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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

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

Avenue Verte is getting Popular

Cyclists on the the Avenue Verte near Dieppe

Cyclists on the the Avenue Verte near Dieppe

It’s great to see increasing numbers of British cyclists using the Avenue Verte between London and Paris. Ten years ago it was a rare occurrence to see a Brit cycling along the original 43 km (27 miles) section of the Avenue Verte between Dieppe and Forges-les-Eaux. However,  in 2012  a cycle route called the Avenue Verte,  which included the original section,  was signposted between the British and French capital cities. Perhaps not surprisingly,  this appears to have caused the surge in numbers.

Last week four of us from Cycle Seahaven,  Joe Hamilton,  David Tyler,  Derek Thorne and me cycled from Dieppe to Paris and back on a route loosely based on the Avenue Verte. We rode on the original section and I was amazed to see more British than French cyclists riding along it. Admittedly,  there was a charity ride on our return trip but there were still plenty of other British cyclists using it,  often in small groups like us. The Avenue Verte is certainly getting popular!

We chose to short-circuit the Avenue Verte about halfway to Paris to reduce the distance,  partly because we were travelling with panniers so inclines were hard work but also because I knew that some parts of the signposted route need improving.

Our trip started with an evening crossing on the ferry from Newhaven to Dieppe where we stayed overnight at the Hotel de la Plage. Next morning,  after a good breakfast,  we set off to cycle about 80 kms (50 miles) to Gournay-en-Bray almost entirely along the signposted Avenue Verte route.

In Gournay we stayed at the Hotel le Cygne (super evening meal and breakfast) and next morning set off to cycle a similar distance to Cergy Ham,  just south of but avoiding Cergy Pontoise. After a few miles of cycling we were surprised to come across a newly constructed section of the Avenue Verte. This is a shared use path along a disused railway line between Gournay and Beauvais and,  just like the original section to Forges-les-Eaux,  is several metres wide and has a tarmac surface which is as smooth as a billiard table! It’s good to see the Avenue Verte being improved;  I was quite critical about some parts of it in my Review of the Avenue Verte last year.

Cyclists near the Eiffel Tower

Cyclists near the Eiffel Tower

At Cergy Ham we stayed at the Hotel Au Week-End for two nights which meant that we could leave our panniers there whilst we spent the next day cycling to and from Paris,  a round trip of about 70 miles. We entered Paris via Versailles,  through Parc St Cloud and the Bois de Boulogne and made a beeline for the Eiffel Tower. (This is an entirely different route to the Avenue Verte which finishes at Notre Dame). We only spent a couple of hours in the centre of Paris but long enough to have an excellent lunch at the Café du Trocadero.

Our return route to Dieppe over the following two days was modified so as to include a large part of the new section of the Avenue Verte between Beauvais and Gournay. It’s superb;  must use it next year in a trip to Paris.

Now that the ferry has been saved,  more cycling trips to Paris are possible!

Cyclisme heureux

Clive Aberdour

Ferry Saved

Since posting an item on the blog a week ago ‘Last Chance to Channel Hop to Dieppe’ it’s been announced this week that the Newhaven – Dieppe crossing will continue after the end of this year. That’s good news for Newhaven and the people who work on the ferry; also it maintains the vital sea link in the Avenue Verte cycle route between London and Paris.

The Syndicat Mixte de Promotion de l’Activité Transmanche (SMPAT) will run the service from 1 January 2016. (The SMPAT is comprised of the Departement de Seine-Maritime, the city authorities in Dieppe and Dieppe Chamber of Commerce). It says that it will continue to subsidise the route, but in the long-term is seeking to reduce the cost to the French taxpayer by attracting more investment from external partners.

The two vessels serving the route will be rebranded, but DFDS will continue to handle bookings and marketing until the end of March 2016, to ensure a smooth transition.

So, although there may not be the same urgency to hop across the Channel, an Autumn cycling break based in Dieppe still sounds like a good idea.

