open between two stones and were very nice, but the ones that lay on the ground looked alright but were usually rotten. We were aware that the region had a particularly bad storm last October when they had several inches of rain that fell in 24hrs and turned streams into raging torrents which washed bridges and sections of road away. We saw the results of this during our rides and in Beniarbeig, which was an excellent coffee stop, a section of the bridge and river bank had disappeared and although the locals obviously knew the new route to a temporary bailey bridge, there was no diversion signs to advise the visitor. The shorter rides were about 35 to 45 miles and we generally arrived back at the hotel in time for afternoon tea or something
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stronger if the route had been hard. This was the occasion to met up to have a chat. Early in the holiday John had made us aware of a longer, very picturesque ride which would be well worth the effort. The Cambridge group had found this route some years ago, which wasn't shown on the Michelin map. The secret was to take the CV721 from Oriba onto the CV 720 west and turn right at the Mercedes cottage onto a shingle track. Now Mercedes cottage was a Mercedes bill poster on the gable end of an uninhabited cottage which had a small spinney close by where we waited for the group to reassemble and the men chose to water the profusion of wild flowers under the trees. It was only a short distance from this junction and after a short stiff climb we sat amongst the trees full of almond blossom to have our picnic lunch with a delightful views across the mountains and valleys. After lunch we rode down the Vall de Ebo with a final 6 mile decent to Pego. A truly wonderful day. There were many days like this and each had its own charm. The route along the coast to the north was straight and slightly boring, but stopped rather abruptly at a foot bridge over the river, that was if the motorised traffic had missed the left turn onto the main road. I did as my brain was clicked into auto pilot whilst being lead along and enjoying the sunshine. Over the footbridge was a cafĂŠ owned by a German family where we were all made most welcome. It was here a few days later that Ralph and me stopped before going to the annual medieval market at Olivia. This was a grand affair with lots of stalls selling herbs, nuts, archer bows, heraldry etc. and the road full of fired cooking pots filled with bubbling soup/goulash which was free to anyone who cared to queue and feed
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the family at the tables and chairs set up on the pavements. After parking our bikes we walked around looking at the stalls and stopping to be entertained by the young belly dancer and piper and found a nice cafĂŠ for a soup and roll as we didn't choose to wait in the queue for the free goulash. Regrettably when we got back to the bikes my saddlebag, toolkit and Ralph's pump had been stolen. We had met up with some of the Bournemouth group having lunch earlier and knew they were about to set off, but found three bikes belonging to our Cambridge friends where we waited for them to return as Ralph had left his tool kit at the hotel and we didn't fancy the 18 mile ride back to Denia with the possibility of a puncture etc. However our three friends showed us an even nicer route out of Olivia and escorted us back to the hotel without mishap. In addition to our daily cycle rides the holiday also included several free half and full day coach trips which were very well received by our non-cycling wives and also some of the riders who fancied a different trip out. Several of us also too the coach to Valencia, visited the museum and toured the centre of this very interesting city. On the return there was a boat trip on a large freshwater lake where we saw many wild fowl. Another excellent day out.
Big Bike Ride 2006
We found the Spanish drivers very considerate and many of the roads particularly free from traffic. The bars and cafes very good and certainly cheaper and very friendly inland. The weather was very nice and we are all nuts about going to Denia again. So it looks as though we already have a capacity booking for 2009.
VĂŠlib scheme hits Toulouse Toulouse is following in the footsteps of Paris with its own cycle scheme which started its roll-out last November. By the end of April this year it is anticipated that there will be some 2400 bikes for hire at 253 locations in the city. The bikes seem to be similar to those in Paris as regards design and weight with carrying capacity and three speeds. There are various levels of subscription to the scheme but the shorter periods will probably be the only ones of interest to visitors. The first half hour is free and the cost is indicated at 1 euro for 24 hours and 7 euros for a weekly ticket . The scheme could well be useful for those who take a short break there and want some transport to get around but the fact that there are now so many cycle paths in the town and the surrounding area is good news generally for anybody who is touring in the area and along the Garonne/ Canal du Midi. www.velo.toulouse.fr
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Taking place from Thursday 28th – Sunday 31st August, the Bournemouth Air Festival is set to dazzle the crowds in 2008. The festival will be set against the backdrop of Bournemouth ’s award-winning beaches, beautiful bay and glorious gardens and will be the South West’s largest free event of its kind. We are looking to encourage as many local residents to cycle to the event as possible and will be providing additional cycle racks for the duration of the festival. The event will be held between Bournemouth & Boscombe piers and signage will be provided to the cycle racks on arrival at the seafront. For more information or to get involved please contact the organisers on 01202 451742 or visit our website www.bournemouthair.co.uk
The Bournemouth Section took two awards at the Wessex DA AGM at the end of last year. As reported in the last newsletter Sam Jackson was awarded the Arthur Moss Junior Shield. At the same meeting two local riders were also awarded a Trophy for the best Newsletter article in the Wessex Region. This was finally presented on the 16th February during the tea stop on the very friendly Saturday morning ride from Christchurch to Burley. The winners were Damian and Penny Buckley for there report on their recent ride in southern France. The trophy was taken to the tea stop every week after the AGM on the 1st December 07 but Damien and Penny’s cycling was limited on the winter period. Extra training for the carrier! The article can be downloaded from the Wessex CTC website, as can all back numbers of the newsletters. See Penny and Damian’s new article in this issue with the web-link attached - Editor
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Letters to the Editor INDIGNANT “FIXIE” I enjoyed reading the winter Newsletter, (Bournemouth Section edition) of the Wessex CTC. As usual, I found a blend of humorous and informative articles, not to be missed. That was, until I reached page 20. Here I found two pages obviously written by someone completely lacking in knowledge of any REAL cycling, and her writing plainly intended for an equally inexperienced audience. If the author, a Ms. Gordon, had delved a little deeper, she would not have merely alluded with one word to the long history of her subject, but would have discovered the true origins of fixed gear to be around 1870 – and not 1980 in the U.S.of A. In 1871, British engineer James Starley invented the Ordinary, or Penny-Farthing, as it was more popularly known. This was a true fixed gear machine. A method of propulsion that albeit in a modified form has been practiced ever since. It has been a “fixation” of millions of cyclists, especially club cyclists continuously from those far off times right up to the present day. The essence of “fixed” is its reliability, which stems from its efficiency and simplicity. Any standard road bike can be rigged in this manner. To imply that a vintage Italian frame (whatever that means) or rims from Australia are necessary is ludicrous nonsense. Even the bike illustrated will be particularly unsafe. So short is the wheelbase that the rider’s feet will overlap and foul the front wheel in tight turns, even before fitted with mudguards for winter riding. Gordon knows nothing of the thrill of being part of a club group, all in approximately the same fixed gear, flying along in total silence except for the swish of high pressure tyres in contact with the road surface, all seeming to manoeuvre as one man, almost like a flock of starlings on the turn. She knows nothing of the continuous enhancement of blood circulation to the leg muscles, completely precluding that awful ache suffered by the freewheeler when starting the next climb after a descent. In my experience fixed is generally mastered, by the average rider, in about 300 yards, not the month quoted by Gordon, and then what could be more calculated to put off any aspiring “fixie” than to include nonsense about “going head over heels if you forget to keep pedaling”. I appreciate the excellent work of the editor, and sympathise with the difficulty he must have in finding a continuity of suitable material. However I feel that the inclusion of this article clearly
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highlights what I feel is a retrograde trend in our sport, that of being more interested in the gear rather than the game? (No pun intended) J.C.H. (Indignant “fixie”) Name and address supplied Well thank you for the nice comments at the start of the letter. The article was of course put in for exactly the reasons that you reacted to! When I saw it, my reaction was more laughter. I used to be annoyed like you when similar articles on cycling topics appeared, generally written by Americans who think they invented cycling in the 1980s. Now I’m just amused. Editor (also a “fixie” at times)
PROMENADE CYCLING I found these articles very interesting and wonder if you could approach CTC North Wales to adapt them for a Cycle Ink Newsletter as so many snippits mirror that of the continuous Bournemouth & Poole seafront cycling debate. http://www.cyclingnorthwales.co.uk/pages/prom_cycling.htm http://www.cyclingnorthwales.co.uk/pages/nat_cycle_rte.htm John V Perhaps we’ll just read the articles. They do give some good insights. Editor
HELP WANTED Poole Council seeks a CTC member, who is a commuting cyclist in the Poole area, to join three other local cyclists on the Cycling Liaison Advisory Group .The group is regularly invited to comment on information sent to them about proposed Highway improvements and cycle facilities. Meetings are held three of four times a year at the Offices in Serpentine Road and, if requested, Officers are prepared to meet representatives on site. Support on technical information available on request from an experienced CTC member. If you are interested please contact me and I'll pass your name on. Peter DuLieu
The Editor would like to thank all contributors, both written and photographic for making this our biggest issue so far. Please keep those contributions coming, it makes the job of editing much more enjoyable! DONT FORGET - “CYCLEINK” IS IN FULL COLOUR ON THE WEB
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This year is the 31st anniversary of the Coast and Coastlet to be run on the 6th April 08 starting from Wareham. The Coast is a very popular 200 kilometre ride to Axminster and back encountering a number of challenging climbs which of course provide some spectacular views of this part of the country. There will be the usual watering holes along the way where the riders will have some respite before taking on the challenges of the next leg. The Coastlet as the name suggests is not as strenuous as the Coast but still a challenge for most riders. The distance of 100 kilometres is one challenge but the climbs are another. The climb out of Abbotsbury will stretch most but the reward of completion can be seen on fellow riders faces. On both rides the mugs of tea at the Top O’ Town are the most welcome. One leg left before the end. If you do not feel you wish to undertake the ride this year you would be most welcome to encourage the riders along the way or help at the headquarters in Wareham. Contact Mike Walsh (01202 429985) if you wish to help. Full entry details on the Wessex CTC website. Also this year is the 21st anniversary of the Dorset Downs which will be run on the 18th May 08. It will start from the Top O’ Town Café in Dorchester and goes west at the beginning, then north and on to complete a circular route back to Dorchester. Another challenging ride with marvellous views of Dorset.
