Review of the Avenue Verte

AV Seaford SignI recently cycled from London to Paris with a few friends by following the signposted Avenue Verte route. The signposting was completed in 2012, just before the start of the London Olympics. Some of it was a joy to cycle along but other parts were dreadful and sometimes dangerous. Parts of the route were poorly signposted but, fortunately, we took the excellent Official Guide to the Avenue Verte with us; without it we would have been well and truly lost on occasions.

The best section is the first 88 miles in France, ie from Dieppe to Bray-et-Lû. The worst section is from the start of the Avenue Verte at the London Eye to the beginning of Worth Way (just east of Crawley), about 45 miles. A lot of this section is not cycle friendly. For example, London Eye to Clapham Common is on extremely busy roads. Later on, some parts are on dirt/gravel tracks and one part is on a severely rutted farm track. Had we been on mountain bikes then these parts would not have been a problem but one is unlikely to cycle from London to Paris on a mountain bike; we were on road ‘touring’ bikes.

That said, just after Coulsdon, is a very pleasant section which goes across Farthing Down and continues for several miles. Unfortunately, a few miles later, the Avenue Verte goes through the built-up areas of Redhill, Horley and Crawley. Bizarrely, it goes through Gatwick Airport. Why cycle through an airport? Did some planner of the route think cyclists would be so fed up with the Avenue Verte by this stage that they’d prefer to hop on a plane to Paris!

I feel a more cycle friendly route out of London would be to start at Tower Bridge, go along the comparatively quiet NCN Route 4 eastwards and then head south along a route based on NCN Route 21. Turn off Route 21 as it approaches the M25, go through Godstone and cycle along quiet country roads east of the built-up areas of Redhill, Horley and Crawley. Also, Gatwick Airport would be avoided!

The section from the start of Worth Way to Newhaven is better but it’s not great. Worth Way is a shared-use path following an old railway line from Crawley to East Grinstead and then there’s another such path called Forest Way to Groombridge. These tracks provide about 18 miles of traffic free cycling, apart from a mile through East Grinstead. However, the surface isn’t ideal for road bikes as it comprises chippings and cinder so requires extra care on road bikes with fairly narrow tyres. Also, these paths are often quite narrow and their sides overgrown with vegetation so it often feels like cycling through a green tunnel. Unfortunately, you can’t see the countryside so cycling along these traffic-free paths is rather tedious.

The Cuckoo Trail, another path based on an old railway line starting at Heathfield, is a better stretch as, unlike the other two, this one has a tarmac surface. It’s a gradual descent for almost 11 miles to Polegate so makes for easy cycling. The next bit isn’t so good as the Avenue Verte goes through Oggs Wood on a rough surface which is quite muddy in places.

In sharp contrast, the first 88 miles of Avenue Verte in France between Dieppe and Bray-et-Lû is superbAV Sign (at Germer-de-Fly we took the shorter Western Option in preference to the longer Eastern Option). There are no busy roads, no dirt tracks and no dangerous junctions. The route is very well signposted; the small bright yellow Avenue Verte signs between Forges-les-Eaux and Gisors are easily seen and appear at every junction. There’s no chance of getting lost on this part of the route; if only the entire Avenue Verte could be signposted in this way.

This section of the Avenue Verte includes two paths along old railway lines but, unlike the British paths such as Worth Way and Forest Way, the French ones are much wider, have a tarmac surface and are properly maintained. Also, the vegetation at the edges of the paths is kept under control and you can see and enjoy the surrounding countryside as you cycle along.

That said, the route after Bray-et-Lû leaves much to be desired. It crosses Le Vexin, a regional nature park. The roads are quiet and it’s easy to devise a cycle friendly route through Le Vexin. Yet, on occasions, the Avenue Verte makes use of rough tracks. Fortunately the official guide recommends alternatives on roads in most cases.

After Le Vexin comes the large new town of Cergy-Pontoise. This is poorly signposted and easy to get lost. Eventually, the Avenue Verte approaches Paris by following the meandering Seine and then a canal with a rough path. The final few miles are very confusing and the chances are you’ll finish up cycling along some very busy roads.

The choice of route into Paris is strange as there more cycling friendly ways into Paris by going through forests just south of Poissy, through Versailles, Parc de Saint Cloud and the Bois de Bolougne, finishing at the Eiffel Tower.

I met many other cyclists on the signposted route who were similarly disappointed with some sections of it. It’s a shame that more thought wasn’t given into the signposting of the Avenue Verte but hopefully improvements will be made.

 

 

Cycling nutrition on a budget

Cycling nutrition on a budget – 5 cheaper ways to fuel your ride

exclusively for Cycle Seahaven by Dean Ronnie

Often overlooked by everyday cyclists, nutrition is an important part of cycling. Cycling is hard work; it demands all of your physical energy and can leave you feeling quite drained. In order to avoid cycling accidents even endurance athletes will find themselves needing to refuel every 60 or so minutes.