Happy sailing,

Clive

Last Chance to Channel Hop to Dieppe

We’re lucky to have a ferry Port on our doorstep, so to speak, as France is only a four hour ferry trip away. Dieppe is arguably the most attractive of all the French channel ports and the surrounding countryside is ideal for cycling. The country roads tend to be quieter than on this side of the Channel, road surfaces are better (potholes are a rarity) and cycle paths are in far better condition.

Unfortunately, there’s uncertainty over whether the ferry crossing will continue after this year. However, DFDS have two ferries on this route at present; there was only one until May. Presumably DFDS are trying to stimulate more business to make it worth continuing next year.

Therefore, it’s a good time to take your bike across the channel. There are three sailings to Dieppe each day and the price is usually only £35 return with your bike. Those over 60 years of age get a 20% discount if they buy their ferry ticket at the ferry terminal in Newhaven. This offer is not available online.

Last September, six of us from Cycle Seahaven hoped across the channel to Dieppe and had a very pleasant weekend of cycling in the Seine-Maritime department, see Channel Hopping to Dieppe. Recently, I stayed in Dieppe on a Phoenix-CTC event and visited some different places such as Mers-les-Bains (Art-Nouveau buildings along the seafront), St Valery-en-Caux (an attractive place with a fishing port and marina) and cycled along a new cycle path, Veloroute du Lin. It was opened earlier this year and starts at Pourville-sur-Mer, a few kilometres west of Dieppe, and continues for about 25 kms to Saint-Pierre-le-Viger which is about 10 kms from St Valery-en-Caux. Eventually, the cycle path will be extended to Fecamp.

There are certainly plenty of interesting places to visit in the Seine-Maritime area of France, not to mention cycling along the Avenue Verte! It’s well worth a visit.

There’s a good choice of accommodation in Dieppe; I usually stay in the Hotel de la Plage which is cycle friendly and has a garage for bikes. Also, there’s no shortage of bars and restaurants in the town; many are by the marina. It’s a great place to be based for a cycling break.

Hopefully the ferry crossing will continue but, in case it doesn’t, it may be worth hopping across the Channel with your bike within the next two or three months.

Happy Channel Hopping,

Clive

Cycle Touring in France

Some Cycle Seahaven cyclists on the Avenue Verte near Dieppe last September

Some Cycle Seahaven cyclists on the Avenue Verte near Dieppe last September

Fancy some cycle touring in France?

If you’re a member of the CTC then you have the opportunity to do this with Phoenix-CTC, as explained in my previous post on this subject ‘Cycle Touring in France with Phoenix-CTC’.

There will be three cycle events in France this year, starting with a channel hopper to Dieppe in early May. You can find more details of these events at www.phoenix-ctc.org.uk. If you’d like to enter any of them then you’ll need to be quick as the closing date for entries is Thursday, 15th January.

If you have any queries then don’t hesitate to contact me at clive.aberdour@phoenix-ctc.org.uk

Bon Cyclisme,

Clive

Cycle Touring in France with Phoenix-CTC

If you’re a member of the CTC then you may be interested in a new CTC Member Group called Phoenix-CTC as it runs cycle touring events not only in Great Britain but also France, in fact mostly in France. Although Cycle Seahaven is affiliated to the CTC it’s insurance policy precludes the club from organizing events abroad. That limitation does not apply to CTC Member Groups.

So, if you fancy some cycle touring in France then take a look at www.phoenix-ctc.org.uk. I’m on the committee of Phoenix-CTC as well as being a ride leader for Cycle Seahaven so if you have any queries then please don’t hesitate to contact me at enquiries@phoenix-ctc.org.uk. Alternatively, have a chat with me on a cycle ride which starts at the Martello Tower at 8.30am on Sundays.

If you’re not a member of the CTC and would like to join, then please Click Here.

Bon cyclisme,

Clive