I hope that you all had a good Christmas and New Year and I am sure that you are looking forward now to lighter nights and longer days and hopefully some better weather for cycling.
I was reading a copy of volume one of Cycle Chat recently, dated January 1933 (well actually it was the souvenir edition printed by Harry Rigby for our 90th Anniversary) and it was very interesting. The Editorial from 1933 was included in this edition and as I read it I thought that it still had the same relevance today..
It states that "Briefly, the magazine should be the means of cementing a really fine spirit between members and also between different sections. The opportunity is here for all to understand the point of view and the activities of the other fellow." It goes on to say that "many of you will know of a charming secluded village, or an old world farm house, or an inn, or comparatively unknown lanes which are known to many of you, why not share them with your fellow readers of Cycle Chat".
It finishes by saying "Remember that actually Cycle Chat should be your magazine, supported by you, and made by you, a vital part of the activities of your DA (Member Group!)".
I can't believe that it is over twenty years since the 90th Anniversary, time flies. So much has changed since 1987, I am sure that you will agree.
The big talking point recently has been the new Policy Handbook issued by CTC National Office. The handbook is pretty comprehensive and runs to 26 pages. In essence, the DA and Sections have had to decide whether to become a "Member Group" or an "Informal Activity".
A Member Group has to have an elected Chairman, Treasurer and Secretary and is rather autonomous running its own affairs with a bank account. On the other hand, an Informal Activity will not require elected officials, have no bank account or arrange events in the name of the CTC.
The DA has resolved to be a Member Group and has chosen to be called Leicestershire and Rutland" CTC. The Charnwood and Loughborough Sections are also now Member Groups. Charnwood Section now becomes CTC Charnwood (NWL) and Loughborough Section is now Loughborough CTC.
A reminder that the Shepshed Twinning Association is trying to gather up some cyclists to ride to Domont near Paris in September. If members are interested in joining the trip, then please let me know. Nothing yet has been firmed up but a contingent of about 20 French cyclists came to Shepshed last June and it would be nice to reciprocate. A formal
invitation has been made to us which is also shown on our website.
The social/prizegiving event is coming up soon on 29th March. It will again take the form of a skittles evening at the Wheatsheaf, Thurcaston. Please contact me for further details although a flyer was inserted in the last Cycle Chat.
It will be interesting to see the improvements to Watermead Park now that Connect2 has won the £50 million pounds that was up for grabs. I always think that Watermead Park is under rated as a tourist attraction. Places like Bradgate Park seem to be teeming with people on a sunny day whereas Watermead Park seems like an undiscovered gem. Let's hope the planned improvements to the paths and cycle ways will tempt more visitors.
The Loughborough Section Mince Pie Run seemed as popular as ever and hundreds of cyclists from around the East Midlands descended on Belton Village Hall for refreshments and a Chat with friends old and new. The event has been going so many years the volunteers don't need to be told what to do. The proceeds of the raffle this time were donated to the Rainbows Children's Hospice. A magnificent total of £170 was raised.
The carol service at Barrow upon Soar was well attended as usual. It celebrated the 110th anniversary of the Leicestershire and Rutland DA and, coincidentally, the same anniversary of the Nottinghamshire DA. Hence, it was appropriate that we had three readers from Nottingham. Refreshments were enjoyed before and after the service in the church hall and we owe thanks to Jean Lakin and her team for that.
Members of the committee are involved in keeping an eye on cycling developments in the City and county. Liaison meetings are held with the city council and Leicestershire County Council. It seems that the bulk of the available finance is being spent currently on improving and upgrading the cycleways in Loughborough. The County Council welcomes ideas for new cycleways and I've suggested a few. Conversely, there are some instances of poor design which, in my view, are putting cyclists at risk. I would be happy to pass on suggestions or complaints onto the relevant bodies.
It's good to see that the Birthday Rides have survived and will be held in Moreton in the Marsh in August. The future of the event is becoming more and more uncertain although there are tentative plans in the pipeline. The East Midlands Region has been investigating venues but, unfortunately, nothing has turned up yet.
I have often wondered who these people are, so I decided to find out, whilst on my travels.
They were observed working at our Annual Slide Show at Leicester and also at the Carol Service.
Surprisingly these people are not asked to work but they do so in a
variety of ways. Chairs and tables are suddenly put out, ladies arrive with an assortment of cakes etc, whilst others roll up their sleeves and start to work preparing the food and somebody offers their services to serve the food and take the money. The rooms are then put back to the condition in which we found them.
The Loughborough CTC - Mince Pie Run also comes into this category, a large army of volunteers were needed, I even saw one person hoovering the carpet in the refreshment are and all the rooms used were quickly put back to their original state.
One tireless worker is the reliable Mike Gould, not only helping, but has previously organised the raffle. His record is over twenty five years loyal and dedicated service to this event and his club.
Whilst mentioning loyalty, Gill Lord deserves recognition for nine years organising the South Leicestershire and City New Years Lunch at Sibbertoft.
My thanks go to you all on behalf of our members and committee for your kindness for what you have done for our County and Section events.
During October whilst the weather was still reasonable, we had some interesting rides ie to see the flowers at the Seckington Church Harvest Festival with Paul, Alex and Mary and a shortened High Cross ride with Alan Witty, when the weather was very blustery so we went to Bosworth Water Park and watched the sailboarders capsize whilst we drank our coffee, then continued to The Hatters at Warton for lunch where we met Alex, Mary and Pauline and two of the of the General riders.
At the schools half term holiday, we set off on another of Mary's camping jaunts to a site near Alcester. There was six of us altogether, Alex, Mary, Alan, Pearl and I in campervans and Soo with her tent. On Tuesday, Soo led us the short distance into Alcester via the side roads as the main A46 was very busy. Alcester is a quaint little town with Roman origins. We admired the black and white buildings and the architecture, then after indulging in coffee and cakes, we set off towards Stratford. At Kinwarton we stopped to look at an ancient Dovecote, also a very old wooden church. Soo wanted us to ride through the ford at Coughton but this looked more like a river so we decided against it! We carried on to Wilmcote where we saw several half timbered cottages belonging to the National Trust - one having belonged to the mother of Shakespeare. We picnicked on the village green before joining the canal towpath to Stratford. There were several awkward gates along the path but it made Alan's day when he found an old cycle pump. One of Alan's hobbies is doing up old bicycles. The ride was most enjoyable, with lovely blue skies overhead and the trees looking a picture in their Autumn colours. Having arrived in Stratford, we were just debating where to go when Mary and Alex arrived to take the towpath back to Alcester - which would be very difficult with Alex's trike. However, they said he had lost his pump and they wanted to find it. By coincidence, guess who had found it!
