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Cycle Touring in the Loire Valley

Cycle touring in France is always a pleasant experience and, as we live on the south coast of England, it makes sense to pop across the Channel now and again to indulge in our pleasurable pursuit on the right hand side of the road!

Three months ago four of us from Cycle Seahaven channel hopped to Dieppe for three days cycling in the Seine-Maritime department. We’ve now followed this up with a trip to one of the best regions in France for cycling, the Loire Valley. It’s reasonably flat, there are lots of signposted cycle routes, chateaux to admire, plenty of cafes, not to mention the fine wines of that region.

However, to get there by bike you have to cycle through Brittany or Normandy although for those who are used to cycle touring it all adds to the pleasure of cycling in France.

So, with that in mind, four of us from Cycle Seahaven joined eight other cyclists from Phoenix-CTC at Portsmouth ferry port recently to catch the night ferry to St Malo where our week-long cycle tour began.

We cycled through Brittany to Angers in the Loire Valley which included an overnight stop at Vitré in Brittany en route. Then, we had two full days of cycling in the Loire staying overnight at Chinon and Tours before heading back to the Channel through Normandy. This included hotel stops at Le Mans, Bagnoles de l’Orne and Ouistreham from where we caught the ferry back to Portsmouth.

It was a great seven days of cycling, 420 miles, not to mention the highly convivial evenings in the local restaurants. Our only disappointment was that it was over too soon. Perhaps next time we’ll spend longer in the Loire Valley!

Whilst we were on this trip four other Cycle Seahaven cyclists were also in France touring in Haute Normandie. Dave Sutton has added details and photos on the Cycle Seahaven Facebook page.

Time to start planning a return visit to France, I think!

Bon cyclisme,

Clive

Heather cycles across Iowa

It was good to see Heather back on our touring rides. She’s recently been in America to cycle across the state of Iowa with 20,000 other cyclists.

Heather was taking part in RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), which is an annual non-competitive cycle ride organized by the ‘Des Moines Register’ (the daily newspaper for Des Moines, the capital of Iowa). The ride started in Orange City on the Missouri at the western border of Iowa and finished, six days later, at Lansing on the Mississippi at the eastern edge of the state.

The total distance cycled was 423 miles with 11,323 feet of climbing but Heather reckons that the greatest challenge came from the heat. She set off each day by 6.00am at the latest to arrive at the campsite by midday, thereby avoiding the worst of the heat. Yes, Heather was camping but she didn’t have to carry a tent with her on the bike!

She almost didn’t start the event. Her bike was damaged on the plane going to America, bent rear derailleur, but she was able to get it repaired in time.

Well done Heather. Nice Ragbrai cycling jersey!

Happy cycling,

Clive

More Refreshment Stops

The Refreshment Stops map has recently been updated with a couple more café stops in Sussex and seven in Seine-Maritime. I’ve decided to start adding some in France as I know that some Cycle Seahaven cyclists hop across the Channel to Dieppe for a bit of cycling in the Seine-Maritime départment and, of course, some continue to Paris.

This map may be of use to anyone who is planning a ride and looking for somewhere to stop for a rest and some nourishment. All the stops on this map, mostly cafes, I’ve found to be cyclist friendly. Some are better than others but I’m not going to grade them, suffice to say that they’re of an acceptable standard. However, I will start adding a bit more detail to the descriptions which may prove useful, especially if there’s something unique about the place.

For example the café we visited today on our Sunday ride is a gem of a place. It’s the Castle Cottage Tearoom by the castle in Pevensey. As you enter the café you feel you’re going back in time to the 1930/40s; the background music reinforces that feeling. The service is very good as well and there’s a lovely garden to sit in; well worth a visit.

The following link will take you to the map: Refreshment Stops

There are now 37 refreshment stops on the map. More will be added whenever we find a café, tea garden or bar that we like and is cyclist friendly. None are shown in Seaford as they are too close to cycle to on a touring ride.

I hope you find it useful.

