CURRENT LOCATION: Camping le Val d’Oust, Rohan
I was up early this morning (when am I not up early in a tent? I’ve said this many times before but for me it’s not a case of ‘waking up’ when I’m camping it’s a case of when to stop trying to make an effort to get back to sleep…) and was packed by 8am. My official campsite advisor Tim Sanders (who until only a few minutes ago was my ‘unofficial’ campsite advisor but as nobody else has offered their services, I’ve upgraded him to the honorary post; it’ll give him something to chat to Ed Pratt about the next time they meet at their local Park Run in Somerset. Anyway, back to the point…) …My official campsite advisor Tim Sanders messaged at 8:05 asking “Have you met Geoff?”
In all seriousness, Tim has sent through some excellent information about campsites in France in recent weeks – he was here himself immediately prior to me setting off – but I was struggling to remember a Geoff. “Geoff Husband who runs Breton Bikes and the campsite at Gouarec”. Tim had also mentioned a good value breakfast offered by the site and on my wanderings to the washblock I had seen a poster advertising said breakfast for €4 at 9am. Should I hang around?
I made the good choice and did. It was quite a gathering and you can see us all in action guzzling the cycling-friendly eat-all-you-want breakfast laid on by the campsite at the start of today’s video. But Geoff? I couldn’t spot any likely characters until a man with a white beard started unloading more supplies from the back of his car. “Are you Geoff?” I asked. He was…
To cut what is already an excessively long story shorter, I ended up recording a very interesting chat with Geoff for the podcast. It was a bit of serendipity and involved me flagging him down as he was about to whizz past me on his 1967 Solex. See the picture below. I now know why the Canal Nantes-Brest has no traffic. Listen out for the podcast when it’s published in B a week or so and you can find out too.
Taking of the Nantes-Brest Canal…I spent most of today staring at it. I don’t mind this at all. I find canals thoroughly fascinating things. Compared to disused railway lines, they are far more interesting as they still exist. Disused railways lines would be more interesting if the rails were still there and the trains were still running. But if they were, you probably wouldn’t be able to cycle along them. Then again, I only saw one boat today on the canal; it was at the foot of a long series of locks and the poor owners must surely have been wondering whether a Mediterranean cruise would have been far less effort. Geoff did mention in our chat that this hill of locks, along with a perennial issue of water supply that has existed since the waterway was opened in the 19th century – it’s not just a 21st century climate change thing – was one of the reasons for the decline and eventual closure of the route as a viable means of sending stuff from Nantes to Brest. (Which, incidentally is another question about the canal that has been on my mind; why didn’t they just send stuff around the coast? I’ll find out and answer it in the book…)
Other highlights today; the Abbaye de Bon Repos – seen from the drone in the video – which reminded me of Cholmley House in Whitby, the Guerlédan Dam which was not quite the Hoover-like dam I was expecting but still pretty good and the sheer joy of carefree cycling in the shade of the trees beside a very pretty French waterway. It will be interesting to see how the canals of Garonne and Midi compare when I cycle along them next week.
On the subject of time, I’m a little concerned about my progress. I’m making slow progress south and am not yet out of Brittany. The windy canal spends far more time going east than it does south. That will hopefully change over the next two days as my map indicates a straight line to the south-east in the direction of Nantes. Two more days of around 80-90km each? That should be OK. The plan today was to get as far as Josselin but when I passed a campsite immediately beside the towpath about 20km short of my planned destination with lots of cyclists already settling in for the evening, the temptation was too great and I pulled myself off there and then. After having been released by the Gendarmerie, I pitched the tent for the evening and settled in myself for an evening of baguette, cheese and wine. My cycling nirvana.
One last thing that I must note: Geoff suggested I deviate away from Nantes and take the short ferry near Couëron. Anyone done that?
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