We were advised to visit the Ashley tricycle shop, so whilst Alan admired the many types of trikes upstairs, the ladies did a spot of shopping downstairs. This achieved we again relied on Soo's excellent map reading to find an alternative quiet route back to the site. En route in Temple Grafton we found an interesting looking pub which we later sponsored for a delicious evening meal.
On Wednesday, Soo, Pearl and I visited Bidford-on-Avon, riding through Arrow, past Ragley House and Dunnington to Bidford for coffee. We then took the B4088 to Evesham where we picnicked in the park behind the Priory, enjoying the sparkling waters of the Avon and the lovely views. Soo treated us to a takeaway drink so we sat and enjoyed the view until the sky clouded over. On the way back we visited an old Tithe Barn at Little Middleton - built in the 1400's, which was most impressive. We continued along the B4085 back through Bedford to Exhall where we attempted a cycle path/bridleway which brought us out at Oversley Green, unscathed but very, very muddy. However, we didn't have to ride on the dreaded A46!
Our most interesting ride in November was on Armistice Day when Alex led us to the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. This was opened by the Queen the previous week. We arrived during the main service so we were able to have some refreshment in peace before the visitors attending the service descended for theirs. It was extremely cold, and as we ascended the steps to the memorial the band was coming down playing "It's a long, long way to Tipperary" so Soo gave us a hearty rendition, much to everyone's amusement.
During the rest of November and December the weather deteriorated but we still had a small number of regular members who attended the AGM, the Carol Service and the Mince Pie Run on cycles. Here's hoping for better cycling weather in the New Year.
Summer had a last kick at the beginning of November, allowing an
enjoyable ride through East Leicestershire to Belton in Rutland. It wasn't the weather that surprised us later in the month, when Brian took us across Charnwood Forest to Greenacres (near Cadeby) for one of their welcome breakfasts. As time was running short, we took a direct route to the lunch stop at the Odd House, only to find the pub had changed hands, and the generous baguette lunches were no more. Another lunch place bites the dust - this is beginning to be quite problem. Jade Cafe, in Newtown Linford, saved the day, with some very late food.
December started wet, cold and windy, but Roger still had five riders out to Eaton. Here there was some good news - the pub is now in the hands of the ex-Hickling landlord, with a warm welcome for cyclists. On 9th just three of us rode to Hallaton on a cool and murky day, but Larry's ride the following week, via Wymondham, to what may well have been our last visit to Somerby (another pub soon to close) was better attended, as was the Mince Pie run on Dec. 23rd.
More riders have been out for January's rides. On January 6th seven
riders avoided traces of ice on the higher Wolds during a challenging ride to Ab Kettleby, returning along the Wreake Valley before dark. Next week was particularly blustery, but seven riders enjoyed Dave's unusual circular 50 mile route, starting with the Donkey Sanctuary in East Leake, then moving through Kegworth, Long Whatton, Grace Dieu Woods and Oaks in Charnwood, to end with a late lunch in Swithland. Fortunately, everyone was fairly close to home by then as non-one had much energy left.
We returned to Eaton on January 23rd, despite heavy rain and floods. Only two riders (Brian and Alan) started out from Loughborough, picking up one more in Asfordby, and another two at Eaton. Returning into the wind and rain along the Saltway was not one of life's most pleasant experiences. January ended with no less than twelve riders joining up in Whissendine (including Pam, Tony and Trudy, who join us at lunch most weeks after a morning ride of their own) - to find another pub that has changed hands and cut back on available food - this time it was soup or crisps! It was a bright day, and Mark had devised an interesting route out via Landyke Lane (the café is still there, but up for sale), Waltham and Wymondham, before bringing us back through Pickwell (where we unaccountably lost Roger for half an hour), Twyford and Rearsby to the café in Sileby.
The next day illustrated to me that Derek had the rope handling skills of a master mariner of old. Once the 1960's saddlebag had been lashed to the saddle with toe straps, the Wilkinson's carrier bag had to be fitted on top with the aid of what looked like laces from a pair of hiking boots. Once the carrier bag was mounted extraneous objects or garments were tucked under the laces. The whole caboodle looked as though it would collapse at the first bump but to give Derek full credit this part of his ensemble proved trouble free throughout the ride.
We stopped at a small shop on the outskirts of Garstang where we took on board Lucozade sports drink diluted with spring water and, a multipack of Eccles cakes each.
We had an uneventful ride on the A6 to Milnthorpe south of Kendal. We found a café on the edge of the village. As we left, a local cyclist mounted on an old Mercian had a Chat. He expressed surprise on learning of our final destination by Monday lunchtime.
Kendal passed without incident. We started the climb up to Shap but got separated as Derek's 42x24 gear proved too high for him to haul his mini wardrobe and accoutrements up the steepest part of the climb. No sooner had we started our descents to Shap village when I immediately recognised the distant figure walking up the road carrying a rucksack and a drum.
I had met the same guy when cycling north with Big Dave on the Fort William to John O' Groats stage. On that occasion Dave had a Chat with the drummer whilst I had taken a photographs. This must have been just north of Berriedale. Now, several weeks on he had made it to just south of Shap village. He was drumming his way from JoG to LE for charity. Derek and I had a Chat with him during which he announced that he had grown-up in Loughborough and had lived in Valley Road. We each took more photos and the drummer got us to record our names on audio recorder on his camera. We bid him farewell and set off for Penrith, our late lunch stop.
We stopped at the first café in Penrith before storming up to Carlisle where during a map-check stop the potentially riotous lotion application was suggested.
I had to stop to buy my obligatory Lotto Lucky Dip for that nights draw since I know that it's only a matter of time before I'm the jackpot winner. My local shopkeeper in Loughborough tells me that if buy one ticket each week I will definitely win the jackpot once every 115 years!
With the A6 now terminated and the A74 having an appalling reputation with cyclist we had to make a decision to take the A7 or A74. We chose the A74 descending the slip road into road works. For a short while we were able to ride in the coned-off area but were soon forced to share the narrow lanes with traffic whose driver were still adjusting to non-motorway conditions. Fortunately, Derek had overcome his desire to ride two-abreast. Despite being a veteran of riding on many trunk routes, and the many other road users giving us a wide berth, I was very pleased to see the slip road to Gretna.