Christmas Dinner Pictures Cycle Ink #148 16
Researched by Chris Hinchcliffe
The ordinary, high wheel or pennyfarthing was the first true bicycle with which actual distance and speed could be achieved in a practical manner. Given the absence of a stabilising steering system, larger and larger wheels were built with the intention of increasing stability at high speed. The classically oversized penny-farthing wheel, which measured 1.5m (60”) in diameter, resulted in such a large gyroscopic force that it was stable without a castor steering system (ie. with vertical forks). The name refers to the British penny and farthing coins of the time; the former being much larger than the latter so that the side view of the bicycle resembled two such coins placed next to one another. Based on the original French Boneshaker, James Starley (considered to be the father of the British bicycle industry), and others produced bicycles with front wheels of ever increasing size, starting about 1870, (compare with foundation of CTC in 1878), thus starting their nearly two decade long heyday. Although the trend was relatively shortlived, the penny-farthing bicycle has since become a prominent historical symbol of the late Victorian era. Its brief popularity also coincided with the birth of cycling as a sport.
CHARACTERISTICS The ordinary is a direct drive bicycle, meaning that the cranks and pedals are affixed directly to the hub. Instead of using a relatively complex and heavy gear system to multiply the revolutions of the pedals, the driven wheel was enlarged to its maximum radius – up to a length close to the rider’s inside leg
measurement to increase the maximum speed. This shifted the position of the rider upward, placing him nearly on top of the wheel. This meant that the
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rider’s feet could not touch the ground sion with a large pothole or other obwhile riding. struction, would be likely to send the rider flying over the handlebars The frame is a single tube following (known as “taking a header” or the circumference of the front wheel “coming a cropper”). On long downhill for around ¼ arc, then diverting at a stretches it was recommended that ridtangent to a fork in which is mounted a ers take their feet off the pedals and small trailing wheel. A mounting peg hook them over the handlebars, so that is attached above the rear wheel. The in case of a crash they would land front wheel is mounted in a rigid fork (hopefully) on their feet. This made for with little if any trail. A spoon brake is quick descents but left almost no usually on the fork crown, operated by chance for stopping should the need a lever from one of the handlebars. The arise. bars are usually moustache shaped, dropping down from the level of the GEARS headset. The saddle mounts on the The high wheeler lives on in spirit in frame somewhat less than 0.5m (18”) the gear units used by cyclists in Engbehind the headset. lish speaking countries to describe gear ratios. These are calculated by multiMounting a wheel is a process requir- plying the wheel diameter in inches by ing some skill. One foot is placed on a the number of teeth on the front chainsmall peg on the frame above the back wheel and dividing by the number of wheel. The rider then grasps the han- teeth on the rear sprocket. The result, dlebar, scoots using the other foot, and in inches, is the equivalent diameter of when sufficient speed has been gained a penny-farthing front wheel (for exto effect balance, lifts himself into the ample, a bike might have a 26” wheel, saddle. Unsurprisingly, strong, spry, a 48T chain-ring and a 14T sprocket, young men dominated cycling at this giving an 89” gear). A 60” gear, the time. largest practicable size for a highwheelers front wheel, is nowadays a Although very stable at low speed, the middle gear of a typical club bicycle, penny-farthing was notoriously prone while top gears of over 100” are not to accidents. In order to slow and stop uncommon. One way of understanding a high wheel, as with a fixed gear bicy- this is to realise that the size of a gear cle, the rider applies a small amount of quoted in inches is equal to the disback pressure on the pedals while con- tance that the bike moves in 1/pi revotinuing forwards, augmented by use of lutions of the crank. For a a spoon-shaped brake pressing on the penny-farthing, the distance moved in tyre. The centre of mass being both 1/pi revolutions of the crank is equal to high and not far behind the contact the wheel diameter. – (From schoolboy point of the front wheel meant that any geometry the circumference of a circle attempt to stop suddenly, or any colli- = pi x diameter).
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END OF AN ERA Ironically, the nephew of one of the men responsible for the popularity of the penny-farthing was largely responsible for its demise. The British inventor James Starley had originally built the Aerial high-wheeler in 1870, but this was a time of rapid innovation and when chain drives were upgraded so that each link had a small roller, higher and higher speeds became possible without the large wheel. In 1885, James Starley’s nephew, John Kemp Starley took advantage of these new developments to launch the Rover Safety Bicycle. His new bike was called a ‘safety’ because the rider seated much lower and farther behind the front wheel contact point, was far less prone to ‘taking a header’. In 1887, when John Dunlop invented the pneumatic tyre for his ten-year-old son’s tricycle, the HiWheel was made obsolete. The comfortable ride, once only found on tall wheels, could now be enjoyed on smaller chain-driven bicycles. Over the next ten to fifteen
years the ordinary in all its forms practically vanished. Today there are enthusiasts who ride restored ordinaries, but the shape of the Rover Safety and its development of the diamond-framed bicycle has come to dominate the public perception of what a bicycle looks like. Only a minority of cyclists understand that the term “ordinary bicycle” does not mean a standard diamond-frame.
Christmas Dinner Pictures 19 Cycle Ink #148
Another day on the Cheshire Cycleway Cheshire is generally considered a rather flat County and indeed it is. There is , however, a section in the eastern part of the County which is quite hilly and this is because the route takes you up into the County’s gritstone hill country to the east of Macclesfield. The hills can be steep and the guide does give an alternative route west of Bollington avoiding many of the worst (or best) stretches. However, I doubt that any normal club cyclist would take the easy option unless ,perhaps, the weather turned for the worst as the high plateau is quite exposed . I intended to spend the night at a farm at Bollington before tackling this section, the accommodation having been kindly arranged for me by the farmer’s wife at Acton Bridge where I had stayed the night before. You never know what will happen on these occasions or whom you will meet. Then the farmer’s wife had run me to the local pub for my meal and lent me an umbrella in case I needed it on the way back. Having arrived at Acton Bridge in the rain it was nice to arrive at Bollington
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in cloudy but dry weather at least. The farm was approached via a housing estate up another hill and under the aquaduct ,not what I was expecting. However, the farmer’s wife made me
welcome and said I should put my bike in the big barn alongside the house. It was a very large barn, closed on three sides and full of farm machinery and bales of straw. I sensed a movement on one side and ,looking up, I saw a peacock glaring balefully at me as they always to me seem to do. I ignored it and put my bike behind the bales of straw where it appeared to be safe for the night and well out of the next downpour of rain which had just started. I was asked when I went back in the house whether I would mind sharing an evening meal with two ladies who were arriving at any minute. It was a roast dinner with dessert after and the cost of
£12.50 included a glass of wine. It seemed a good deal to me. The ladies in question were up from Hertfordshire to see the Tatton Park Flower Festival and it seemed they travelled the country during the summer to see the major shows. They were good company for a short while, no doubt enhanced by extra glasses of wine given out by the farmer’s wife who apologised for the dinner delay caused , she said, by a problem with her Aga. Nobody seemed bothered but it was nice to escape to a pub I had seen down the road where, as the only customer, I sank a few pints of mild which is hard to find in Dorset.
side was open with marvellous views over the hills. I passed a couple of walkers at the reservoir and just after that it started to rain, heavy drops gradually increasing as I went past the reservoir.
The next section of the road was narrow , windy and undulating with small copses on either side . I was able to build up a bit of speed but the rain started once more. I sheltered for a while but decided that it would be better to make for a farm building ahead. This gave me shelter on the lee side and I stood there for about 10 minutes watching the rain hammer down and the rivulets of water running The next day dawned between my feet. As if bright and clear and going by a miracle, though, the down the road to the exit clouds were blown roundabout ,it didn’t take away, a watery sun apmuch intelligence to work peared and a couple of out the road I had to follow. It went sparrows started dancing about in the staight up the hill to a ridge I could puddles. After another short walking see in the distance. I hadn’t been able session I reached the A537 ( 417m) to to identify on the map exactly the road expansive views and bright sunshine. I I would be following but I knew I was crossed the road quite easily as there heading for Lamaload Reservoir and was no traffic to be seen(!) and then the high point of the up bit which was there was then a marvellous downhill the A537 fromMacclesfield to Buxsection past the exotically named Botton. All the roads were covered in ar- tom-of-the oven and alongside Clough rows ,or even double arrows ,and I brook , past Wildboarclough heading guessed I would at some stage have to then north west over a few more get off and do a bit of walking. It lumps towards Sutton Lane Ends. The wasn’t that long ,in fact, but I was clouds which had banked up once soon back on my bike and crossing more decided to empty another bucket the B5470 and heading for the reserof rain on me but I was able to find voir. The sunshine had now gone and shelter in a barn and had a drink and was replaced by black clouds moving something to nibble while the rain rapidly across the sky. The countryslanted down. It was turning out to be
Cycle Ink #148
one of those days. Cycling, rain and England seem to go hand in hand.
and Marton. The high views had now gone and I was back on the Cheshire Plain. Marton itself has a beautiful Having passed a couple of attractive half-timberedchurch where I once looking pubs because it was too early more took shelter from a downpour in for lunch , the next one I saw was to the porch. At this stage I had toyed be a definite stop and it wasn’t long in with the idea of doing a detour to Jocoming up - the Hanging Gate Inn at drell Bank but the weather wasn’t enHigher Sutton.Originally an old coun- couraging and I pressed on over the try ale house ,it is situated on a specRiver Dane towards Congleton. Shorttacular site on the edge of the Peak ly after crossing the Trent and Mersey district at a height of 332m and the canal at Hassall Green there is a short views from the small terrace which off road section to Alsager and then it overlooks the valley below are trewas a question of deciding whether to mendous. I sat in a window seat in the go on to Crewe to finish the ride, tiny bar area with a bowl of homewhich wasn’t far, or to look for somemade soup and flicked through some where to stay the night in what would old issues of Country Life ( they had be more attractive surroundings ( with to be there didn’t they-it is a country due respects to Crewe ) I took the latinn after all ) and earwigged the con- ter course and finished the ride to versation at the bar. I initially thought Crewe the following morning in the pub was quite isolated but looking bright sunshine when I then had no at the map it isn’t far from Macclesdifficulty in booking the next train to field and I guess it is really well Bournemouth. known in the area.. It was soon time to leave and it wasn’t long before I reached Sutton Lane Ends and turned towards Gawsworth
On our way home from Auckland, we stopped for lunch at a small Town called Tirau and spotted this ride-on mower on the front lawn of the house where we stopped and parked. One way of getting a bike ride in as well as mowing the lawn! Del Wray, Wellington, NZ
Cycle Ink #148
Cycle Ink #148
Who Do You Love Most?
