CURRENT LOCATION: Camping de la Minière, Forges -les-Eaux
Tick, tick, tick… Basically that’s what I’ve spent today doing. Ticking off all the things that you might, in an ideal world, want a disused railway line, converted into a walking-cycling greenway – voie verte here in France – to have. If the département of Seine-Maritime set out to build what I consider to be an unbeatable bit of cycle-touring infrastructure, they succeeded.
Perhaps a list is in order:
- A quality surface that never changes over 40+ kilometres of the route
- Signage that in clear, regular and informative (if, admittedly, a little redundant as most of this section of the Avenue Verte is a straight line heading south-east)
- Heritage infrastructure kept in place and utilised for the newly purposed route with several cafés and even a mini bike service station (watch the video below)
- Nearby amenities and attractions clearly indicated on the route
- At least one location beside the route (just before Mesnières-en-Bray) that explicitly authorises wild camping (and even provides a toilet for those choosing to do so!!)
- Well maintained! How many of these kind of routes are built, heralded as the next great thing, then neglected in the years after the politicians have had their photos taken at the opening ceremony?
Ok. For the more adventurous – and I’m sometimes one of them – this route isn’t going to give you the satisfaction of climbing a 3,000m alpine peak of the rush of dateline tearing down the other side, but in terms of shear enjoyment on a (very) hot and (very) sunny day in July, it’s perfect.
Aside from the route itself, Basse Normandie was beautiful – see the video and the pictures – but the highlight must be the chateau at Mesnières-en-Bray. Picture perfect and built at the top of a slight incline for maximum superiority over the peasants who no doubt toiled in the fields to keep the local Count (they probably didn’t spell it that way…) in the splendour it’s unlikely he deserved. It’s now a private school although credit where credit’s due, it was badly damaged by a fire in 2004 and, reading the Wikipedia page, it sounds as though the headmaster was instrumental in getting it back to looking its best. Who cares about exam results?!
A nice thing happened at the gate of the chateau. As I approached, I noticed a couple chatting in English. They were on bikes and the man – his name was Ian – had a rather distinctive and familiar yellow Y on his shirt; the yellow Y of the Tour de Yorkshire. I pointed this out and we got chatting. His partner introduced herself as Majorie but, before we got much further, she looked at me and said ‘Are you Andrew Sykes?’. I denied all knowledge of the chap… Just joking. It’s the first time I’ve ever been recognised whilst out touring. It turns out that Majorie had followed me on Instagram. They are staying on the campsite in nearby Neufchâtel-en-Bray in their camper van, taking rides out on their bikes as their fancy pleases. It was lovely to meet them. Perhaps I should run a competition that if anyone spots me, they get a free book or something. Mmm… Perhaps not.
The town of Forges-Les-Eaux where I’m camping is yet another one of those pristine French towns that the local authorities have invested in and cherish, even if it is just another nondescript town. It’s lovely. I wish we did the same with nondescript places back home in Britain. I wish we developed great infrastructure like the route I’ve just cycled upon. I wish, I wish… No ticks yet.
Tomorrow I suspect it will be a return to more standard cycling stuff as I edge further in the direction of Paris. A similar distance will need to to cycled to the campsite at Dangu before a much longer ride to Paris on Tuesday. I was a little shocked when, at the end of today’s cycle, I noticed the sign saying 258km to Paris. I assume this is the route that goes via Beauvais and Chantilly. I’ll be taking the shorter route via Gisors…
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