We were welcomed with a heavy rain shower. After the obligatory photo of Derek by the 'Welcome to Scotland' sign we retired to the local shopping mall, reminiscent of those in Florida that you visit having got badly sunburned and done all the rides at Disney three time and still only on the fourth day of your two week holiday.
The wave of eastern Europeans working in the UK catering trade has reached Scotland just like everywhere else. I found it far easier to understand the beautiful English spoken with a Slavic accent than that spoken by most of the Scots I was to meet.
Café Nero provided Derek and I with vitals'. At the counter, a quick glance down to my inner thighs led me to invite the young lady serving to place the chocolate coated doughnut on my plate. Although, I could sense from the quivering thighs (mine, not hers) that should it slip from the tongs I was at the ready.
We calculated that we had done 91 miles with 33 to go to Moffat for our overnight stop. We found the B7076, passing the famous Blacksmiths shop. Since there was no one around for Derek to marry we pressed on north. Batting along at 16-17 mph my plan to visit the memorial in Lokerbie was set aside as fatigue began to take its toll. The wind came from the north west making the last 15 miles hard going. We arrive in Moffat at 8.15 and found our respective pubs. Mine, The Balmoral was brought to silence as my lycra-clad figure crossed the only bar/dining room to announce my arrival. Only the Lord knows what reception Derek got In The Stag at the other end of town.
The plan was for me to do a swift change, walk up to Derek's hotel, get the beer in and give him a call. I was overcome by thirst so grabbed a quick pint and a packet of crisp in The Balmoral before going off to meet Derek. The pint disappeared down my throat in about 30 seconds. I felt that my credentials had been re-established amongst the locals and I would be allowed back in to go to bed later. The crisps took a little longer to eat only because I couldn't get the packet open.
When I arrived at The Stage I called Derek on his mobile. He then appeared half way through my second pint. What had he been doing?
Those of you who know Derek will remember that he drinks cider shandy. There wasn't an occasion from Garstang to Fort William that I wasn't asked to repeat my order whenever I got him a drink. I detected an inference that anywhere north of Brighton this was considered a girls drink. Whilst my credentials were sound in The Balmoral they were being seriously questioned in The Stag.
Once again Derek appeared in an immaculate outfit. Although, he was so tired that he couldn't finish his drink. We walked around the town looking for an eating place but we ended up in The Balmoral. Thankfully, Derek declined any more cider shandy that evening.
Haggis pie on the menu attracted our attention as a starter followed by steak for me and gammon for Derek.
The natives of Moffat were restless that night with their shouts screams and curses going on to about three in the morning. At one of my momentary awakenings I did think that they might be building a bonfire close to that statue of a rampant sheep in the marketplace at which they would burn the two lycra-clad Sassenachs for disturbing their Saturday night drinking.
We left Moffat un-singed but only after observing the lashing of baggage to the rear of Derek's bike. I had been able to access my excellent cooked breakfast at 8.00 but Derek had to negotiate some cold rations in order to be fed and ready to rumble at 08.30. The first few miles were up hill through the southern upland countryside and into a chill north-westerly wind that troubled us until we crossed the Irvine Bridge.
We regained the B7076 north of Moffat and zig-zagged over and beneath the M74 motorway. We managed to fight off an ambush of Scottish gypsies who had commandeered the cycle path to hold their Sunday morning trotting races. Eventually we started going downhill and quickly reached Happendon services. This was the scene of the chocolate doughnut incident and also the point where we sought a treatment for the anticipate re-emergence of saddle soreness. Only Savlon appeared on the shelves of the motorway shop. I guess the vast majority of their customer's never suffer such afflictions lounging in their comfortable cars. Derek did wonder if this purchase of a small tube of Savlon with his credit card might be a way of replenishing the cash in his wallet through the 'cash-back' mechanism. He was told to "go forth to the filling station and use the ATM". The ATM was used with great apprehension since its use invoked a fee of £1.50. Faced with no alternative other than perhaps buying the entire stock of Savlon to get his 'cash-back' Derek reluctantly inserted his card into the ATM and audibly winced.
Onwards to East Kilbride and the bumpy A727/A726. No sooner had we joined this major road than we called at a Sainsbury's superstore in search of lunch. The local clientele of Sainsbury's at this point looked rather dodgy and I did fear for our locked bikes being stolen or partially dismantled if we let them out of our sight. We managed to squeeze
ourselves into the corner of an independent café opposite the Superstore where any tremor of our bikes could be detected.
Filled with tea and a pannini with a dubious filling, we set off again in the direction of Paisely. Enroute we were set the challenge presented by almost incompatible rim, tube and tyre combination. After solving the problem, Derek's bike and baggage length was extended by an uncooperative old tyre precarious lashed to the already teetering mountain behind his saddle. My questionable navigating skills almost led us astray. Derek's boy-scout like alertness from his position in the
navigator's seat brought us back on track on more than one occasion.
Over the Irvine Bridge and onto the busy A82 where we found a very welcome Little Chef and more tea with toasted tea cakes and jam. It was in one of these emporia of fine dining near Okehampton earlier in the year on the first E2E stage that Big Dave had discovered that if you stood close to the hand dryer in the gents and alternately pulled open the front and rear of your lycra shorts whilst slowly rotating you could dry out your wet 'chammy' patch in a three minute session. He recognised that it could be a traumatising sight for young children but expressed surprise at the number of male adults that entered the gents and
immediately left. "Ozzy men would have no hesitation using the toilets in the presence of a rotating idiot" he exclaimed.
With about 45 miles to go to Tyndrum, Derek and I raised the horse power to deliver a steady 17-18 mph along the southern end of Loch Lomond. It was here that we noticed a build up of traffic on the opposite side of the road. We reckoned it was about 9 miles long in total. In his normal helpful and sensitive way Derek looked for any vehicle with an open driver's window, glanced at his computer and yelled out the distance to the head of the queue. We were moving too quickly for me to see what gestures of appreciation were being returned to Derek.
The computer on Derek's bike was of that vintage that required the user to physically switch it on every time he started to ride. I think it must Have been one from Aldi's R&D facility - not quite ready for the market. Failure to turn it on caused Derek to check our mileage with me and then mentally add on a correction to what was being displayed. I look forward to reading his forthright and explicit account of our ride so that I can compare mileages.
