Cycling to Paris

2014-06-07 Notre DameThree of us,  all members of Cycle Seahaven,  recently cycled to Paris along the Avenue Verte. We were part of a group of nine cyclists from the Phoenix Cycling Club whose aim was to follow this signposted route between the British and French capital cities. The signposting had been completed in 2012,  just in time for the London Olympics.

A few of us started in London,  at the London Eye and were joined two days later by the others at Newhaven. The distance was 99 miles.

In France we took three days to cycle from Dieppe to Paris,  a distance of 148 miles which included overnight stops in Dieppe,  Gournay-en-Bray and Cergy. The finishing point in Paris was Notre Dame. We could have done it in two days but decided to take a more leisurely pace,  ie our usual touring pace with lengthy café stops.

I would like to have said that the entire Avenue Verte from the London Eye to Notre Dame had proved to be a good cycle route but that would have been untrue. Certainly,  the first 90 miles in France,  between Dieppe and Chaussy were great. The route was well signposted,  there were no busy roads and the scenery was superb.

In sharp contrast the first 40 miles in England,  between the London Eye and the start of Worth Way,  just outside Crawley,  left much to be desired. Sometimes we were on busy roads,  at other times on dirt tracks and much of the route was poorly signposted. I won’t go into detail here but suffice to say that I’ll never do that part of the Avenue Verte again!

The section from Worth Way to Newhaven was much better with the Cuckoo Trail being the best part of the route that day. However,  it fell a long way short of the first 90 miles in France.

After a rest day in Paris we cycled back to Dieppe on a largely different route with overnight stops at Chantilly and Gournay-en-Bray.

Each cyclist had a copy of the Official Guide to the Avenue Verte which I reviewed in March. It proved to be a great help,  especially when we found ourselves off-route which was on numerous occasions when leaving London and also on the entry to Paris.

It had been a largely enjoyable ride and although some parts of the Avenue Verte couldn’t be described as cycling friendly,  we had had some great times,  both on and off the bikes. And, of course,  a ‘chill out’ day in Paris was a bonus.

I’ll be writing a review of the Avenue Verte which will be posted to the Cycle Seahaven Blog soon. It should make for interesting reading for anyone contemplating cycling to Paris.

Avenue Verte Official Guide: Review

Avenue Verte Book Review_0001Since my previous update about the Avenue Verte I have studied the official guide in more detail and would advise anyone thinking of cycling to Paris along this route to take this excellent guide with them. 

It measures 17 x 12 cms and has 144 pages so is small enough to fit into a pocket yet is full of useful information. This includes directions,  route profiles,  accommodation addresses and detailed maps (1:10,000,  1:25,000 and 1:100,000) covering the entire route.

It’s spiral bound and folds back on itself so ought to be easy to use when on the ride. However,  there is a front cover which could prove to be a nuisance as it protrudes by about 3½ cms when the guide is folded back. It’s an attractive cover which opens up to show an overview map indicating the page numbers of the detailed maps so may be of use when familiarising oneself with the guide. It’s likely to get damaged on a ride when attempting to stuff the guide into a pocket so it may be better to dispense with the cover

The first few pages are the Introduction with the nitty-gritty starting on page 15 and continuing through to page 140. These pages are divided into twelve chapters,  each one being “based around a comfortable day’s ride” according to the guide. That’s not to say that it takes twelve days to cycle the entire route as it divides into two just south of Gournay. One branch,  known as the Western option,  goes through Gisors and Cergy. The other branch,  which is longer,  is known as the Eastern option and goes through Beauvais and Senlis. Therefore,  if you cycle from London to Paris using the shorter Western option it would take 8 days if you kept to the daily distances in the guide. They range from 23 to 42 miles so rather less than touring cyclists would achieve.

That’s not a problem as it doesn’t really matter where a chapter starts and finishes;  simply follow the directions until reaching your overnight stop which might be in the middle of a chapter. 

At the start of each chapter is ‘Route Info’ which gives information about the terrain and route surface followed by a diagram showing the ‘Profile’ of the route,  all useful stuff. The next section entitled ‘What to See &  Do’ makes for some interesting reading. This is followed by ‘Directions’ and ‘Accommodation’,  interspersed with clear and detailed maps which look really helpful. Also, there are some pictures of interesting places to be found en-route which may be worth visiting if there’s time.

All in all,  this looks to be an excellent guide to the Avenue Verte with just the right level of detail for route information. The fact that it is a compact size and spiral bound is a bonus although I’ll probably ditch the cover when I next cycle to Paris.

The guide is available from SUSTRANS for £12 plus £2.50 postage.

The Avenue Verte: An Update

The Avenue Verte, a route between London and Paris for cyclists and walkers was signposted along it’s entire length just over 12 months ago. Ideally, you should now be able to jump on your bike in London or Seaford/Newhaven and just follow the signs to Paris but the signposting seems patchy so you could well get lost. However, help is now available in the form of the official guide to the Avenue Verte which has recently been published by Sustrans. It’s a good little book and has a wealth of useful information including maps, directions and accommodation addresses so would be an essential purchase if you’re going to cycle to Paris, especially if you’re doing it for the first time.

Avenue Verte signpost on National Cycle Route 2

Avenue Verte signpost on National Cycle Route 2

The route is still being developed and, at present, only about 40% is traffic-free although this proportion should increase over the next few years, albeit gradually. Some of the route is on quiet country roads which is fine but, some is on of bridle paths which are not suitable for road bikes, especially if loaded with panniers. I haven’t yet read the book cover to cover but is seems that alternatives to these bridle paths aren’t always suggested which is a shame as cyclists may either have to walk or spend time trying to devise detours.

The start/end points in the capital cities are the London Eye and Notre Dame Cathedral. The route from London to Newhaven makes use of National Cycle Routes 4, 20, 21 and 2 and includes the Wandle Trail, Worth Way, Forest Way and the Cuckoo Trail. The total distance is 99 miles. Then it’s a ferry across the English Channel from Newhaven to Dieppe and a further 148 or 188 miles to Paris depending on which way you go.

The route from Dieppe to Paris is in three sections. The first, from Dieppe to Gournay is 51 miles and includes the superb 27 mile traffic-free stretch between Arques-la-Bataille and Forges-les-Eaux. The second starts just south of Gournay where the Avenue Verte splits into two. There is a 74 mile option which takes a westerly approach to Paris or a 114 mile option which goes eastwards for quite a long way before turning south westerly towards Paris. The two routes join at St Germain on the outskirts of Paris. The third section, from St Germain to Notre Dame Cathedral is 23 miles.

Having the choice of two routes could be an advantage in that you can cycle to Paris on one route and return using the alternative. This could appeal to those of us living in the Seahaven area who just want to cycle from Dieppe to Paris and back.

You can buy the Avenue Verte guide book from Sustrans. The link is: http://shop.sustrans.org.uk/products/6353-avenue-verte–london-to-paris-by-bike

Bonne chance!

Clive Aberdour

How they do it in France

Having just had 5 days of great cycling inBrittany, 85% of it on signed and very traffic-free routes I have a couple of pics that say a great deal about how cycling is treated by the authorities on opposite sides of the water.

The left  pic shows us on a canal towpath which has been very well set up for cyclists and they are actually sending a man on a tractor to sweep and re-grade the path. Anyone who has picked their way through the potholes and broken glass on a UK cycle path will be duly amazed. The right pic shows us on a section of the route using a B road – the sign indicates that the road is to be shared between cyclists and cars. Well there’s a novel idea!

If you are interested in the route you can find it here http://www.brittany-ferries.co.uk/guides/touring-driving/cycling-in-france/st-malo-cycle-route