The benefit is that you will burn between 250-450 calories as you cycle whether you are cycling recreationally or racing competitively. If you are burning these calories, you must eat in order to restore them otherwise your body will weaken and you might end up straining your muscles, and we don’t want that!

One problem with cycling nutrition, and indeed sports nutrition in general, can be its cost. Isotonic gels, nitrates, drinks to replace electrolytes – each and every one of these can be incredibly costly, and to the uninitiated can be one of the reasons cycling is known as an expensive hobby. Nutrition however doesn’t need to expensive, there are many cheaper ways to fuel your ride and here we look at 5 of them.

  • Raisins

A natural alternative to the many types of expensive energy jelly beans available on the market, raisins are small, easy to eat and are packed with the energy you need to compete. To test their abilities, researchers from the University of Davis in California had men run for 80 minutes and then complete a 5K time trial whilst being fuelled by water, water and carbohydrate-based energy beans, and water and raisins. Proving you don’t need to spend out for energy, the raisins performed just as well as the jelly beans.

  • Dioralyte

Don’t disregard Dioralyte as a just a cure for diarrhoea, it’s much more than that. Even on the shortest of rides, hydration is crucial, and while there all kinds of sports drinks and powder mixes available, all you really need is Dioralyte.

While these sachets of powder are designed to replace salts and nutrients lost through illness, as a form of oral electrolyte replacement, they will in fact also replace the glucose and minerals that you sweat away whilst cycling. Of excellent benefit to those on a budget, the sachets are available for a fraction of the price of sports nutrition powders.

  • Sweet potato chips

Carbohydrates are crucial fuel for cycling, rather than looking to carbohydrate-packed but very expensive energy bars, why not look to the simple sweet potato? Great for extra endurance fuel, sweet potatoes are inexpensive, easy to eat and very simple to prepare.  Before you set off, simply slice one large sweet potato with the skin still on into small disks, lightly salt them and then slow bake them for about 35 minutes at 250 degrees.

Not only are sweet potato chips tasty, they are also easy on the stomach, make little mess and provide you with a healthy dose of carbs, sodium and calories.

  • Cola

While often labelled as bad for your health and linked with tooth decay and obesity amongst other things, cola can in fact be beneficial to your ride. If you can’t help but buy premade sports energy drinks, cola is the answer instead. High in sugar, salts, carbohydrates and caffeine, the drink offers everything drinks labelled as “sports nutrition” do, but just at a lower price. However, fizzy drinks aren’t recommended for consumption whilst exercising, to get round this experts suggest leaving bottle of the drink to go flat in the fridge with the top off.

  • Coconut water

If cola doesn’t fit in with your healthy-lifestyle, why not consider coconut water instead? An inexpensive alternative to sports nutrition drinks, coconut water is packed with potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. While what it doesn’t have is artificial flavours, sweeteners and colours. Proving it’s effectiveness, in 2012, The Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition found coconut water to be as effective as a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink in promoting rehydration and aiding exercise.

 

Dean Ronnie is a self-confessed fitness freak and definitely likes to eat clean and train mean. When he’s not exercising, he’s writing about exercise – whether it be running, cycling or shifting tin in the gym.

Quick tip #1

Wrap your mobile phone in cling-film or pop it in sealable plastic bag to keep it dry on longer rides. Smartphones are still usable with both these methods.

Got a tip you want to share? Let us know from our CONTACT page.

Quick tip #2 Quick tip #3

Egrets Way Planning Approved

Cycle SeahavenCycle Seahaven are encouraged to hear that South Downs National Park has approved the Planning Application for the Egrets Way.

Our Chairman, Jamie Lynch, said, “We are happy that the Park Authority is looking to promote cycling and give it the priority that is clearly needed in considering all transport options in the Park area.  A safe cycling route north from the coast for families, commuters and leisure cyclists is long overdue in order to avoid the perils of the A26 and C7 as well as linking up with the national cycling network.”

We understand that there are still decisions to be made on the detail of the route but, with funding in place, we need to grasp this unique opportunity to make a safe and healthy cycle route for future generations to enjoy.

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Parker Pen Site Development

A Planning proposal has been added for 145 homes on the old Parker Pen Site. There are further plans on the drawing board for substantially more houses on the adjoining Eastside. Cycle Seahaven are always keen to see if local development correctly considers the needs of people who choose to make journeys by bicycle, so we have looked at the plans and have come to some initial conclusions

The online Access Statement mentions cycle parking spaces: “1 secure cycle space per 2 bed house and 1 & 2 bed flats are proposed. 2 secure spaces per 3 & 4 bed house are also proposed. Additional spaces for visitors will be provided at the entrances to the flats in the form of ‘Sheffield’ type hoops.”. Very encouraging so far.