We stopped outside an up-market hotel for a snack of old Eccles cakes and some fruit and a quick call to our respective digs to let them know our ETA. Derek was bursting for a pee and for one moment I thought he was going to turn away from the road face the hotel and relive himself on the spot. To my relief he didn't. We found a curved road about 50m past the hotel and answered the call there. Ever cautious, I concealed myself in the bushes whereas Derek flaunted himself on the verge only to discover that the curved road was in fact the entrance road to the hotel. No damage done on this occasion, we escaped to the northern end of Loch Lomond.
It was here where the road passes close to the water and a steep cliff that we came across something new to us both. A set of traffic lights appeared on a narrow curve. There was a small sign inviting cyclists 'Press The Button'. On the pole supporting the lights was one of those buttons you find at pedestrian crossings. I pressed the button and the light changed immediately. Off we went.
There was some hard climbing for tired legs up to Crianlarich and then on to Tyndrum. I was booked in at Strathfillan House about a mile and a half south of the village. Derek was lodging in the village.
The usual arrangement was agreed, I would ride up to Derek's place give him a call on his mobile. He would declare that he'd be there in 2-3 minutes. I would then have sufficient time to drink two pints on this occasion without undue haste. Once again an immaculate Derek appeared ready to dine. By this time the only place left open with food for sale was the genuine ethnic Scottish chip shop disguised as a sophisticated purveyor of international cuisine. Fish, chips, mushy peas and deep fried haggis looked about the right combination to offset the effects of a hard 119 miles over the southern uplands across the Clyde conurbation and into the highlands.
The deep fried haggis was the cause of some consternation for Derek. It arrived in the form of two deep fried haggii (for each of us) in a polystyrene tray delicately accompanying a mountain of fish (mainly batter) chips and peas. Derek interpreted the presence of four Haggii between two of us as the reason for him exceeding his pre-ride budget for this particular meal. I think his fatigue-induced stutter at the counter caused him to make a double order and the young lass that took the order probably felt that his under-nourished appearance justified double rations.
I managed one of my haggii plus the fish, chips and peas and wrapped the other in paper for an early snack next day. When the time came, I removed the cold greasy batter and enjoyed the cold haggis. I suspect that the modern day haggis is so full of preservatives that even after cooking and cooling overnight no self-respecting harmful bacteria would wish to multiply on this substrate. This, combined with my cast iron digestive system prevented any ill-effects other than a few monster frogs being trodden upon (covered later when Big Dave exposes us to a few Australian colloquialisms).
On our final morning we were to be on the road at 07.30 so that I had plenty of time to deal with any of the common mishaps afflicting cyclist over the last 49 miles and yet still catch the 12.05 to Glasgow and onward to Edinburgh and Derby.
Well, at 07.30 I was on the road outside Derek's place. He was on the pub forecourt going through stages 1-10 of the daily lashing procedure. At 07.35 two small bottles of orange juice appeared from nowhere in Derek's hands. I thought for one moment he was going to launch into a juggling routine for the few people around in an attempt to collect donations to partially offset his budget overspend on the meal the night before. But no, he started to make his way up the steps to the pub. At this point I ran out of patience and shouted that I was going and would see him up the road.
As I climbed the steepest part of the road out of Tyndrum my mobile rang. It was Derek he had completed the daily lashing procedure before realising that his new back tyre was flat. He told me to press on with the hope of meeting up in Fort William before the train left. I called Derek again having reached what I estimated to be half way. He announced that he hadn't had a puncture at all. His tyre stayed up once he put some air in it.
I say it was one of those very rare occasions in history of deflation by divine intervention, a sign that beatification will shortly follow en-route to becoming Saint Derek, the patron saint of budget cycling. St Derek had left Tyndrum about 50 minutes behind me.
I rode over the moors and Glencoe in light rain, occasional bright sunshine and a brisk variable wind. The scenery was spectacular as the sun lit up the mountains. I saw a four-car train being hauled by an EWS diesel loco moving across the hillside like a model train set before the track turned into the moors after Bridge of Ochy. I found time for a few photo stops and an early smoko (Big Dave again) before the decent which was cold and difficult because of the buffeting wind. I pulled up at a coffee shop in Glencoe village for a ration of sticky date cake and coffee. No sign of Derek, so I ploughed on to cross the Fort William finishing line at 11.00. I found the station, bought a paper and waited until Derek arrived about 20 minutes after me. This man has hidden powers!
Derek intended to climb a few peaks on foot whilst up in Scotland. Whilst waiting for the train I became intrigued once again about the nature of Derek's hiking equipment for I had seen none of the stuff my wife Linda has for her outings with the Kegworth Ramblers. I enquired of Derek what he intended to wear on his ascent of Ben Nevis planned for that afternoon. He told me that he had a stout pair of trainers, his Aldi shower-proof jacket and a bin liner! A bin liner I can hear you exclaim. Well, I thought either Charnwood Borough Council have take to issuing some high quality survival standard bin liners or Derek has some yet undisclosed survival skills should the untoward, but not too uncommon change in the weather occur a 3000 feet. For a moment I had an image in my mind of Huw Edwards announcing on the 10 o'clock news that a man from the midlands was rescued by helicopter from hellish conditions on Ben Nevis today. A spokesman for the emergency service said "if it wasn't for the skilfully deployed bin liner this unfortunate hiker might not have survived".
The train arrived. I found a safe spot for my bike took my seat and waved to Derek as the train pulled out. I tried calling him on his mobile in the days after but failed to make contact. Maybe beatification also
involves being abducted by aliens too.
The train journey back was only marred by two things. Firstly a very unpleasant young Spanish man who pushed his bike into a crowd waiting to board the train at Glasgow for Edinburgh and secondly the growing stale smell emerging from my kit as a combination of low air circulation a the warmth of the carriage conspired to multiply the bi-products of the bacteria growing upon me and my kit.
The young lady accompanying the Spaniard apologised profusely for his conduct. For this I rewarded her with taking second position for her bike on the bike rack. Mine went on top of both hers and her friends. Sweet retribution was had at Edinburgh as I let everyone leave the carriage before removing my bike and apologising to the young man for the few minutes delay - 'he is first shall be last' as the inverted proverb goes.
The smelly nature of my kit provided the luxury of no one wishing to sit next to me on the train. Only the Springer spaniel overcame this barrier in anticipation of a light supper of two day-old chocolate fondant.
This is a factually correct and objective account of our travels across the border, well almost; my nose is not long and bent! It would be great to hear Derek's account and for him to discuss my own idiosyncrasies, irritating habits and extremes of behaviour sometime.
General Knowledge with Martin Bulmer (In which the Generals continue to expand, in numbers if not in knowledge!)