Happy café wheeling,

Clive

Dieppe Channel Hopper

Four of us from Cycle Seahaven hopped across the Channel with three other cyclists last Friday to take part in a cycling trip organised by Phoenix-CTC, a member group of Cycling UK. We stayed at the Hotel de la Plage, a hotel I’ve used many times on cycling trips. There’s always a warm welcome, the staff are friendly and helpful, good rooms, excellent buffet breakfast and there’s a garage for the bikes. Also, it’s in a good location, being on the boulevard along the seafront and close to the town centre; the marina is nearby where there are cafés and restaurants aplenty.

We stayed at this superb hotel for three nights which gave us three full days of cycling through the countryside of Seine-Maritime. It’s a great place for cycling as the country roads are very quiet and in excellent condition; potholes are a rarity! Also, the French drivers are very considerate towards cyclists and allow plenty of room when passing. The only time a car came close to me turned out to be British. I have to say that much as I enjoy cycling through the countryside of Sussex, cycling in Seine-Maritime is bliss!

Cycle Seahaven members will be aware of the Avenue Verte, the London to Paris cycle route which includes the Cuckoo Trail and, of course, comes through Seaford and Newhaven and, includes the ferry crossing to Dieppe. Lesser known, I suspect, is the Veloroute du Lin which starts just outside Dieppe and follows a disused railway line for about 15 miles to St-Pierre-le-Viger, just a few miles short of St-Valery-en-Caux. It’s well worth cycling along. We cycled along it on our way to St-Valery. Fantastic!

Most of the surface is virtually billiard table smooth so the bikes just roll effortlessly along it; the surrounding fields were full of pale blue linseed wafting in the wind and the hedgerows and banks were full of wild flowers. Great cycling! The Veloroute du Lin will eventually be extended to Fécamp making it a 50 mile shared use cycle path.

Of course, no trip to Dieppe would be complete without a short spin along the Avenue Verte so we rode along it from Neufchatel-en-Bray back to Dieppe, about 23 miles. There’s a very gradual descent for most of the way so it made for easy cycling.

All in all this was a great three days of cycling not to mention the highly convivial evenings in the local restaurants.

If you like touring through the countryside then I can recommend channel hopping to Dieppe.

Bon voyage,

Clive

Tourers clock-up the Miles

Over the past week there have been five touring rides and anyone cycling in all of them would have clocked-up 250 miles. It provided a good opportunity for cyclists to get some decent mileage in their legs, especially for those going on long distance cycle tours soon.

It started with a ride to Heathfield on Sunday which always proves mildly challenging as there’s a fair bit of climbing involved to get there. However, as usual, the return trip via Lions Green, Muddles Green and Chalvington was very pleasant as it’s mostly downhill or flat and goes along some very picturesque country lanes. That was 42 miles completed.

The following two days (Monday and Tuesday) were birthday rides for Joe and John. Each ride was 70 miles so no prizes for guessing how many years they were celebrating! The rides involved cycling a few laps of a route based on a ‘figure of eight’ circuit starting at Arlington Reservoir and passing through Ripe, Golden Cross, Chiddingly, Laughton, Chalvington, Arlington and Upper Dicker. There were many refreshment stops at some of our favourite cafes such as the Ripe Village Stores, the Village Shop Café at Upper Dicker, Chiddingly Village Café at Muddles Green and the Arlington Tea Garden.

Cyclists at the entrance to Lydd Airport

Wednesday was a rest day but on Thursday six of us loaded our bikes into the backs of our cars and drove to Rye Harbour for a 48 mile tour of the Romney Marsh. This area is a cycling paradise as the terrain is virtually flat and the country lanes are extremely quiet. Lunch was at Biggles Restaurant in Lydd Airport and afternoon tea at Miss Mollett’s High Class Tea Room in Appledore. It was certainly high class: bone china crockery and pots of leaf tea; no tea bags here and, yes, we were provided with tea strainers; remember those?

Friday was another rest day but on Saturday morning, some of us cycled to Molly’s Café on the promenade at Rottingdean for morning coffee; no bone china here but the Americano was superb. This was a round trip of 20 miles which raised the total distance for the week to 250 miles.

It was a great week of cycling and all of us now feel a bit fitter and ready for those long distance cycle tours.