1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20.
I'll never forget the first time I saw you 1 wanted you instantly I often find myself day dreaming about you There's more than one photo of us together on my desk 1 love showing you off to my friends My friends often remark how attractive you are In a typical week we spend more than 5 hours quality time together When you are around, I often look at you with admiration and longing In the last three months I have spent more than ÂŁ100 on you I desperately want to take you to Italy Our last ride lasted more than an hour It is thrilling how you respond beneath me 1 would never allow anyone else to ride you You make my heart beat faster You make me feel young You have taken me places and shown me things I never thought I would see When I am alone with you, I am at peace with the world You were made for me 1 can't live without you 1 will never upgrade to a newer model
An uncomfortable quiz for all of us who have ever heard: "I swear you love that bike more than me!" To find out something troubling about yourself, answer these twenty questions as honestly as you can. For each question, simply place a tick next to Bike or Spouse If both apply, mark both. If neither applies, move on to the next question. At the end, calculate which entity receives more of your affection, then hide these pages from everyone in your life - except your biking buddies.
DATC - District Associationsâ€™ Tourist Competitiony The results of the above competition for 2007 were issued in January this year. The Wessex DA improved from 31st last year (with 279 points) to joint 22nd with Manchester DA (334 points). More points were earnt but only the points of the top six riders are counted in the competition. You can see which rides are accredited to the competition on www.ctc-competitions.org.uk which also gives further details. The listing of imminent rides is published in Cycle towards the back under the heading WHATâ€™S ON. When you enter such rides you need to register that you belong to Wessex DA for points to be credited to Wessex. These points table for the Wessex is below: Posn 32 113 140 194 261 284 302 320 340 365 365
Name Mike Pain Margaret Phillpotts (LV) Ray Haswell (V) Stephen Gould (V) Peter Loakes Arthur Vince (V) Mike Walsh Jason Clark Jeff Mogg Julia Baker-Beale (LV) Peter Jones
DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA
Again the four corners of the DA were represented and all points winners gained at least a Bronze in the Mille Miglia competition. Total number of 388 events with 6,639 rides.
Cycle Ink #148
Points 81 63 58 50 42 40 39 38 37 36 36
Events 10 8 6 6 5 5 5 4 5 4 4
Audax UK Competition
Margaret Phillpotts was awarded the Ladies Veterans Cup together with a Gold Medal at the annual dinner of Audax UK. She has already contributed to this newsletter with the account of her Paris-Brest-Paris and I am sure she gained most of her points in the preparation for this event. Name
Mike Pain Margaret Phillpotts Shawn Shaw Peter Loakes Jason Clark Roger Gibson Arthur Vince Ray Haswell John Ward Steve Berry Matthew Clark Robert Merry
Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA Wessex DA
83 52 51 33 29 23 23 21 21 10 7 4
Wessex DA came 10th in the Audax UK competition with 271 points.
Cycle Ink #148
My daily cycle ride home from work in Alderney to Ferndown is often beset with an incident. Inconsiderate, not to say pig-ignorant drivers regularly cut you up. Usually it’s a white van man. More rarely a car, the car belongs to them you see and it would be inconvenient if you dented it when they hit you. Of course I agree that cyclists aren’t angels either, perhaps made less so by having constantly to stand up for our place in the road all the time. Cutting up is one thing, sheer dangerous driving another. Riding along the little bit of dual road from The Mountbatten to High Howe at 16:50 on March 4th I was aware of a white wall sliding by my right shoulder. The high featureless side of a continental unmarked artic cruising by about a foot away. Not in itself a danger, just keep a steady line! However, he’s accelerating after the bend and his rear end is closing in on me a bit. After he has gone by, safely as it happens or I’d not be writing this, I can see the reason why I was so squeezed. An equally massive Wyvern Cargo artic from our factory neighbour’s depot is hammering down the outside lane, obviously racing the other. I swear that if they’d been any closer, their mirrors would have clashed. I watched as the Wyvern Truck screamed by, shielded from the speed camera by the other, and narrowly managed to pull across into the inside lane ahead just before the roundabout. He’d won! Whoopie!
Saturday Morning Ride
The roads are bloody dangerous enough without this kind of elephant racing, don’t you think?
Cycle Ink #148
PENNY AND DAMIAN’S CHARITY RIDE 2007 Having been introduced to cycle touring by what used to be known as “Terry’s Ride” on Saturday mornings from Christchurch to Burley, we now undertake longer distances on France’s uncrowded side roads in the lazy days of summer. Accounts of our two previous rides are at pages 21 onwards in both the Summer 2006 and the Spring 2007 newsletters at: http://www.bournemouthctc.org/. Egged on by our friends, we decided to raise money for charity this year by seeking sponsorship before departing. We designed, printed and produced the poster and Tshirts, as seen in the photograph, and planned all aspects of the trip, using our CTC membership to research ideas for suitable, traffic-free routes and sightseeing opportunities. In almost unbroken sunny weather from the day we left (3rd Sept), and with only one puncture stop, we cycled 1372 kms (852 miles) from the English Channel at Cherbourg to the Mediterranean at Valras-Plage, near Béziers (23rd Sept). (Penny’s journal is annexed to the web edition of the Newsletter). Highlights of the journey included our Outside Corpus Christi Church, first glimpse of Le Mont St Michel 26th August and seeing the delightful chateaux in the Medoc, but paddling in the Med and celebrating there with champagne was the crowning moment! The French national Jet-ski championships finals were even taking place there as we arrived, so the town was “en-fête”.
Cycle Ink #148
On 4th December, we handed over cheques to the value of ÂŁ3454 shared between our charities, Life and Juliaâ€™s House - way beyond expectations - and we sincerely thank those who gave so generously to these two good causes.
The seafront, Valras-Plage, 23rd September
Cheque Presentation, 4th December
Cycle Ink #148
Cycle Ink #148
Dates of next Meetings
Contributions and Photographs The committee meeting date is the deadline for Newsletter contributions. Editorial policy is to print all contributions, with minimal editing for the purposes of layout only. Contribute by email, disk, CD-ROM, typed or handwritten. Photographs are now welcome in any form. We can scan them and they will be returned safely.
http://www.wessexctc.org CTC, Parklands, Railton Road, Guildford, Surrey GU2 9JX http://www.ctc.org.uk “CycleInk” is the Newsletter of the Bournemouth & District Section, Wessex District Association of the Cyclists’ Touring Club. Published four times a year for members. Views expressed are not necessarily those of the club.
Cycle Ink #148
CYCLING MANCHE TO MED BOURNEMOUTH - BORDEAUX - BEZIERS
For our four ‘sweet peas’ Alastair, Noah, Emma and Annabel
THE JOURNAL OF OUR THIRD GREAT ADVENTURE
©Penny & Damian Buckley
DAY BY DAY SUMMARY
OUR LOGO and ROUTE
From ! To
Distance Cycled (kms) (mls)
Bournemouth ! Poole ! Cherbourg ! Créances Créances ! Céaux
Céaux ! Fougeres
Fougeres ! Pouancé
Pouancé ! Cholet
Cholet ! Vouvant
Vouvant ! La Rochelle
Rest Day at La Rochelle
La Rochelle ! Saintes
Saintes ! Blaye
Blaye ! Bordeaux
Bordeaux ! Lucmau
Lucmau ! Condom
Condom ! Castelsarrasin
Castelsarrasin ! Toulouse
Toulouse ! Bram
Bram ! Coursan Coursan ! THE MED at Valras-Plage
Rest Day at Bordeaux
Rest Day at Condom
Rest Day at Toulouse
TOTAL MANCHE - MED Valras-Plage ! Béziers 22
Béziers ! Narbonne
Narbonne ! Perpignan ! Southampton ! Bournemouth
Rest Day at Béziers
Pre-departure. Our previous two long distance cycle rides in France were enormous fun and we wanted to set ourselves at least one more challenge and so decided on Manche (The Channel) to Med. This time, with the encouragement of family and friends, we decided to ride for charity. Damian was to ride for Life, the anti-abortion group and I for Julia’s House, the Dorset children’s hospice. Our original target of £1,000, was very quickly met, and continued to grow magnificently. We designed and printed our own logo, showing our route, on to T-shirts and as a poster. We planned carefully, spending many long evenings poring over the IGN* maps, plotting the best, most interesting route - for us, ‘best’ equals leasthilly. We had had our fill of hills in the Ardeche, and most recently in West Dorset; we were not looking for any more LSAs**.
Kit layout for 23 days. We both carried two panniers weighing approximately 8lbs each, plus bar bag for Damian and rucksack for Penny
Institut Géographique Nationale Lung-Searing Ascents
We also factored in some must-see sights: Le Mont St Michel, the housewe-almost-bought-in-France and town/cities not previously visited. To minimize weight and aware of the sacrilege involved, we pared down the maps and, as carefully as possible, removed relevant pages from the guide-books. The cut off sections weighed 13 oz - a substantial weight saving! Mindful that the Rugby World Cup would be happening at France at the same time as our ride, we thought it prudent to book some accommodation ahead, particularly in Bordeaux and Toulouse, where Ireland would be playing Namibia and Wales Japan respectively (did anyone know Japan had a rugger team?). We then realised that we’d published our logo showing all the stops and decided to book all the accommodation ahead
.Our fund raising stall outside church.
Day 1 Monday, 3 September Bournemouth !Cherbourg (via Poole) ! Créances 71 kms / 44 mls Today we embark on our third great Adventure full of hope that we shall rediscover something of our Loire trip. We set off for the fast craft from Poole at 6.20 am with our neighbour, Alan, who has generously offered to get up appallingly early to come with us, to the port, in our car and bring it back. It’s cold, but so exciting as we cycle straight to the front of queue and onto the ferry. I have always wanted to do this; I am not quite sure what this says about me! We meet a couple of other cyclists going down to Lake Constance. They have tents and all the paraphernalia of self-sufficiency packed on their bikes. I do not feel in the least bit envious of them; a proper bed, bath and delicious meal have always been my minimum requirements. Departure from Poole at 6.45 am
We’re first on and first off the fast craft. We find our way out of the port of Cherbourg and up the hill out of town, feeling smug about the recce we made in June and are soon alternately toiling/winging our way down the Cotentin Peninsula to Bricquebec, a delightful town which brings back happy memories of early booze c' ruises'. While eating lunch, we meet some English cyclists and swap stories; they are suitably impressed with our plans and donate to our charities. We all agree that France is the most wonderful country for cycling. Our route from Bricquebec is on a piste cyclable, newly created from an old railway track. While it is obviously traffic-free and flat, a real bonus, it is
also somewhat dull, missing, as it does, all the villages and signs of life that so enliven cycling. This must sound rather churlish since dedicated cycle routes are what we would die for in England. Strangely, there are few signs of wild life. Our first night is B&B in an old mésnil or manor house. Sadly, I feel this once beautiful old house has been rather spoilt by the previous owner’s efforts to restore it. He has adopted the ‘quick 'fix' model rather than the loving restoration. The present owners are kind and helpful. Day 1 is over and we are 43 miles towards the Med - only another 757 to do!