Armistice Day saw us heading South West, passing the National
Memorial Arboretum at about 10.15. There were other cyclists arriving for the service, and cars using Park and Ride facilities nearby. A group of motorcyclists was arriving as we rode by. It was too early for a stop, so we pedalled on.
We have managed to link up with the easy riders at lunch occasionally, or have passed them going in the opposite direction as on the East Leake run. It is good to maintain contact, and an Easter Holiday has been organised incorporating both groups; thanks Lyn.
The late autumn runs list has provided some interesting riding for the Generals, with two new riders turning up on the wettest start at the beginning of December, putting some of the regulars to shame. Name check here for Keith Tilley, LEJoG rider, who was slightly affronted at being called "The Group" in another publication, and an initial check for P (sorry, P I didn't know if you wanted your section to know you'd defected). Converting this ride to a joint Easy Riders/Generals run helped to make up the numbers, and the sun came out after elevenses (beans on toast for me). Then came the wind...
December is Carol Service and Mince Pie run time. We enjoyed our post-pie pint in Osgathorpe, an experience we may seek to repeat next year, but with an improved hand-brake on the recovery vehicle.
The Queen's Head at Heather looked after us well on the Hot Grub run, and at our annual dinner & presentation the following week.
Christmas over, and New Year beginning to curl a little around the edges, we are now resuming normal service. One very icy morning we managed to get eight riders out, the largest number on a Generals' run for some time. I hope Soo's visiting friend has now fully recovered from her fall on the ice; the conditions were treacherous.
New lunch stops visited were The Royal Oak at Barton Green, and The Spread Eagle at Polesworth. Each made us very welcome, and we will use them again I hope. Another first was the Queen's Head at Lichfield, which specialises in cheese. The beer's good as well. We have a full programme laid out in the runs list for spring and early summer. There
should be a summer this year, so we look forward to longer days, and longer rides. Do join us.
For Andy's ride to the Remberance Service we split into three groups. The first group departed from the bus station, Dave and I made our own way there from Enderby, via Anstey, Swithland, Mountsorrel, Quorn and Woodhouse. June and Pete had a car assisted ride. We all met at the Carilllion in Loughborough for the service after which we retired to the John Storer House for tea and biscuits and our packed lunches.
On the return journey we made our way to The Royal Oak at Cossington via Sileby for more refreshments and then home by way of Rothley, Cropston and Anstey to Nancy's where we had a very welcome drink the rode home.
Five of our members braved the cold wet and windy weather on Nancy's ride to Mountsorrel where Richard Billston left us to return home. On leaving Stonehurst Farm it was decided to have a shorter ride back calling at Rothley Station where we ate our packed lunches and dried our hats and gloves by their open fire in the waiting room. On leaving the station Dave Smith left the remaining three of us where we all returned home.
Since the last edition of the Cycle Chat our section have been to our Christmas and New Year meals at the Rose and Crown in Thurnby and the Greyhound at Botcheston where Dave Holman won the Percy Franklin cup for the most club rides during 2007 (total 47) and I came second with 44. Dave Smith came third with 33 and Jim won the Photographic cup.
The last Sunday of 2007 eight of our members enjoyed a short ride to the café in Cosby. Dave, Graham, June, Pete, Pete Whalen, a new member, met Nancy and Dave H and I by the Great Central Underpass. We made our way to Cosby via Blaby and Countesthorpe. After 11's June and Pete left the group heading for Beeanbags at Countesthorpe whilst the remainder of the party carried on to Ashby Parva and on to Gilmorton for our lunch and liquid refreshments. The group split up in Ashby Parva to return home.
I am writing to say how much my wife and I appreciate and enjoy the paintings of Penny Clay on the cover of Cycle Chat. They give us a lot of pleasure and we hope that Penny can continue to produce such pictures. They should with time constitute an excellent collection.
Thank you Penny.
Seldom does Janet agree with my point of view, but this time we are
actually in total agreement.
The magazine seems to lack at present, and which may be of interest of potentially of new members,. peoples experiences of taking part in local rides and riding with a group.
These could cover peoples visions of the countryside, the type of terrain encountered along the way, easy, moderate or hard going, length of ride and whether all day or only part and of course the bike should be roadworthy.
It has all been said many times before but to cultivate the interest of new people, maybe we should take stock of what we give at the moment and perhaps contemplate some needed improvements. Maybe a few left and rights in articles as appeared in the Heartland Evening News recently would be helpful.
Since the last Section report I have had a lazy time. I did as many miles in December and January together as I usually do in one month. I hadn't commuted to work since the end of November until this week.
I have continued with my campaign of 200k audax rides every month. I've now completed four consecutive years of round the year randonees and I'm 6 months into my fifth. In October and November I did "permanent" rides which you can complete any time. My ride in November was a Youth Hostel Dart from Ullesthorpe to Hartington YH via Sleaford. Not the most logical route you might think but it made the distance up to 200k went through some nice country and avoided major conurbations. It finished with a climb up Via Gellia under a full moon in a cloudless sky. In keeping with the lazy theme January's ride in South Wales and Gloucestershire was my first outing on a bike with gears since last September. Also in January I ventured down to Bristol to ride with some friends who we usually see for some early season warm weather riding in Spain. This year we have decided to give Portugal a try after reading an article in "Cycle" which gave glowing praise to the resort of Praia do Vau near Portimao.
The section rides on Sundays continue to be well supported with a gradual growth of the membership. We did have a bit of a glitch the other weekend. One of our newer members, Peter, turned up at Broughton for a Sunday ride when our scheduled run was the Welland Valley Reliability Ride but I think he has forgiven us now.
We continue to try out different coffee and lunch stops. In October we scheduled a visit to an old favourite, The Rose at Willoughby. The landlord used to be a really friendly guy who always had a store of new jokes to keep people amused. Unfortunately the pub was under new ownership and we were made as welcome as the Black Death so we took our custom to the Shoulder of Mutton at Grandborough. The attitude of the staff was like chalk and cheese. At the Shoulder they only do Sunday Lunches but when asked if they could do sandwiches the bar staff didn't say no but "I'll ask the chef". The sandwiches took a while because they were busy but when they did arrive the portions weren't small- even I struggled.
In December we visited Greenacres Garden Centre café for the first time. This was a joint run with the city and we had a good turn out with Ivan, Ben and Andrew from the City section and Gill, Bernard, Dave, Jayne, Roy and I from South Leics. The same day Roy and I rode on to the Church End Brewery for lunch where we met Shane and Peter.