Happy Easter,

Clive

Another Superb Autumn Touring Ride

This morning (Tuesday) was superb for cycling: warm, dry and virtually no wind. Our touring ride was shorter than usual at only 20 miles but it included some gravel tracks where our speed is less than when cycling on tarmac roads.

Seven of us started at our usual place, ie the car park in Friston Forest, and cycled towards Wilmington which, of course, meant cycling up Chapel Hill. It’s a super hill as it provides a reasonably challenging climb and you feel you’ve had a good workout by the time you reach the summit. We always take a breather at the top, admire the view and regroup.

We continued down the other side, through Wilmington, across the A27 and headed towards Robin Post Lane. Shortly after joining this lane we turned right to follow NCN Route 2 through Oggs Wood which eventually leads to the Cuckoo Trail near Polegate. In the past this route through the wood has been quite difficult to cycle along with a road bike as it has usually been muddy with one part being quagmire. There is now a small bridge over the area that used to be the quagmire with a gulley underneath; presumably this allows water to flow through. Also gravel has been added to the path so it’s much easier to cycle along, especially with treaded tyres.

On reaching the Cuckoo Trail we headed north towards Hailsham. The surface of this shared use path is very good between Polegate to Hailsham so, this morning we were able to glide along without being troubled by ruts and potholes, whilst admiring the Autumn colours of the trees and hedgerows.

We have a new short cut through Hailsham so it wasn’t long before we were back on Robin Post Lane and cycling through Abbot’s Wood; the colours of the trees were stunning. The gravel track is in good condition apart from a few potholes at the Hailsham end so it makes for a very pleasant cycle ride if you have the appropriate tyres.

Our refreshment stop today was at Arlington Tea Garden, one of our favourite refreshment stops. Whilst we sat in the garden enjoying our elevenses in the Autumn sunshine we realised that this could be our last ride this year in such brilliant weather. A cold front was due later today with the possibility of unsettled weather next week.

We’ve enjoyed some superb cycling this Autumn but it looks as if Winter is just round the corner!

Happy cycling,

Clive

Easy Cycling on Romney Marsh

If ever you want somewhere flat to cycle with plenty of quiet county roads then try Romney Marsh. Three of us did precisely that last Thursday. We put the bikes in the back of our cars and drove to Rye Harbour where there’s a large car park and, it’s free! It took just over an hour to get there.

Joe had plotted a route of a tad under 50 miles for our Romney Marsh Tour; it proved to be the easiest half century I’ve ever done on a bicycle!

We cycled into Rye (there’s a cycle path for most of the way between the harbour and town) and then along a fairly straight and flat road to Appledore for a refreshment stop at Miss Mollett’s High Class Tea Room. It was excellent and has been added to our Refreshment List.

Then, we cycled on some very quiet and narrow roads to New Romney where we crossed over the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch narrow gauge railway line and on to Dungeness; nice view of the power station! There was a gentle breeze which wasn’t a problem but it did cross my mind that on a windy day it could prove quite challenging. Being flat, Romney Marsh is rather exposed with little in the way of shelter; it’s similar on the Pevensey Levels.

A few miles later we entered Lydd Airport for a spot of lunch in Biggles Restaurant and watched a biplane practising landings and take offs. There were plans on the wall for a future expansion of the airport with a longer runway and more terminals. Perhaps we won’t need that third runway at Heathrow after all!

Then it was back to Rye Harbour and one last refreshment stop at the William The Conqueror pub (super little pub) before driving back to Seaford.

Certainly, Romney Marsh is a good place for cycling if you don’t like hills although not on a windy day!

Happy Cycling,

Clive

A Superb Autumn Cycle Ride

Cyclists joining Robin Post Lane near Arlington

Cyclists joining Robin Post Lane near Arlington

Today (Tuesday) was a superb day for cycling.

It was a typical early autumn day. The morning started a bit chilly but soon warmed up and there was very little wind. The trees had started to lose their leaves but most were still green; the autumn colours are still two or three weeks away.