Day 2 Créances! Céaux
Tuesday, 4 September 91 kms / 56 mls
We have a generous breakfast with the most sublime pain au raisin and good tea. Jan and Dave are kind and helpful but we feel the house, once a grand old lady of a building, with stories to tell if only stones could speak, wears a rather dejected air under the pseudo ‘original’ improvements. I feel sad for what might have been achieved with more care and time. We are away in good time and are happy to trade the flat, traffic-free, dull ‘piste’; for the hillier, slightly more traffic populated D* and C* roads through the villages in what is known as Carrot Country. This is our sort of cycling; no one village is particularly remarkable but together they are utterly delightful. Our goal for today is Céaux, just round the corner at the bottom of the Cotentin Peninsula and carefully avoiding the heights of Avranches. This requires threading past the railway station and through some ‘zones industrielles’ but also seeing immense expanses of the Baie de Mont St Michel at low tide. As we are flying along, I catch my first glimpse of the unmistakeable, iconic shape of Mt St Michel in a gap between houses.
En route down the Cotentin
Unfortunately, we have broken, on only the second day, our third cardinal rule of cycling - never pitch up for the night in ‘one-horse towns’. We are full of foreboding about Le P’tit Quinquin, although the room is adequate; we have our doubts about supper and recce the area for other options. The choice is strictly limited and anyway would require a return journey on bikes which inevitably limits wine consumption. We reluctantly decide it will have to be P’tit Quinquin. While we are out, we ride down to the coast path to look over to Le Mt St Michel, classified by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1979. It is only a silhouette and looks enigmatic in the setting sun but I am thrilled at the prospect of seeing it tomorrow morning. In the event, we are delightfully surprised by a truly delicious meal: smoked salmon on forest mushrooms, followed by lamb. P’tit Quinquin has redeemed itself and we speculate on breakfast - plentiful buffet or rigid portion control. We have completed 2 days, ridden 100 miles, an eighth of the journey and can send one map home to lighten our load!. We’re getting there!
________________________ *Départementale and Communale roads
First, distant sight of Le Mont St Michel at dusk
Day 3 Céaux ! Le Mont St Michel Le Mont St Michel ! Fougères
Wednesday, 5 September 12 kms / 7.5 mls 51 kms / 32 mls
We have allowed ourselves a morning at Mt St Michel, not really long enough, but we have 52 kms to Fougères so we cannot linger; this has been a taster and perhaps we shall come back at some future date.
We wake up to a promising morning, though Madame cheerfully tells us it’s 6 degrees outside; we’re away by 8.30 am! This is excellent and something we would like to achieve every day, to maximise daylight hours. It is only 7 miles to the Le Mt St Michel and we’re soon there. As the sun is rising on it, the effect is quite stunning and I hope, desperately, that the pictures we take will capture this. I was not exactly sure what sort of road would lead to the mount. Would it be like the Passage du Gois over to Ile de Noirmoutier, passable only at low tide? It is, in fact, a fully paid up road, passable at all states of the tide and has been so for many years, anything less would seriously compromise the money-spinning opportunities of this World Heritage Site. It is truly thrilling and arriving by bike only adds to this feeling. I cannot do justice in this little journal to this place founded in 708, the result of a dream of St Aubert, bishop of Avranches - it is stupendous, breathtaking, not only the building but its situation in the middle of the bay. We see it at low tide as vast expanses of sand are exposed.
Just before Fougères we plan to visit a dolmen. There seem to be several of these in the forest. Most seem to possess magical properties for the finding of husbands and conception of children - happily, I don’t need to put it to the test! There is not much to see at this one but someone piled those stones one on the other for a reason.
Dolmen Pierre Courcoulée in the Forest of Fougères
Le Mont St Michel
Hotel du Commerce in Fougères is as charmless as its name suggests. Madame shows little interest in welcoming her latest guests so I try to summon some English ‘froideur’ - not easy in tight Lycra, hair tousled from 50 kms under a helmet. The effort is quite lost on her and we accept her room which does have a good, big bath, generally the first thing we note in a room. She invites us to ‘park’ our bikes in the corridor leading to the back door almost blocking it. Such an arrangement would be quite unthinkable in England but the French adopt a much more relaxed approach to matters of ‘Elf ‘n Safety’.
Day 4 Fougères ! Pouancé
Thursday, 6 September 106 kms / 66 mls
Breakfast at Hotel du Commerce is generous buffet with unlimited butter (bonus point). The day starts misty and gets worse but I can only think how lucky we were yesterday for our visit to Mont St Michel - the sparkling sun on the water could not have been improved. We have a long day but allow ourselves till 10.00 am to look round Fougères. Leaving the panniers in the hotel, we feel light as air; no hill is so steep that we cannot negotiate it in our lightened state! The old part of the town, all half-timbered houses, is clustered round the foot of the château. I hope the photos will have the ‘atmospheric’ look. While in the courtyard of the château, we talk to more English people who want to know what we’re up to and offer a donation - people we meet are generous and amazed. However, ever mindful of time, we return to the hotel, saddle up the panniers and head south.
Château de Fougères
To date, Damian’s map-reading has been brilliant. Unfortunately, OC Maps makes a big faux-pas as we leave Fougères and we find ourselves on a route nationale. This is scary; heavy lorries use these roads. For the most part French lorry drivers are a much more considerate breed than their
British counterparts, pulling up behind gently, waiting to overtake when safe and giving cyclists a wide berth. There are a few, though, who forget these kindnesses …. . Some 10 km on Damian signals to turn off and admits his mistake. Nul points for losing time and adding distance to a long day! We have to content ourselves with viewing the château of Vitré from our picnic bench. We have 40 kms to do after lunch and kilometres are longer after the lunch time hour. This goes hand in hand with panniers weighing more and the steepest hills appearing. Shame on us, we have broken Golden Rule1: don’t overestimate ability. We have planned to visit Roche aux Fées, billed as the best dolmen in France after Carnac (Brittany). It is not well signposted but we ask a chap clipping his hedge who gives us directions. He is keen to tell us that ‘they are better than the pyramids’. Even allowing for his natural Gallic pride, this would seem to be somewhat overstating the case! We find the dolmen which has been standing for 4,500 years amongst a group of trees. Slightly incongruously, where once a low-tech notice board with description sufficed, the Département de la Patrimoine is building a shiny new visitor centre nearby, no doubt to interpret ‘The Dolmen Experience’. Presumably there will be staff and ‘facilities’. Hey ho, that’s progress!
4,500 year old dolmen - Roche aux Fées
Day 5 Pouancé ! Cholet (La Séguinière)
Friday, 7 September 100 kms / 60 mls
We make a bad start by oversleeping on what we expect to be our longest day - not promising. Nevertheless, we’re on the road by 9.30 am and bowling along lovely, quiet country roads. This is perfect cycling, mostly gently undulating, long, long gentle downs followed by moderate ups requiring only modest effort. It’s perfect and the sun is shining, we have been so lucky so far. We are scheduled to cross the Loire at Ancenis. This brings back the most happy memories of our Loire cycling adventure; we have our picnic in the grounds of the castle just where we had been two years previously. I can’t explain why this should feel so exciting, people return to previous holiday locations all the time but this seemed to be so different. We still have some way to go before Cholet and we have conclusively proved Buckley’s 4th law of cycling, namely that after the lunch time hour, kilometres are longer, bikes heavier and hills steeper - NO QUESTION! We have no option but to press on. We also have 8 kms of route nationale this afternoon; this will be another test of nerve. We are in a B&B tonight in a suburb of Cholet. We were lucky to find this as there is a ‘spectacle’ at Puy de Fou this evening with 40,000 visitors and a cast of thousands - beds were scarcer than hens’ teeth. 38 Rue du Manoir is a delightful house in a quiet suburb. Madame is kind and drives us to a local restaurant for supper. I have my first moules à la crème, followed by warm goat’s cheese salad - wonderful. We walk back through the deserted streets but catch sight of the news that France has lost its game against Argentina - aaargh - there will be some very disconsolate Frenchmen about tomorrow! Inner courtyard of Château at Ancenis
Day 6 La Séguinière ! Vouvant
Saturday, 8 September 82 kms / 51 mls
Six days on the road and weather has been incredible. I can’t believe how blessed we are and how difficult it would have been getting up each morning donning wet weather gear - never mind that so much of the enjoyment would be totally lost. This is also the day we make a detour to see the house-we-nearly-bought in the Vendée. Breakfast is a marvellous spread delightfully presented - our napkins are tied with a (real) strappy leaf and sprig of gypsophila, more wedding breakfast than cyclists’ breakfast. We’re away rather late, an unavoidable drawback of B&Bs, when one has stayed ‘en famille’, it seems rude to rush away without exchanging pleasantries. Unfortunately, our exit from necessitates La Séguinière crossing an unmanned railway crossing, absolutely not for public use, if the warnings and gates are anything to go by. The option is a 4 km detour which is not an option; with great care and one at a time we cross - that is about the limit of adventure I want for today, thank you. As we are bowling along and about to leave St Laurent sur Sèvre, when we catch sight of the massive basilica built in memory of a local missionary; we spend an hour here. Crossing the Loire is always a great moment for me. I love to see the signs of the change in climate (as opposed to climate-change) which are immediately apparent - flat, pantiled roofs, sunflowers, the ‘arrosage’ machines. I am not sure what to expect when we get to La Chataignerie but I want to lay the ghost of our dream of living in France. Will I want to meet the people who bought ‘our house’? In the event, they are not at home but we note they have renewed the roof and put in new windows and shutters. We suspect they may be French. So that was it. We console ourselves that, had we bought, we would not have had the time or energy for our three great rides.