New Year, of course, means Gill Lord's New Year Lunch at Sibbertoft. As usual the hall was packed to capacity with cyclists from Leicestershire and Northamptonshire. Mrs Baker and her team provided us with hearty food and a raffle. We swapped news about where we had been riding last year and talked about plans for this. The event is a good way to getting the mind thinking about riding in better weather and raises money to help the people of Sibbertoft maintain their church at the same time.
No get well messages this time I hope I'm not tempting fate by saying we're all in fine fettle for the time of year.
Congratulations to Kim Suffolk - for the eleventh time!
After an absence of two years from the competition Kim Suffolk is back at the top with a double cup win - first overall and first male veteran. Kim first won the event back in 1991 and his national win for events throughout 2007 brought his tally to eleven - a fantastic achievement plus this time a further trophy as first veteran rider.
Our "DA" came 13th in the team competition a category we have never won since this came into being in 1984.
Other "Leicestershire and Rutland Cyclists' Touring Club" positions:- 51 - Neil Dixon, 102 - Tony Davis, 187 - Ivan Waddington, 205 - David Rowley, 252 - Mark Bigam and Jim Gerrard, 302 - Stephen Ralphs and Peter Witting, 340 - Chris Narborough and 377 - Roland Smith.
New title for the "DATC" is "CTC Tourist Competition" and a revised set of rules. Most of our county events are "counters" and for the full programme visit the website: www..ctc-competitions.org.uk. John Allen
Dave Binks has accepted a job in France working as the local assistant for a holiday company (Susi Madron's Cycling for Softies) providing easy cycling for non-cyclists between luxury hotels in the Angouleme, near Cognac, area of France. He has arrived at his base hotel and undergone a week's training. Yesterday was his first day alone in his accommodation and, not yet having any guests, had ridden into Angouleme for the first time. He was not very impressed with his accommodation!
Sunday May 13
In my bedroom were two single beds, only one of which was made up, the other only having a candlewick bedspread fitted over the foam mattress. My bed had a sprung mattress, but one that had seen its best days. When I had awoken the previous morning I was getting slight bruises from where I was able to feel the springs poking through the thin covering, so decided I would put both mattresses on my bed, with the foam being the top one. Thus I could enjoy the added cushioning of the springs, but was better cushioned from them. It worked, together with the added warmth of the additional bedspread I had a good nights sleep. I'm sure the 3/4 bottle of Rosé wine I had drunk before going to bed had absolutely nothing to do with it!
The morning was dull but dry, so as planned, I got up and dressed for a bike ride. After a good breakfast which turned out to be just as well later, I still wasn't sure about the weather as it was taking its time to brighten - after all, why get wet this morning, or even today, when I could go out tomorrow?
I had left home needing a haircut and was really in need of one now, but it was Sunday and I had been thinking for a while about a really close crop, so got the beard trimmer out and set about cutting my hair with that. I only wanted it to be the same all over, no style, so simply set the trimmer to a certain depth, took a deep breath and started. It seemed to make no impact, but after holding the hair it started to get an edge. I carried on until the cutter wouldn't take any more off then looked in the mirror. It actually wasn't bad! By looking in two mirrors at once I could see the back and sides needed a bit more, but they would have to wait until another day, I wanted to get out in the sunshine that was now coming through. The previous incumbent had left a map with one or two markings on it and I wanted to go eastwards into the hillier country so set off that way. I intended to take some pictures and put them onto the PC as a little slide show with a commentary to show to the incoming holiday makers, so took photos of things they should look out for, not just nice places, but also hints and points to help them. As anyone who has ridden or driven in France knows, there is a crazy system whereby unless otherwise indicated, one must give way to traffic entering your road from the right (the equivalent of entering from the left in the UK of course). This applies even though you are obviously on a through road, whereas the one entering may only be a farm road or tiny lane. In the days of horse and cart it was OK, but now, when a 42 tonne articulated lorry could be bowling along at speed it makes no sense at all. It is gradually disappearing, but
is still found in country areas and in fact there was one less than a mile from my base. So I took photos to draw attention to them. There were other things, like the strange positions of signposts, and the tiny cycle route signs. The nearest village eastwards was Mouthiers, and as I passed through I noticed a brown tourist sign to "Chair de Calvin" whatever that was. I made a mental note to find out some time. The countryside was open and many of the hedges had been grubbed out years ago - just like we had done, only to find out later that it is not good practice as the birds and other wildlife has nowhere to bred and thus keep down the pests they would otherwise eat. I had an enjoyable ride, taking photos of places of interest to me if no one else. My map had been highlighted with places of interest, so was surprised that at Fouquebrune there was nothing I could see worth the trip that merited the mark. However, Villebois-Lavalette, with its massive Chateau - a real one that had seen many battles, not a fancy house in ruins inside the massive walls, great views and 13th Century market (a massive roof built to cover the traders at their open market stalls below) was worth the trip, but had not been highlighted. On the way out I had ridden by the Chateau de le Mercerie, which was still inhabited, and in private hands.
Looking at its enormous size it occurred to me that it was no surprise there had been a revolution. Such places are very numerous, even now with the vast majority still in private hands and closed to the public.
After Villebois I turned due south to Gurat where the map indicated an ancient underground church. This was quite extraordinary and like something I have never seen before. It consists of a pair of large, arched, rooms carved out of the living rock in a rock face. Despite being disused now, and having been so for a very long time, it wasn't difficult to see the shape of the nave and where the altar would have been. Holes in the rock let in daylight, but the weather had not been kind to these as they were now quite large and allowed the weather in. I headed off to la Rochebeaucourt-et-Argentine through extremely quite lanes (I'm not sure why I said that - they're all extremely quiet here), but being Sunday afternoon it was even quieter than I imagine it would be usually. Coming back through Villebois I met up with a group of Dutch cyclists heading for Lourdes. They had been on the road for a week and had vehicle back up, although I never saw it. They said they were planning to ride back to Holland afterwards. That's quite a trip. By now I was getting hungry and had eaten all my emergency food but made it back to Mouthiers with sufficient energy to visit the "Chair de Calvin", the sign for which I had seen earlier. This turned out to be a cave with still visible engravings of horses or horse-like animals drawn by very primitive man. Although heavily protected by a wire surround, the engravings could plainly be seen without having to enter the entrance. There still being no hot water in my shack, I showered again in the main hotel, but this time noticed the original well for water built into the structure. The water was obviously still considered fairly safe as a new bucket and chain, together with a modern pump system was still in evidence. 55 miles
Monday May 14
It was raining when I woke, and stayed that way nearly all day, but stopped long enough for me to get to Roullet, the nearest village at just under a mile away, to post my weekly report and expenses claim. I had waited until mid afternoon and intended to buy some groceries, but the shop is closed on Mondays, so made do with a baguette (small loaf) and a cake from the boulangerie (baker). I spent quite a while working on the bikes in the "workshop", a fancy name for a poorly lit smelly hole. At long last the hotel owners, Christine and Philippe came back from their holidays and got the hot water going. Philippe even had a man looking at the TV aerial, but no TV appeared. I caught up with some washing and found the only place where I could put it to dry was in the outside toilet. That makes it sound like I had a choice of toilet, not true; it was the only toilet. At 7pm I had had enough of the damp and cold workshop and returned to the smelly but now not so damp shack behind the tennis courts for my tea. Some food in my belly and a few cheerful songs played on my laptop made things not so bad, but I was beginning to doubt if I would last the whole 5 months.
