This eagerly awaited cycling trip was first advertised by Andrew some three months ago and it immediately attracted my attention on at least three counts: cycling in France, cycling along a former railway route (nice and flat with lots of interesting features) and simply making good use of this late summer Bank Holiday. It was then a matter of each of us booking our own ferry journey online.
On arrival in Dieppe, we were a fair distance out of town although no bother on the bikes. At five in the morning Continental Time, it was still quite dark. Whilst we wanted food, it was far too early and although it took a while to deliberate our route, we still had bags of time. After eventually finding our route and cycling out of town to the next village of Arques-la-Bataille, we did manage to buy some croissants just as one of the shops was opening up.
At last it was daylight and before long we cycled briefly on specially provided tracks. After passing lakes, we then entered the track bed of the former railway, closed in 1988. This seemed like a friend for most of the way with many points of interest including small towns and villages on route, various interesting former railway buildings — none actually derelict – cottages by road crossings and station buildings used as private houses. Typically, gradients were slight also.
I might add that this was shaping up to be a very hot day indeed but we seemed to just about tolerate it because the weather was so fine and sunny. The next “station stop” was Bures-en-Bray (below). After a leisurely stop on the platform, Mesnières-en-Bray was the next place. From there, we walked to a nearby pond covered by a canopy and read a free standing plaque there (above). After leaving our bikes nearby, we walked to the streets of a flower village. According to the internet “you will cross three small public gardens and discover a rural heritage of exception: dovecote, well, bread oven, barn… house typical ‘brayonne cob and timbered.”
At Neufchâtel-en-Bray it was at last lunchtime, so Barry, Andrew and Nigel, went into the small town near-by to buy provisions for a picnic on the station platform. Anyway, without rambling on too much, I could just mention St-Saire, Beaubec-la-Rosière, Serqueux and Forges-les-Eakeithux as further passing places. It was also becoming noticeable that after Neufchâtel we were starting to climb up an increasing gradient, despite being on a former railway route. At one of the higher points of the day’s ride, our route left the line and after crossing a road, went onto a specially prepared cycle route.
Soon after dropping down onto another piece of railway formation, we found ourselves suddenly in our destination town of Forges les Eaux. Having dropped down onto the bottom end of the long main street some time after four o’ clock, we had two tasks to manage. Firstly we had to find somewhere in town for our dinner, then check in at our campsite.
After some overnight rain, the following morning was much cooler and some-what cloudy to start with. For the cyclists, Andrew had worked out a circular route, while Valerie, Tim, Keith and Nigel decided to give their bums a rest and do some walking instead. The cyclists continued to Hodeng-Hodenger, a small village with an impressive church with spire, where Andrew and Pauline discovered a telephone box virtually concealed in a hedge.
By this time, the sun had come out and it stayed sunny though not so hot. After yet more climbing, we reached the small town of Beauvoir-en-Lyons. The roads were very quiet, but were in excellent condition. Yet more hill climbing took us to Beauvoir-en-Lyons which is right on top of a hill, affording magnificent views across the valleys. It is notable for an 18th century church, St. Nicolas, originally built in the 13th century. Eventually it was time to set off, and we made an enjoyable descent, arriving in Dampierre-en-Bray, where we rejoined l’Avenue Verte once more, this time on minor roads again in excellent condition and almost traffic free apart from us.
On Monday, it was back to Dieppe to catch the ferry back home. We returned to our café at St. Vaast for our lunch, arriving in Dieppe with an hour or two to spare. A nice café by the front in beautiful sunshine provided a splendid finale to a most successful cycling trip.