Tonight we are at another B&B in the Forest of Mervant-Vouvant. English owned, it is a ‘longère’, carefully and stylishly restored. I feel this house is very comfortable with its new identity as a B&B. It is in the middle of the country and we watch a farmer loading five lovely cream (blond aquitaine?) coloured cows into a trailer. It is all completed briskly and without ceremony. We wonder if they are off to the abattoir.
Day 7 Vouvant! La Rochelle
Sunday 9 September 82 kms / 50 mls
Another brilliant start! Sadly, we are sent off on a rather dispiriting little breakfast. In every other way, Carol has been most generous. We wish good luck to the other guests who are all staying while they finalise purchase of their own French dreams. Food is a major feature of our French adventures. We justify eating for England and France in the sure and certain knowledge that we will burn the calories off quickly, consequently, we rarely miss out on cakes at elevenses. Being Sunday, Fontenay-le-Comte is bustling with people collecting their tartes aux pommes etc from the patisserie. Some patissiers windows are works of art, each tarte a masterful creation of raspberries, wafer thin slices of apples, pears and chocolate to die for. For lunch we buy slices of marbre marin - a ‘log’ made of chunks of salmon, baby tomatoes all held together with a stuffing. It is delicious but then it should be, it is £15.00 a pound but, hey, it’s Sunday!
Basilica at St Laurent sur Sèvre
We have a long ‘Sunday lunch’. It has become seriously hot and we don’t want to cycle in the mid-day heat, we also feel it prudent to put on long sleeves as our forearms are bearing the brunt of the sun. The route into La Rochelle will take us alongside the River Vendée. The river is murky but it’s good to be bowling along, two abreast. We see what we think is a snake but are assured by the archetypical old French woman sitting outside her house that it is, in fact, a ‘couleuvre’. this is not a snake at all and her five cats play with them! It is yellow and black chequered and looked pretty much like a snake for me. I am glad ‘es dead.
A (dead) couleuvre
We are now well into the Marais Poitevin a flat, green marshy area crisscrossed with ditches; we’re managing 30 kph comfortably, it feels similar to being in the car on the motor way - the miles are just being gobbled up. Tomorrow is a rest day in La Rochelle - oh, the bliss of it - my bottom is feeling seriously shredded. We visit the fortified church at Esnandes which looks like a castle. We confidently expect to be back on the road within 20 minutes. Not so, we are engaged in conversation by a delightfully enthusiastic couple whose daughter was an au pair in Bournemouth. One thing led to another and we leave an hour later but we both agree that it is exactly these meetings that make our trips such fun and so interesting. We eventually arrive at La Rochelle at 6.30 pm. Fortified church at Esnandes
It is great to be back in La Rochelle and takes us back to our first family holiday in France 18 years ago, the children were 14 and 11. Quite unintentionally, we find ourselves at the very same bar we visited all those years ago and we have huge pancakes and chantilly cream, the sort of thing I’d never dream of eating at home but which is so attractive on a balmy night on the edge of the old port of La Rochelle. It’s been a great week: 361 miles, nearly half our journey, five maps finished and a rest day tomorrow when we are to meet Mary and Tim.
Day 8 Rest Day at La Rochelle
Monday, 10 September
Another luminously sunny day. We have been on the road a week now and my bottom, legs and soul are craving this rest day. The plan is to meet Mary and Tim under the Grosse Horloge; we have a couple of hours in hand. Conscious that the good soldier looks after his horse before himself, we want to get the bikes to a cycle shop for a ‘once-over’ degreasing, relubricating check. Unfortunately, it’s Monday and most shops are closed - bad planning! Instead, we make for the Vieux Port. La Rochelle is ‘yachtie’ heaven; there is serious money moored up in the inner harbour and the whole city has a jaunty, sophisticated air; it is a real pleasure to walk round the quay. View of the harbour and Chain Tour, La Rochelle
After visiting the Chain Tower at the entrance to harbour, we rendezvous with Mary and Tim. They have cycled over from Ile de Ré on their tandem. It all seems slightly surreal being together and so removed from our natural habitats. We have a happy lunch and try to persuade them that long distance rides in France are great fun; for various reasons they are not persuaded. When we return to Hotel Bordeaux we note four new bikes. These belong to four lovely young Irishmen who are cycling down to Bordeaux for the Ireland rugger match on Friday. We swap stories and not only do they seem genuinely impressed with our plans, but they dig deep into their
pocket for our charities. We must be close on £3,000, a sum we never dreamt of when we started planning in the spring when £1,000 was the target.
Day 9 La Rochelle ! Saintes
Tuesday, 11 September 83kms / 51 mls
Our lovely rest day is over, but the sun is shining again and we dream of never having to break out the waterproofs once. Saintes is our destination, another city visited 18 years ago when the children were young. Now I feel we are getting to the really interesting part of our trip. We get away at 8.30 am but not before we discuss with a young girl her plans to cycle in India next year. This makes our adventure seem awfully tame; we have found so many people doing such interesting things on our trips. Exit from La Rochelle goes pretty well according to plan and I marvel at OC Maps ability to work out how to avoid dual carriageways and take advantage of ‘piste cyclables’. Five miles later and we’re in the country again. After eight days on the road, we encounter our first market. I love the bustle of French markets; I have to see every stall even though I cannot possibly take anything home. At Aigrefeuille as well as fruit and vegetables I could buy a bed, table and chairs, nightie even a budgie or a gold fish or order double glazed windows. We settle for our morning cakes. Damian chooses an éclair and I a ‘réligieuse’. This is a heavenly confection of choux pastry, coffee cream and more cream - it is calorific meltdown but not in any way sickly or cloying and, anyway, I’ll cycle it off. We’re sorely tempted to buy another. La Rochelle - Lunch with Mary and Tim
Dried flower stall
We join a young chap at a picnic table on the River Boutonne for lunch. It turns out that not only is he English, he is from Poole and delighted to speak to someone. On the spur of the moment he decided to cycle to down from Cherbourg to Santander in Spain but in half the time we have taken, averaging 100 miles a day. We offer him some of our lunch and salute his stamina and bravery but can’t help feeling he is missing so much by racing through and not engaging with anyone. Window dressing par excellence in Tonnay Boutonne
Day 10 Saintes ! Blaye
Wednesday 12 September 82 kms / 51 mls
Another crystal clear blue sky. The breakfast room of Hotel de l’Avenue is most chic and delightful, we feel arriving in our jolly, homespun charity T-shirts is not quite the thing, it’s almost lèse majesté. We are not out till 9.15 am but Hotel de l’Avenue has certainly earned Best Hotel award so far. Saintes is an old Roman settlement and I am sorry not to be able to spend a little longer looking around. We visit the Abbaye aux Dames and see the Arc de Germanicus built in 18-19 AD. Arc de Germanicus
By 4.30 pm we are rolling into Saintes. Hotel de l’Avenue looks as though it is going to achieve Best Hotel of Trip award. It is stylish and our room has a bath AND a balcony - I can’t wait to soak in one and sit on the other. However, before that, Number One Priority is to track down IGN map 46 of Bordeaux. For some strange reason we omitted to order this with the other maps. It is essential, we have this to get us into (and out of Bordeaux).
By 10.30 am we’re out on the road and following the River Charente This is ‘big country’, huge open skies, and we’re cruising along at about 30 kph this is the life - along country roads where we can easily ride two abreast. I feel lucky to have seen the most beautiful landscapes in the sunniest of weather. Last week and 400 miles ago, it was Carrot country, later, corn on the cob fields and now we’re into the beautiful vineyards of the Cognac and Pineau de Charente region. There are endless opportunities for ‘dégustations’ but how would we ever be able to clamber on bikes after a wine tasting? What starts off as rather a shame, will become something of
a catastrophe as tomorrow we cross the Gironde to the heart of the Médoc country. We have 33 km to cover to Blaye, half way down the Gironde estuary. The landscape is all vines, immaculately tended, no weeds are allowed to grow beneath the vines and top growth is severely trimmed, looking across a field, I feel this procedure must have been achieved with a spirit level.
Day 11 Blaye ! Bordeaux
Thursday, 13 September 85 kms / 52 mls
As I write up the journal, I can confidently say I have had the best day so far. I am sure there will be others, we still have ten days to go. We get up briskly knowing we have to be on the 10.00 am ferry from Blaye - miss this and we cannot get across the Gironde till 4.30 pm - this will wreck our schedule. I have read that the Gironde is the biggest estuary in Europe; apparently 13 km at its widest. It reminds us of the James River in Virginia. However, despite a dazzlingly beautiful day, we are not remotely tempted to swim as it is colour of muddy drinking chocolate. With a little time before the ferry leaves, we return to the Citadelle which is such a feat of engineering. Although built for defensive purposes, the masons still managed to dress the stones decoratively.
There has been a wedding here recently due to the ‘triumphal arch’. This one is made of a bamboo branch with tissue paper ‘flowers’.
A wedding archway
The last ten miles into Blaye are hard and fast. We learn from Tourist Info that there are only four ferries a day across the Gironde; we must not miss the 10.00 am boat which will allow us to visit some of the great vineyards of the Médoc, Chateaux Rothschild, Margaux, Latour and many others, a viticultural Who’s Who. Before supper we visit the Citadelle, an amazing fortification, originally built by the Romans to protect the entrance of the Gironde, later developed by Vauban to protect Bordeaux. It is vast with immensely thick walls and reminds me of Festung Ehrenbreitstein in Koblenz which we visited with Nikki many years ago.
View of the Gironde from the Citadelle at Blaye
Crossing the Gironde on the Blaye ferry. Just like the Sandbanks ferry. I love the element of water when we’re cycling!
Naturally enough, our route is always in a southerly direction, for the first and only occasion of the trip, we make a slight detour northwards to visit the town of Pauillac on the other side of the Gironde and centre for the vineyards. Unfortunately, Damian makes a five mile mistake; crew is not impressed but I cannot be too angry, it’s a dazzlingly bright day and, in the world of wine, it doesn’t get much better than this. We are cycling through the premiers grands crus and find ourselves at a unmarked crossing with vines in four directions. The grapes are hanging in heavy bunches and we ‘liberate’ some, feeling rather naughty. I wonder if anyone has seen me.