Tuesday May 15
Not a very successful day today really. The TV finally arrived - a set top box perched on top of it to connect to the dish outside. Of course, that means two remotes and a complicated way of actually getting it to tune in - press this button, then that one, then that one, then that one etc. The guy putting it in showed me and I then had to call him back again before he had finished packing away as I had forgotten. I ended up writing it down.
It very soon started to rain again, despite the bright start. I had to go the Bank to get accreditation to be able to draw from the Company's account to replace the money I spend on business expenses. I had been handed a letter, in French, to the bank from Susi Madron, and told I must also take my passport with me. Of course, there was a problem. They said I had to produce some form of proof that I lived in France, then when they finally understood what I wanted, they wanted a utility bill or similar from my UK address. I don't know about you, but I don't usually go away with a copy of the gas bill in my luggage, so no go there. I was ushered out of the door and told to return at 4pm. I suppose they thought that would be the end of it, but at 4pm I was back again. This time I had phoned Susi and told her to be in the office, next to the phone and I would get the Bank to talk direct. This happened and they spoke but still nothing doing, Susi offered to fax across a copy of my Employment Contract, but after 5 minutes it had not come and out I was ushered out again, but with another appointment for 9am the next day. Perhaps tomorrow there will be a Gendarme waiting?..
I only had two pairs of shoes with me - cycling shoes and open toe sandals, but it was a bit cold for the latter and in any case the loose stones kept getting under my feet. The former were not suitable to wear all day in a workshop, so I called into Decathlon and bought some really cheap 12 euro (£8.50) trainers, with the intention of throwing them away at the end of the summer. On my way home on one of Susi's bikes I nearly got knocked off and had to swerve out of the way of a car coming out of a side turning, and got soaked in a heavy downpour; just what I wanted! The food I had bought gave me a problem when I came to cook it. Grilled pork needs a grill, and potatoes and carrots each need their own pan. The grill would barely heat the back of my hand, and the single power socket would have exploded had I attempted to run the (useless) grill and both rings at the same time. I had to place one of the rings on the floor using a separate socket in order to cook the carrots, boil the potatoes on the other ring in its proper location and then put them in the oven whilst I fried, not grilled, the steaks. It tasted OK, but what a palaver!
During the short time I spent in the workshop today, I counted more bikes than wheels, and remembered one bike needs two wheels! That must explain why there are two boxes of hubs, front and rear, in the corner, but not why there is only one spare rim. Even if clients have wrecked a lot of rims, why were they not replaced?
Wednesday May 16
I got cold in the night and had to get up and put a thermal vest and my cycling longs on to keep warm. In the morning all my clothes felt damp so I think that's why the place is never inviting - it's not a good climate to live in. I had to go to the bank again and this time the Mademoiselle was more accommodating. My employer had faxed over some forms I had completed with my UK name and address, and this, together with my Passport and driving licence seemed to satisfy her. She muttered something about Government Regulations, which I took to refer to money laundering checks, but I can't see criminal gangs getting far with the piffling sums I'm allowed to draw.
I thought I had better have a go at some of the chaos in the hole called the workshop, and spent until 2pm checking the bikes used by my companions during their training. This was necessary as at least one had never built a bike before, and judging by the difficulty he had in getting a tyre and tube on and off, I doubt had even mended a puncture. This latter point caused concern to the trainer, as one of the things we have to do is show the holiday-makers how to fix a puncture, which of course, requires the tyre to be removed on one side at least. I had taken particular care to show him how to do it the easy way (starting at the valve when removing it, and finally finishing back there at the end of re-fitting) and he did take that on board but was still struggling to make his fingers do what was required. Having corrected their mistakes, I then started assembling the others, taking the line of least resistance and picking those that appeared to be the best to begin with.
I had promised myself a ride to Cognac in the afternoon if it was still dry. It was, so I did. The ride was almost due west, straight into the robust wind that had been blowing for the last few days, but the route basically follows the River Charente, which gives its name to the Region as it meanders along. The main route cuts straight across country and takes all the heavy and "in a hurry" traffic, leaving the country lanes delightfully quiet. The roads are not spectacular, but are pleasant as they wander through tiny villages. My route took me past the still used Abbey at Bassac, and I paused briefly to gaze into the cloisters, making a note to come back another day. Just before I got to Cognac I passed by a Dolmen (prehistoric burial chamber). This massive stone, weighing many tons, sits perched on top of others sitting vertically in the ground, effectively creating a small shelter. Despite having been standing like this for thousands of years, it seemed the "Heath and Safety" people were worried and had erected a sign to warn that "Standing on top of, or below, the roof stone is dangerous"! Cognac itself struck me as a strange place. The modern town is bustling with shops and all the usual commerce, whereas the Old Town was very quiet. The latter is no doubt a reflection of the fact it is one giant Cognac history trail and tasting venue for the major distillers based in the town. The Hennessey Distillery, actually founded by an Irishman, dominates the water's edge of the Charente, but all the others are also here. I didn't have time for much of a look round, but promised myself a return later in the year. By the time I got back I was getting cold and hungry, but the lovely hot shower (ignoring the flooded floor because the shower curtain doesn't fit in the shower base!) revived me. After dinner I phoned friends and family at home to try and lift my spirits.