The Transport Assessment states that the development will aim “To give priority to safe movement and access by pedestrians, cyclists and public transport” and “2.4.7  Policy  T7 –  Provision  for  Cyclists  states  that  ‘the  District  Council  will  seek, where  appropriate,  cycle  routes,  cycle  priority  measures  and  secure  cycle parking to be provided as a part of new development.”  However, the same document goes on to state “5.3.6  Cycle access will be available on carriageway on the onsite streets as is the case for  the  surrounding  streets. No segregated cycleways or shared cycle footways are proposed.”.

Sharing the road with cars is a given, so were are unsure how the above lack of specific cycleways equates to how the Concept Master Plan will achieve: “additional pedestrian and cycle links through the site…”, or how this gives priority for cycles.

The planners are likely to point to the Travel Demand (Section 6 of the Transport Assessment), where cycling has a pretty low predicted 96 journeys per week. But, if there were dedicated cycle lanes between this development the local schools, shops, surgeries, businesses and churches then cycle take-up would be much higher. Also consider the newly proposed University Technical College and the expansion of Newhaven Growth Quarter on Denton Island. Factor in the new Egrets Way walking/cycle route to Lewes and the Ouse Estuary Trail to Seaford, there are lots of places that can be connected by bike, all on level ground and all very easily accessible by bike, scooter or disability chair.

You can find the planning application by clicking HERE and searching for  LW/14/0188

We look forward to your comments before requesting further clarification from the planners. Please use the comments box below or our Contacts page if you wish to remain anonymous.

 

Sunday Social – 13th July 2014

Our ride started from Seaford’s Martello Tower at 6pm. A stiff on-shore breeze felt very good on this muggy evening with glimpses of sunshine through lots of cloud cover. Five riders headed East along the seafront road before turning down Cliff Gardens to follow National Cycle Route 2. We followed the alternative NCN2 route down through the fields between the A259 and the sea until we reached Exceat bridge. After crossing the bridge we went left onto Litlington Road, taking the quiet lanes to the Sussex Ox. The outward journey was 6.5 miles on mostly flat ground in 50 minutes. After a long refreshment break we did a spot of bike maintenance (gear and saddle adjustment) before heading back to Seaford. With Joe Callard (aged 10) leading the pack we got home with a slightly quicker journey time of 40 minutes. The conditions stayed dry and warm, and the cooling wind was much gentler away from the coast. A lovely way to end the weekend.

CSH_Sunday13thJuly

From left to right – Joe, Steven, Elizabeth and Dave on NCN(2).

Egrets Way Planning Meeting – 10th July 2014

Cycle Seahaven will be represented at the planning meeting for Egrets Way.

On Thursday 10th July the South Downs National Park Authority will consider the ‘Egrets Way’ planning application for a shared route (walking, cycling, disabled) between Lewes and Newhaven.

The full agenda can be read using THIS LINK. The Egrets Way is agenda item 17.

Andy Lock will be present at the meeting to support this proposal, representing Cycle Seahaven and other local cycle groups. The key points in support of this scheme are:

With regard to Seahaven and links to the wider cycle network

  • Strongly  supported by local cycle clubs: Cycle Seahaven, Cycle East Sussex, Bricycles, Cycle Lewes, Friston MTB;
  • Egrets Way will be a popular recreational route as well as a utility route;
  • ‘Island’ nature of Seaford & Newhaven – surrounded by hills making it difficult for families and less abled
    • Ouse Valley is the only safe & flat way out,
    • C7 too narrow;
  • Links onto to regional route 90 which goes:
    • West – to the football stadium (via the new cycle track), the universities and Brighton,
    • East – to Glynde and Berwick railway stations, Drusillas Zoo, The Cuckoo Trail and Eastbourne;
  • Proposed links to Peacehaven, Telscombe and the Big Park Project:
    • 22,000 people in Telscombe and Peacehaven,
    • New cycle racks at Southease Rail Station for commuters are reliant on Egrets Way;
  • Links to the new cycle route on Seaford Seafront via Ouse Estuary trail:
    • 23,000 people in Seaford,
    • Seafront route links directly to Museum and RSPB site via 2 rail stations;
  • Links to the growing cycle network in Newhaven (see our A259 analysis):
    • 12,000 people in Newhaven,
    • International sea port.
  • Links to County Town of Lewes
    • 16,000 people in Lewes,
    • Location for major public sector employers (Police, Councils).

Wider context for other communities:

  • Connects our County Town of Lewes to our International Seaport of Newhaven
  • Joins communities along the Lower Ouse to local churches, schools and businesses
    • Monks House
    • Abergavenny Arms
    • YHA & Cafe
    • Spring Barn Farm
    • Garden Centre
  • Three rail stations along route
  • links up cycle routes NCN90, SDW, NCN2 and Avenue Verte via the villages of the Lower Ouse

If there are any other issues that should be raised then please leave a comment below or contact us from our CONTACT PAGE. We only have three minutes to get across how good this proposal is for local cyclists, so try to be concise with any comments.

 

Thanks,

Andy