A SELECTION OF CHATEAUX OF THE MEDOC
Château Pichon Baron
After lunch I am on a mission to find Chateau Mouton Rothschild. There is not a blade of grass, a vine or a grape out of line here and I feel I should be whispering! Unfortunately, the chateau is hidden behind locked gates and visits have to be booked. We learn that the ‘vendange’ (harvest) will begin the following Monday and we hope to see some of the picking as we ride down through Languedoc Rousillon We must now high tail it to Bordeaux. We have 36 kms of which the last 15 will be suburbs. It will be scary, there is no alternative but to grit my teeth, hold a steady course and pray for some ‘pistes’. Our routine for entering cities is for me to ride ahead, shouting out the road names while Damian locates them on the map and shouts directions back. It works, more or less, most of the time
It takes two hours to reach our B&B, a delightful, cool old Bordeaux house just off the Boulevard. I love it now we are in the centre, it is the arrival which puts the wind up me. Madame recommends a nearby restaurant, it does not look particularly smart but we have a wonderful meal, warm goat’s cheese salad, confit de canard, crème brulée all for £10 I suspect this will be one of our best dinners and the most amazing value. One could scarcely buy a Harvester meal for £10! Tomorrow is a rest day and we can treat ourselves to a half hour ‘lie-in’!
Day 12 Rest Day Bordeaux
Friday, 14 September The steamy phase
Another great day, Madame gives us a good breakfast and promises to do our washing. What a bonus but better than that, what a time saver! Using public transport is a great way of seeing new places and I am very happy to use the bus into Bordeaux. Since our last visit, in 2003, Bordeaux has completely reinvented its inner city public transport. There are trams, plenty of ‘piste cyclables’ and many roads available only to cyclists. It is good to note a cross section of people using bikes, apart from the usual students and young people there are young mothers with children in seats behind, and even men and women with brief cases. They move confidently almost oblivious of others. Bordeaux also has a new system whereby you can hire a bike at one point and return it to another. The bikes have a rather heavy ‘municpal’ air about them but that could be intentional. It is all very heartening to see but it will need a sea change in the British motorist’s attitude before I would feel as confident in England. I revist the Place in front of the Bourse which is now car-free and very elegant. The Miroir d’Eau, newly installed this year, is a 3450 square metre expanse of tiles with water spouts. At regular intervals, the spouts produce a jet of water approximately an inch high. They then subside and the area is engulfed in rising steam. It is one immense, very shallow paddling pool and children and adults are doing just that. It all seems very simple, with very little opportunity for the ‘Elf and Safety police to wave the rule book; it is its very size and simplicity which makes it so interesting. Perhaps the Miroir d’Eau will become as iconic as the Pyramid at the Louvre. The Miroir d’Eau in front of the Bourse
We walk ourselves ragged in Bordeaux, so ‘rest day’ is something of a misnomer but we’ve visited new places - Musée d’Aquitaine, and revisited old, the Quinconces and Place Gambetta, location of old family joke.
Monument to Les Girondins at the Quinconces
We have agreed to eat at Madame’s restaurant in Bordeaux and do a quick recce and are taken aback to note that Rue du Loup shares a corner with the coffin shop! I really do a double take here. In a former life it used to be a shoe shop and this can still be seen on the front under the black paint. The coffins are plain and look as if they are made of plywood, perhaps they are for clients who want to maintain their green credentials even in death we shall never know. The coffin shop on the corner of Rue du Loup and Rue St Georges
Supper at Le Loup is a gourmet extravaganza but we both agree we would have done at least as well at the restaurant of last night, saving travel time and some expense but Le Loup served a fine crème brulée! By the end of the meal, Madame has arrived and we discuss our leaving arrangements for tomorrow. We attempt a translation of the concept of our bottoms being on fire after 80 kms in the saddle, she nods knowingly and suggests that this could be misinterpreted; we all nod knowingly!
Day 13 Bordeaux ! Lucmau
Saturday, 15 September 83 kms / 51 mls
We must make an early start; exiting Bordeaux will, as usual, be a test of nerve. We’re away by 9.15 but must visit first a cycle shop to tighten the cone on Damian’s front wheel. OC Maps has printed, from Google, a detailed plan for exiting Bordeaux and it works well - we scarcely put a pedal wrong but it is two hours before we have left the last suburb and can call ourselves in the country. We’re back into vineyards but this will be for a short time before we enter the rather less exciting pine forests of Les Landes. Mid morning cake stop is at La Brède. We have chanced on this town where Alain Juppé, former Mayor of Bordeaux, government minister and all round big cheese is holding a public meeting. Half the Gironde seem to be gathered and we chose a gentle slope on which to settle ourselves with ring-side view of the disabled parking area. Then the floor show begins. It is unfortunate that a disabled driver has run his front wheel into the ditch. Suddenly a crowd of macho frenchmen are gathered around discussing the problem in loud tones - think ‘how many frenchmen does it take …. ‘ Eventually, one announces he has a Volvo and tow hook and, hey presto, the poor unfortunate is free. As we prepare to leave, OC Maps announces he needs map 7. This will require delving to the bottom of my cycling pannier to retrieve it from Map Storage. I am now the floor show as the contents of my pannier are exposed to public view, pyjamas, knickers, curling wand and all non-cycling clothes. I reprimand OC Maps and remind him that he must submit his map requisition, in triplicate, in advance, prior to packing panniers! We are now well on the way to achieving our goal; what seemed so impossible just over a week ago as we left Fougères, is now within sight. Les Landes is unremitting pine forests with long straight roads stretching to infinity. On the plus side, they’re also quite flat so we are making 30 kph, which ‘gobbles’ up the kilometres; we are motoring, as it were. We find our B&B at which we are eating supper en famille and with another guest. We spend a very happy evening.
Day 14 Lucmau ! Condom
Sunday, 16 September 85kms / 53 mls
Today was to have been moderately easy - under 50 miles. Due to various factors, it turned into something of a nightmare. We get away a little late; we feel very much like family guests particularly having enjoyed such a good French evening the night before.
Leaving La Palombière
Unusual church at Lucmau
We have 20 more miles of pine forests to get through before we reach some sunny uplands. We are bowling in the sun when I note Damian swerve rather wildly. He has a puncture, first one in 570 miles but, nevertheless, a time consuming pain. In fact, we lose an hour because, shame on us, and we shall have to keep this from all the Saturday cyclists in Bournemouth, we did not check the tyre properly for the offending flint so that when the new tube was blown up it promptly punctured again! Hmmm, a double puncture! The day, pleasant so far, has now become seriously hot. It will be very necessary to have a long lunch in the shade and to refill the water bottles. We must cover 20 miles after lunch so put on long sleeves and pray for no more punctures. On the map, Les Landes is one great big green area with very few villages. We both agree it is tedious and rather unfriendly. While it is obvious that new plantations of pines have been planted by someone, we presume they are then left to get on with growing untroubled by man. This is in contrast to the vineyards which are manicured regularly and are such a joy to ride through - it’s the Bill Bryson ‘hand of man’ thing. To make the miles pass more quickly we play “Je suis allé au marché et j’ai acheté un/une …..” we manage to get to ‘N’ before giving up!
We are glad to leave Les Landes and are now into the vineyards of Armagnac; the cycling is better, if hillier.
Fourcès -unique among bastides because it is built in the round
Day 15 Rest Day at Condom
Monday, 17 September
We wake up to rain! This is the first rain and quite welcome as the air is refreshed and the sun is already breaking through as we set out to visit Condom. For the English it is an unfortunately named town producing only loud guffaws; the Green Guide says Condom comes from the roman word condominium meaning shared ownership, this sounds altogether less racy. It is a rather depressing town and Monday so the bustle is missing. Of all the 100s of towns and villages we have visited in France, no selfrespecting Mairie would omit to deck the town bridges with flowers. Condom has singularly failed in this respect. We walk round the town. It has the obligatory former convent later used as a prison/hospital in the two world wars but is otherwise unremarkable.
We find Relais de la Ténarèze and Damian, literally, falls into the place. As I drop my bike to rescue him, it falls on Madame’s prize white gardenia, forcing her to come out in a flurry of indignation. She is only slightly mollified when I explain the situation - it is important to get her on side as we need her cooperation with bike storage.
We decide to visit the village of Larresingle to the west but just as we are togged up in cycling clothes the heavens open again. There is absolutely no point in getting clothes wet unnecessarily, indeed, it could be that we cannot avoid it tomorrow, so we high tail it back to our room to write the journal. This is the first rain in a fortnight so I really cannot complain. We hope it will improve tomorrow.
Day 16 Condom ! Castelsarrasin
Tuesday, 18September 85kms / 53 mls
A 21 century pilgrim on the Chemin de Compostela
We are delighted to be leaving Condom, the town and the hell-hole that is Relais de la Ténarèze. Even at my most charitable, I can find nothing to recommend this hotel so it has earned Worst Hotel of Trip. Happily, it is not raining and the forecast is promising. We have a fair distance to conquer - 50 miles. We find we have consistently underestimated our distances and, more seriously, we are going to be ‘mapless’ for about 25 kms at the end of the day. I cannot imagine how this has happened, we prided ourselves on our careful attention to detail. No matter how we look at it, we have failed and my favourite saying of ‘you’re never lost if you have a map’ sounds rather hollow. We are in the Gers département now. Not quite so well known but very beautiful, all sunflowers, vines and millet - they must have an awful lot of budgies in France! We are alternately creaming down long, gentle, sweeping hills and toiling to hill top villages. We had not expected such hills after we had left the Vendée. However, they are short, two kilometres at most, and do not qualify for LSA status. Two of the great pilgrimage routes to Compostela cross the Gers, we are using the route from Le Puy en Velay which is also the GR 65. We meet many pilgrims, easily identified by the stick, rucksack and, often, the cockleshell of St James. We even see one chap with his horse and cart loaded with tent. He tells us he started at Auriac and was going all the way to Santiago. We wish each other ‘bonne route’. We share a lunch table with a couple who are on their last day and will complete their personal pilgrimage, starting at this spot, next year. The whole concept has been revitalised in recent years but 21st century pilgrims carry only a day sack while their real luggage is carried on ahead.