Thursday May 17
I had decided I must make an effort to get to meet the people in the hotel and to get things moving a bit today, so when I awoke to see rain I was actually not sorry. I tidied up the mess in my digs a bit and did some paperwork then set off for the workshop determined to try to sort a few things out, but on the way called in via the hotel. Christine wasn't there, but was quickly called and readily accepted some postcards from Cognac to put in the post. I took the opportunity to ask if it was possible I could use the internet to access my emails and she said "No problem - why not now?" so, having already written my outgoing message and attached some photos onto my memory stick it wasn't long before I was on the net and reading messages from friends and family which cheered me up. A fax arrived whilst I was there announcing some visitors who due to arrive in August, which seemed a long way off, but showed things were at last happening on the bookings front.
I had a little Chat with Christine, who was speaking English and I was replying in French as best I could and during that she invited me to eat an early lunch with them at 11.00am. Naturally I jumped at the chance despite not long ago having had my breakfast. The chance of a free meal, to eat in company and meet people wasn't to be sniffed at!
Lunch was simply off the preparation table in the hotel kitchen and quite basic. There were about 10 of us, including to my surprise, a young Spanish woman who had only started the day before as a cook in the kitchen. I felt some kindred feeling there, as like me, she was in a foreign country struggling with the language, and hardly knowing anyone, so we tried to make conversation. The others were either front of house staff or kitchen, together with the owners, Christine and Philippe. A cold "help yourself" selection of cold meats, couscous (a type of semolina served as grains in a dish similar to how we would serve cold rice), lettuce and the ubiquitous bread, was available and I tucked in, trying to understand the Chatter going on. The day before, France had sworn its new President, Nicholas Sarkozy, and I took the chance to see what they thought about it, which started a "teach in" by Philippe for the younger members who had probably only ever known President Chirac who was standing down. I thought that was it, but no, another course followed. A platter of great chunks of lamb, cooked so rarely it still had blood in it, with part roasted, part fried, potatoes was the main course. No pudding, but coffee, taken with lots of sugar by most, but no milk by anyone. And then cigarettes - of the ten of them I think seven or eight were puffing away. This came as quite a shock to this non-smoker who only mixes with other non-smokers and who comes from a country where smoking is a definite "no-no". And remember this is in the kitchen of a hotel restaurant! Naturally I was introduced to everyone, but told them there was no point in them all telling me their names as I would instantly forget them unless I wrote them all down, which I intend to do the next time (hopefully there will be a next time).
I took the chance to tell Philippe about the lack of heating in my accommodation, not knowing what his reaction would be. I needn't have worried as later in the afternoon he borrowed my keys and got the two small electric heaters going. It certainly made a difference, the rooms were not really cold, but there was a dampness to everything. I felt a great sense of relief that things would start to improve.
I carried on assembling bikes that afternoon, but also started a bit of a clear out and needed to know where to put the rubbish, so back to the hotel again.
Philippe had finished the dinner trade and was most helpful and when I mentioned I needed to fix some shelves in the workshop, instantly produced an electric drill, screws and wall plugs - great!I had bought a vice and needed to fix it, so took the chance to move benches and things around as I had the drill. I later left the workshop tired but happy, having had a good day despite no bike ride.
Friday May 18
Things continue to improve. I had a good night's sleep, without having to wear thermals, probably because I left the heaters on all night to warm and dry the place. My washing was still wet though, so that had to go outside in the toilet. I spent some time re-organising the workshop and started sorting out the equipment each cycling group gets (tool kits etc). The day started warming up and at noon I decided it was an afternoon for a ride. A quick bite to eat and I was out in shorts and short sleeves - not even a thermal vest. It actually got very warm in the sunshine and I started to remember why I had come. I headed east again, but a bit further north, intending to go to Montbron, where one ofthe other Hotels is, but ran out of time. I took my movie camera and kept
stopping to set up shots; this eats up time, particularly if I do some "ride by" filler shots. This entails stopping, setting the camera up on a tripod, starting it, then riding up the road until out of shot, returning through the shot until out the other side, then going back to the camera and packing it all away again. A lot of bother but at least I get in the picture myself.
After a lovely ride of 50 miles I got back to a warm and sunny evening and took some more shots of the Hotel and its grounds, including the small lake next to my hut. It was whilst doing the latter I noticed the quite large carp (fish) sucking at the surface. I showered and changed and then ate in the Hotel, using my weekly meal allowance to pay for it. At only 17euro (£12) plus drinks (26euro) total, this is very reasonable for a 3 course meal in the restaurant of a 3 star Hotel. Naturally the food is good and well presented and served.
It was still warm enough to sit outside reading for a while before I went back and wrote my diary and a letter to my fellow trainees from last week.
Saturday May 19
I was surprised to see mist when I first looked out in the morning as despite the forecast being overcast, it didn't include mist, but there it was.
This was the first day of a long Bank Holiday weekend in France and I needed more food, so that was high on the agenda. I had also promised my training colleagues I would send them each a CD with copies of the photos I had taken, but with the post office in the village having been closed since Wednesday, and no post for another two days, it had to be today. I got the letters weighed and stamped. The last time I had attempted a bit more shopping than just a few bits, I had used one of Susi's bikes and panniers. However, these held nothing like as much as my own, but my panniers wouldn't fit on her carriers, so it had to be my bike and my panniers. Having posted my CDs I carried on to the local "Champion" supermarket in Couronne and spent quite a bit of time and money in there. It was as well I did take my own panniers as I struggled to get it all in, and had to put some in a small rucksack I had brought with me from home for just such purposes.
Before I had set off, Christine had let me use the Internet and I had searched out "Cycle Shops in Angouleme" and got some addresses. I wanted to know where they were so that when I needed more than Decathlon could supply I would know where to go, and to try to make contact with the local cycling clubs. I was surprised to see one mentioned near the supermarket, as it's only an outlying suburb, but set out on the trail anyway. No 74 it said, but where was it? No. 72 was there, but no sign of No. 74, nor anything remotely resembling a cycle shop. After lunch I set off for Angouleme, but this time going by the most direct route and taking my movie camera with me. I found one of the shops but it was a motorbike shop - no pedal bikes. Then it dawned on me - in France a "Cycle" is often a motorbike. I should have looked for "Velo" or "Bicyclette". Never mind, it was a warm day and no sun, so the shadows are not as deep as when the sun is out, so I got through quite a bit of digital film before heading back, not getting home until nearly 9pm.
Freewheel Holidays is a Leicester based European Cycling Holidays travel company that provides ‘hosted’ tours. This means that when you arrive at your destination you have someone available to help you get the most out of your holiday. www.freewheelholidays.com