Our ride was different to our usual touring rides in that we departed from tarmac and used a gravel road for a change. This was Robin Post Lane between Thornwell Rd near Arlington and Arlington Road West near Hailsham. It’s only about 1.5 miles long but it’s very pleasant as it goes through Abbot’s Wood and the gravel road is quite good to cycle along if you have the appropriate tyres. Everyone had treaded tyres on their wheels, mostly 32 mm wide.

After Robin Post Lane we cycled into Hailsham to join the Cuckoo Trail to Horam where we stopped for elevenses at Wesson’s Café. After that it was back to Exceat via Muddles Green and Arlington, a round trip of 32 miles.

Some of our future rides on Tuesdays will include gravel roads and the like so, as long as you have treaded tyres of about 32 mm wide, you should be fine. Our longer touring rides, ie those on Thursdays and Sundays will not include gravel roads so should be OK for 25 mm slick tyres such as Continental Gatorskins.

We will repeat this particular ride in two or three weeks when the autumn colours have arrived. It should be fantastic.

Happy cycling,

Clive

Ride to Littlehampton

Cyclists outside the 'tea rooms' where we had lunch. A good choice.

Cyclists outside the ‘tea rooms’ where we had lunch. A good choice.

Last Thursday, 26 May, four of us took part in the fifth annual ride to Littlehampton and back, a total distance of 70 miles. Originally, it was never planned to be an annual event but somehow it’s worked out that way. It’s one of our longer rides (most touring rides are between 25 and 50 miles) and probably one of our most interesting as we cycle through a variety of seascapes, much of it on promenades and the like. Therefore, our usual touring pace of 12.5 mph is slightly lower as we ‘share with care’ along these paths.

Most of the route is virtually flat although the part going through Newhaven and Peacehaven is a bit hilly in places but nothing too arduous. The superb ‘shared use’ path between Newhaven and Peacehaven alongside the A259 is ideal for cycling along. Getting this path constructed has to be one of Cycle Seahaven’s greatest campaigning successes in my opinion!

At Saltdean we dive down (not literally but it’s a short steep descent) onto the undercliff path and from here the rest of the route is flat apart from a ‘lump’ at Brighton Marina.

It’s all very pleasant cycling along this concrete path with the sea on one side and chalk cliffs on the other. (This is great fun when it’s high tide and the sea’s a bit rough; dodging the splashes! Today it’s low tide and a calm sea but I wouldn’t want to cycle along there in a storm)!

Then it’s through the hustle and bustle of Brighton and Hove; shame to see that the big wheel has gone but the I360 looks to be nearing completion. Soon we’re cycling along Basin Road South; industrialised but it all adds to the variety of scenery. We pass Carat’s Café Bar. It was tempting to stop at this superb cafe but we decide to press on. Soon, we’re walking across the lock gates at Shoreham Port. There’re no big ships in port today but it’s interesting, nevertheless.

We cycle through Shoreham and across the Adur Ferry Bridge which joins the town centre with Shoreham Beach. It’s a splendid looking bridge with glass sides but, unfortunately, some of the glass panels have been smashed. Vandalism presumably.

Soon we’re cycling along the promenade at Lancing, a lake on one side and the sea on the other. Two light aeroplanes fly over; I’m advised that one is a Chipmunk and the other is a P28. In next to no time, it seems, we’re in Worthing where we stop for elevenses at the Coast Café des Artistes on the seafront. I think we’ve stopped at this café on all our Littlehampton rides.

We continue along the promenade at Worthing but eventually have to come off it and cycle along some roads through Goring and Angmering following the South Coast Cycleway signs.

Shortly after passing through Rustington we’re back on a promenade which we continue along to the end in Littlehampton. Usually, we continue across a bridge to Climping but on this occasion we spotted a place (tea rooms) at the end of the promenade where we stopped for lunch. It turned out to be a good choice.

So, after a good lunch and a bit of a rest we retuned along the same route to Seaford. As usual on our rides to Littlehampton the weather had been superb and the cycling had been quite easy going although 70 miles is still a decent distance to cycle in a day.

I’m aware that a few people had to withdraw from this event at the last minute because of other commitments so my intention is to break with tradition and repeat this event during the summer, possibly on a Saturday if there is sufficient interest. Please let me know if you’re interested.