Hotel Marceillac in Castelsarrasin is delightfully faded ‘fin de siècle’. However, we cannot get dinner in the hotel and must get out into the town. In common with many small to medium French towns, the streets become pretty quiet after 8.00 pm. The pub is a foreign country to the French, there is little opportunity to drink unless one is eating as well. The only two open restaurants are at opposite ends of the town so we choose the Vietnamese which is busy - always a good sign. I choose giant prawns in garlic which are sumptuous and the meal is immediately added to my ‘best meals’ list. After supper there is nowhere to go for a drink so we high tail it back to the hotel. Tomorrow will be a busy day, we have to get to Toulouse which the Green Guide advises is France’s 6th city. I fancy we shall need all our wits about us and more besides!
A waymarker for the Chemin de Compostelle and information for a gîte
Pilgrim’s Validation Stamp
Hill top village in the Gers
Day 17 Castelsarrasin ! Toulouse
Wednesday 19 September 70 kms / 43 mls
As we have a slightly easier day, we allow ourselves a 15 minute lie-in! It promises to be another great day, although fresh, the sun is up, the sky is azure blue with high wispy clouds - that’ll do for me! Hotel Marceillac is Portion Control Central, and breakfast is served, slowly, by Madame, a rather thin lipped, earnest woman. However we’re away by 9.30 am stopping only to buy our cakes - coffee éclair and tarte aux framboises. The countryside is less attractive now being almost flat but that’s good for covering the miles; we’re soon following the river Garonne. We realise again how lucky we have been with the weather - only one day of rain and that our rest day but the signs of autumn are all around now, fallen leaves, conkers, morning dew on the ground and the good french ladies who are now turning out in the morning in their cardigans - there is a smell of autumn. Abbey at Le Romieu
We enjoy lunch in a sunny courtyard beside the church in Aussone; I would like to sit longer on the bench soaking up the sun but Toulouse has to be negotiated and we don’t want to leave it so late that we get caught up in the rush hour. I just imagine all those alpha-male aero engineers wanting to get home to their cassoulet - I don’t want to be part of it! We pick up the ‘piste’ for a couple of kilometres and are just wondering how on earth to proceed when a couple on bikes come towards us. I ask how we might get into the centre. They are a mother and her daughter, a paediatric nurse. They give us some directions and want to know about our T-shirts, they then talk to each other and announce that they will lead us, along the piste through the suburbs.
Pigeonnier de la région
We can scarcely believe our incredible good fortune at finding such kindness. They lead, at some speed, for about four miles all on the ‘piste’, weaving through suburbs and eventually finishing up at the river. We feel so incredibly lucky, we would never have found our way, since the ‘pistes’ were not marked on the map. It was such a pleasure to talk to these delightful people and such a blessing we met. Jeanne and her daughter leave us at Pont St Pierre from where it is about half a kilometre to our hotel. From this point, we’re into the heart of the city and although busy, we’re on dedicated cycle lanes and do not feel too threatened. Cars, buses and bikes all seem to more or less flow like fishes in a pond- there is not the cut and thrust of English driving.
pleasure as much as for any audience which consists of us and another couple. Despite the music being mostly spanish/mexican when we would have dearly loved to hear some French songs, it is a great end to the evening and tomorrow is a rest day - hooray!
Entry to Toulouse Pont Neuf over the Garonne
The cabaret at The Twenty Canons
If it’s Toulouse it’s the Hotel Ibis - comfortable but totally anonymous. We could be anywhere. As usual, we’re starving! We find a great restaurant and choose fresh anchovy salad, a creature but distantly related to the desiccated little brown fish trapped in tins with which we are more familiar, followed by confit of duck. I have eaten so much duck I must be growing webbed feet! We are getting close to the end of our epic journey now and I have mixed feelings; I’m longing to get to the Med but I want the adventure to go on. I also love being able to eat for England - that will have to stop once we are home! During coffee the floor show begins and a trio of musicians come in, a double bass, guitar and saxophone. They seem to be playing for their own
Day 18 Rest Day in Toulouse
Thursday, 20 September
Floral display with ‘nod’ to the aviation industry
Hooray, rest day, double hooray breakfast is an excellent buffet! There is plenty of fresh fruit salad and mini pastries, I feel no shame and go back for seconds and thirds. Toulouse is known as the ‘pink city’ because many buildings are built of brick. It’s a beautiful, cosmopolitan city full of young people. Toulouse has been associated with aviation since 1918; the pilot/author, Saint Exupéry flew from Toulouse; the new Airbus 340 is now being built here. We visit first the basilica of St Sernin dating back to the 4th century and walk the route suggested in the Green Guide. By mid afternoon we have walked ourselves to a ravelling, seeing squares, Capitole, Esquirol, de la Dourade, more churches and hidden courtyards we feel we have earned ourselves a spell of people watching at a café on the Boulevard. I love doing this, I can write the journal/post cards but still feel I am not missing anything. Damian sets off to find out how we get to the Canal du Midi which we shall use to exit Toulouse.
Exhibition in the Capitoleum
Place du Capitole. NB the poster for the Rugby World cup
Basilica St Sernin
Detail on capital
Place Président Wilson
Unfortunately, supper tonight is a big disappointment; paella, it is all show and not much substance, this is our first meal which is not delicious - as the Green Guide might say ‘not worth the detour’. We visit last night’s restaurant for coffee but there is no live music and feel lucky to have caught it last night. Tomorrow we leave Toulouse on the canal towpath, I am really looking forward to this, we have been told that it will be very pretty. We have also learnt that it is easy to get to the Canal - go to the station and turn right. I think even I can manage that one without mishap. Sunset tonight is beautiful and forecast good.
Day 19 Toulouse ! Bram
Friday 21September 87 kms / 53 mls
I have been so looking forward to the day we ride along the canal. I love cycling by the water! Leaving Toulouse is indeed ‘a walk in the park’ which makes a refreshing change. Hotel Ibis is not far from the station and yes, we see the Canal and turn right - nothing could be easier - no roundabouts or cross roads to negotiate - it was indeed ‘a piece of cake’. At this stage the Canal towpath is not attractive, it is full of the unpleasant detritus associated with a big city but we’re soon into the suburbs and the path is excellent, broad and well maintained, we share it with joggers, roller bladers, young mothers with prams etc etc. All normal road signs are replicated for cyclists slightly smaller. Our first lock in the centre of Toulouse unfortunately not very picturesque!
We have entered/exited many cities but Toulouse has taken the prize for the easiest. It is a wonderful day the canal and locks are busy with boat traffic and we meet many cyclists, one even wants a close up of the T-shirt which, after three weeks of blazing sun, is becoming a very faded version of the original. The piste is metalled as far as the Seuil de Naurouze but becomes a much narrower, gravelled track ribbed with many tree roots afterwards. This slows our speed considerably and completely shreds our bottoms.
In addition and infuriatingly, a very strong head wind has sprung up. I heard M le Méteo mention the Mistral twice in the forecast this morning but did not catch it all - is this the prelude to a storm? We leave the Canal at Castelnaudry - it is too slow and we still have 16 kms before Bram. Now begins 16 kms of the very worst riding of the whole trip. It is past 5.00 pm, my ‘watershed’. By this hour I want to be soaking in a bath or at least at the hotel writing the journal. Because the road to Bram is flat and straight, cars and lorries are rushing past us; it’s Friday and they all wanted to be at home half an hour ago and now the headwind has increased, perhaps 50 kph and gusting. We’re in bottom (‘granny’) gear, barely making 5.5 mph and scarcely able to turn the pedals; we feel low and terribly vulnerable. We have not even the energy to play games. I can think of nothing except how on earth can I continue, but we have no choice! The countryside is not remotely attractive and the odd village we pass look down-at-heel and disagreeable. Added to this, cars are coming towards us have headlights on; it looks stormy and this is our holiday! I confidently expect Bram to be The Pits with a hotel to match.
Day 20 Bram ! Coursan
Saturday, 22 September 98 kms / 61 mls
The first thing we do is look out of the window. It doesn’t seem too bad. If it were to be as bad as yesterday we would have to re-examine our route. At yesterday’s progress, 50 miles would take 10 hours plus stops for food and other essentials. This is out of the question. There is a slight breeze and misty rain, the sort which makes you thoroughly wet, is falling. Within the hour, we have put on waterproof legs for the first time in 20 days. OC Maps insists that we follow a short cut down a side road . . . . . and we spend an hour trying to escape a maze of vines. It’s a waste of precious time on a long day! By midday we have reached Carcassonne. We will have to pedal hard if we are to reach Coursan but the terrible wind of yesterday has not materialised, for which we are grateful. We trade canal towpath for road: the trade off being a straight track and a better surface, but more traffic. Intermittently, we get back to the canal but the day is still overcast. We see another ‘first’ - first olive orchard.
This is definitely the lowest point of the trip but we both acknowledge that is not quite fair because it is the ONLY low point: even the double puncture did not merit ‘low’ status. We finally reach the hotel. Sixteen kilometres has taken us nearly two hours and we learn later that the winds were, in fact, 60-70 kph! However, the Hotel Clos St Loup is not at all bad. Hotel de la Ténarèze’s dubious accolade stands! Inside the hotel we realise that we are now within spitting distance of the Med. OC Maps puts in the requisition for Map 10 - The Last Map. All’s well with the world; the hotel fully redeems itself with superb salade de chèvre chaude and confit de canard.
Boat on the Canal du Midi
Toilettes open air style
Domaine Ile St Rose, our B&B, is a beautiful house and our hosts most welcoming. We are eating with them and their other guests and spend a happy evening. Finally, our host who comes from Brittany, gives us a fine performance on the bagpipes. Imagine the scene: we’re in the south west of France, sitting on a terrace by a floodlit pool listening to a frenchman, playing the bagpipes. Bagpipes go with haggis and cold January evenings in England.
Day 21 Coursan ! La Méditeranée La Méditerranée ! Béziers
Sunday 23 Sepember 25 kms / 15 mls 30 kms / 18 mls
Today’s the Day - the goal is in sight! It’s not a brilliant start but it’s not raining or windy. After a good breakfast with our fellow guests we leave Domaine l’Ile St Rose destination The Med. Jean-Yves plays the bagpipes. Domaine d’Ile St Rose with Monsieur Archie
As I fall asleep, I realise tomorrow is THE DAY.
The Med is only 12 kms distant as the crow flies but we have chosen to ‘hit’ it at Valras Plage - a seaside resort. We will then have a shortish ride into Béziers. On the way we pass through Fleury sur Aude and are bowled over by the powerful smell of fermenting grapes. Surprisingly, we have been in France throughout the ‘vendange’ but incredibly have not seen any pickers and yet most of the vines now are picked. Do the fairies come in the night? We meet a Sunday cyclist who tells us that the route we have planned is closed and suggests an alternative, joining us for much of the way. By the time he leaves us we have only a few kilometres to Valras Plage. I am first to catch sight of the sea at 11.30 am precisely but only because I happen to be in front. We rush onto the beach, shoes off and into the sea and then dragoon a chap, quietly minding his own business, into taking our photo. We have done it! Cherbourg to the Mediterranean excited - we are fizzing! Part of the pleasure of achieving our goal is celebrating the moment in style and for this we must get the lunch, the most important element of which is the champagne and flutes. As it’s Sunday and nearly midday we must hurry otherwise the shops may close especially the boulangerie.
Damian goes in search of champagne and flutes and I buy the rest, baguette, mini quiches, cheese, tomato, peaches. For cakes, a réligieuse for me and for Damian ‘les bras de Vénus’. I am sure Damian will like this it sounds so much more sensual than lardy cake or Chelsea bun! This is a FEAST!
Quite by chance, we find Valras Plage is hosting the National Jet Ski championships this weekend; today is the final. Valras is en fête and buzzing with the swaggering young bloods of the jet ski world and their hangers on - it is wall to wall testosterone.
Valras en fête
We’ve done it!
We toast each other and our achievement in champagne, not minding how many passers-by we tell of our great journey; most are kind enough to look astonished and/or impressed and we ask one to take our photo. We send texts and receive congratulations almost by return. We also ring our mothers who are just as pleased to share our excitement. We have done it! There were a few days in the first week when I had some worries and on the windy road to Bram only two days ago but by that time nothing was really going to stop me. If I had to walk the remainder, I would have done! We feel we have fulfilled our contract to cycle Manche to Med and we have the proof, should anyone need it before parting with sponsorship money. We have three days left. We called these our ‘slack’ days and they were built in just in case anything went wrong and we needed some extra time. We are now free agents and can go to Béziers whatever way we want.
Tempting as it is to lie on the beach for the rest of the day, and despite the fact that we have cycled 1395 kms, we must head inland for Béziers. OC Maps has guided us pretty nearly faultlessly the complete length of France and, in this little journal, I want to pay genuine tribute for a great achievement. We now pick our way over another bum-numbing road past former salt-pans and vineyards before getting back onto the Canal tow path for the final run into Béziers. That could be said to be the end but we have nearly three days left in this lovely part of France - Béziers, Narbonne and lunch in Perpignan with Fanny and Chris.
Day 22 Rest day in Béziers
Monday 24 September
We meet Linda and Michael for supper and spend another happy evening. They are astonished that we have done on a bike what they have taken two days to do in a car, namely arrive at Valras Plage!
A wonderful, dazzlingly bright day, it seems incredible to think we have had only one ‘wettish’ riding day in three weeks. What amazing good fortune. We must now consider how we get to Perpignan. We’re quite happy to cycle all the way but there is not much opportunity to be beside the sea. We decide to cycle to Narbonne tomorrow, spending the night there and take an early train to Perpignan on Wednesday.
With the plan of action sorted we set off on foot to explore Béziers. Unfortunately, the most notable aspect of this city is its badly-maintained and filthy streets. We may have much to learn from the French about cycling, but the dog owners of Béziers have a lot to learn from us about clearing up after their dogs. Their streets are disgusting - yuk! It’s a hot day and we find a restaurant in a little triangle near the cathedral. We have another sublime lunch, prawns, salmon, crème brulée with pichet of wine included - what value! The afternoon is a write-off! Before we slip into oblivion, we arrange to meet Linda and Michael on the theatre steps this evening.
Lunch in Béziers
View of river Orb from the cathedral
We don’t seem to achieve much in the afternoon, before settling down in a café for tea - not quite like English tea but good for watching les Biterois, as the folk of Béziers are known and writing the journal which, together with the route plan and marked maps has now metamorphosed into ‘intellectual property’; this sounds altogether grander. I must not lose it!
Day 23 Béziers! Narbonne
Tuesday, 25 September 35 kms / 21 mls
It’s a cool(ish) start. We have a short ride to Narbonne, expecting to be there before midday. I am really looking forward to cycling again, neither my legs or bottom feel in any need of respite. To exit Béziers we shall go back along the Canal du Midi, which in the early morning is pleasantly uncluttered, although the path is now beaten earth and plane tree roots. Our departure from Béziers seems much quicker than arrival, that is just a facet of finding ones way in a new place. Very quickly it becomes another radiantly beautiful day. The staircase of 9 locks on the Canal du Midi into Béziers
Grape picking by hand
and by machine
Narbonne seems an instantly pleasing town, not as big as Béziers, but the pavements are in better condition and much cleaner. Hotel La Résidence is beautiful, newly refurbished in black and white with fabulous black Murano glass chandeliers - très chic! As we approach Narbonne I am delighted to see some human grape pickers followed within minutes by a massive machine doing the same. We try several bunches of the grapes which are deliciously sweet and juicy perhaps their taste is heightened by the illicit nature of their provenance! I would have been truly disappointed to have returned to England without seeing any sign of workers toiling in the vineyard.
Before seeing Narbonne, we buy our tickets for Perpignan. We are meeting Fanny and Chris at midday and need some time before to get something, though at this stage we are not exactly sure what, to package up our bikes for carriage by Flybe. The rail tickets really do seem to mark the end of our adventure. We reflect again on the wonderful weather, the many, many people we have spoken to both English and French who have shown astonishment, interest and kindness in equal measure and in that order. We have stayed in a wonderful variety of establishments - beautiful, interesting - shame about Hotel de la Ténarèze! Yes, it will be good not to have to pack up panniers and move on each day but all in all a GREAT ADVENTURE!
Day 24 Narbonne ! Perpignan - train Perpignan ! Southampton - plane Southampton ! Bournemouth - train
Wednesday 26 September
We’re on the train out of Narbonne by 9.45 am. Just as well, since the next train appeared to be cancelled due to industrial action! The journey reminds of us our Cévennes trip when we took the train from Perpignan to Avignon. Getting ourselves in and out of French trains always provides a bit of an adrenalin surge - can all be accomplished before the doors start closing? We’re becoming quite proficient now. It’s good to be back in Perpignan and we must try to find the materials for packaging bikes. We settle on some more ‘bungees’, parcel tape, nylon string and I snaffle some plastic packing from the Champion supermarket. I do feel a bit like a ‘bag lady’! We meet Fanny and Chris at midday and have another happy lunch, sitting in sunny, palm-treed Place Catalogne. The next meal will be in chilly Bournemouth which is, apparently, 6 degrees with northerly winds - nice!
We plan to leave at 3.00 pm, latest and must not take too much wine on board as we have 6 kms out to the airport before sorting out the bikes, estimated time: three quarters of an hour. In the event, we leave the restaurant just after 2.00 pm. The ride to the airport is, once again, into the teeth of a stiff wind, though nothing like the road to Bram. We set about preparing the bikes: turning the handlebars and pedals, removing the front wheel, deflating the tyres, finally wrapping as much of the package in a giant plastic bag which I manage to purloin from AirFrance. This whole process is achieved in the main hall; without a doubt, we are the floorshow for the Flybe check-in queue. The bikes are ready and although we expect to pay £17 each bike, we are told they can go for free - even better! As we send them off on the conveyor belt, we can only pray they are treated gently as we need them to get home from Bournemouth station. Arrival at Perpignan airport
Place Catalogne, Perpignan Lunch with Fanny and Chris
Fanny and Chris want to know what we have planned for next time and suggest Santiago de Compostela. We’re not sure; it is not so much the ‘cycling’ as the ‘in France’ that is so enjoyable and allows our long, long, almost 20 year, love affair with France to continue, besides what’s Spanish for ‘puncture’?
We have only just enough time to spare before boarding. In no time at all we have flown up the Bay of Biscay and are landing in Southampton. Now, the acid test: how have our bikes fared? In fact, they are fine and we can reassemble them in the arrivals’ hall, then to the railway for the train to Bournemouth. By 7.30 pm we’re cycling down William Road. I had rather hoped someone might be coming out of their house so that we could make a triumphant return but this is not to be! What a trip! Not only have we raised £3,350 for Life and Julia’s House. but we have accomplished a substantial personal achievement. In years to come, I like to think that our grandchildren will be a little bit amazed that their grandparents cycled France, End to End!
Celebration champagne at Valras Plage
FACT FILE 1435 kms / 892 miles top speed 37.3 mph / 60 kph (Damian!) 17 days cycling, 6 rest days 15 Départements, 7 Régions 1 puncture (a double!)
Buckleys’ Cardinal Rules for Cycle Touring in France
Don’t overestimate ability for gradients and distances: there always seems to be more of both on the ground than is marked on the map. Book accommodation ahead for Sundays and Mondays and don’t schedule Mondays for rest days - “France is closed”. Don’t choose ‘one-horse’ towns in which to spend the night; the only hotel is sub-standard, the only restaurant is closed for refurbishment and you only find out when you get there! Stay out of the sun at noon (GMT) and remember that after lunch, hills are steeper, panniers heavier and kilometres longer.
Cycle lights & lock
EU medical assistance card (E111)
Spreading & Fruit knifes
Travel insurance policy
Picnic salt and pepper
Maps & Guides
Puncture repair outfit
Spare inner tube
First aid kit
This can be summed up in the following ditty: “Get half way before midday, Get most of it done by half past one, Then, stay off the rue till half past two.”
DAY BY DAY SUMMARY From ! To
Distance Cycled (kms) (mls)
Bournemouth ! Poole ! Cherbourg ! Créances Créances ! Céaux
Céaux ! Fougères
Fougères ! Pouancé
Pouancé ! Cholet
Cholet ! Vouvant
Vouvant ! La Rochelle
Rest Day at La Rochelle
La Rochelle ! Saintes
Saintes ! Blaye
Blaye ! Bordeaux
Rest Day at Bordeaux
Bordeaux ! Lucmau
Lucmau ! Condom
Rest Day at Condom
Condom ! Castelsarrasin
Castelsarrasin ! Toulouse
Rest Day at Toulouse
Toulouse ! Bram
Bram ! Coursan Coursan ! THE MED at ValrasPlage
TOTAL MANCHE - MED Valras-Plage ! Béziers
Rest Day at Béziers
Béziers ! Narbonne Narbonne ! Perpignan ! Southampton ! Bournemouth