As I was re-starting my cycle touring life, a ride from home to Paris seemed like a fun idea. In a nutshell the plan was roughly: Home – Newhaven – Ferry – Avenue Verte – Paris (by way of the eastern Canal de l’Ourcq ) – Eurostar to London – Home. This was my first significant multi-day trip on a bike for nearly 40-years and, despite now being a regular cyclist, I was not sure how I would fair with the mileage day-after-day. I therefore decided to do keep the bike light and use pre-booked accommodation along the way.
There are of course many potential routes from London to Paris but the most popular uses NCR 21 via Redhill to Newhaven, then takes the Avenue Verte (AV) from Dieppe before swinging south and then entering Paris from the west. However, I liked the look of the Canal de l’Ourcq and, as it turned out, this was a good choice.
Obviously I started from home in Redhill, just south of the M25 and already in nice cycling country. If, like many who undertake this ride, you were coming from central London I personally wouldn’t bother with that section, better take the train to Coulsdon, Merstham or Redhill and start from there – in my opinion the inner London part is not very pleasant, is slow and frankly unnecessary but to the purist I suppose it may have to be done. It is a comfortable ride to Newhaven of about 45 miles from here but as the Transmanche (LD Lines) ferry usually leaves at 9.30am I stayed at the Telescombe YHA just outside Newhaven the previous evening. It’s a small and old, flint built hostel up on top of the South Downs i.e. a bit of a climb but is very beautiful and very much in the spirit of the YHA as I remember it – unlike what’s left of the others. It was very quiet but interestingly I did meet a just retired GP who was walking around the coast of the southern UK to raise money for charity, putting to shame my little run to Paris.
The ferry crossing was a real pleasure, as always it punctuates the trip and gives real meaning to ‘going abroad’ when you step off the ship at the other end. As a re-born cycle tourist, this was my first experience of taking a loaded bike onto the very large ferry, juxtaposed to all the other road traffic and huge lorries, which was somewhat intimidating. This ferry company provides no real facilities for you bike, which is parked in a very poorly built, lightweight rack but all was well; on other occasions they’re just lashed to a bar running along the ships side. However, whilst waiting to board and during the crossing itself, lots of people travelling by car approached me to discuss what I was doing and were very friendly, a nice change from the usual experience. On this occasion and subsequent cycle tours, one of the unexpected pleasures has been the unsolicited contact that is made strangers and often their generosity.
The ferry got into Dieppe at about 2.30pm (there’s only one other daily ferry that gets in at 3.30am!), which therefore limits your miles in France for the day you arrive; this ride was in early May so I had light into early evening. I sped off through Dieppe down the Avenue Verte (AV) cycle track and got to my B&B just south of Forges Les Eaux in La Belliere at 6.30pm but with hindsight that didn’t do the AV area justice; as a result I have subsequently returned to the AV region many times, based at a beautiful campsite just outside Arques-la-Bataille for day rides over a week or so.
The B&B was run by a British family, she worked at Rouen University and he in the oil and gas industry. The property was a charming Normandy house with renovated stables, in which I and my bike both stayed together.
Starting from La Belliere the next morning the countryside was cloaked in low mist, producing a very pleasant and atmospheric ride for the first hour. Thereafter the sun came out and, as is so often in France, the ride turned from good to beautiful – quite roads, very good surfaces, considerate drivers and beautiful scenery, such a contrast to the UK and the reason I often find myself going back.
The second day turned out to be a bit too short as I arrived at the even more beautiful village of Silly Tillard too early. I therefore found some shade under a tree and relaxed for a couple of hours before going to my evening’s stop, this time an old, renovated Normandy water mill. This time my hosts were French and we had a wonderful family evening together, true to form dinner was excellent.
The last day was not the most direct route to Paris but it misses what I understand to be an unavoidably complicated and built-up route from the west. My route skirted round the north of Paris by Charles de Gaulle airport (bit windswept and industrial) to link up with the Canal de l’Ourcq – a charming 15 mile cycle path from the north east along the canal, which goes straight into the heart of Paris near Gare du Nord.
I stayed at a typical modern (plastic & characterless) European hotel on the outskirts of the city that night, with the objective of completing my ride at a leisurely pace along the canal the next morning before cycling round the city – with an inevitable ride down the Champs Elysee and a photograph of me and the Eifel Tower – before taking Eurostar back to London.
Compared to St Pancras, Gare du Nord is a mess and the arrangements for transporting your bike are not easy to discover but I made it. In stark contrast to Paris, my ride across London from St Pancras to Victoria Station, was dangerous and unpleasant. Although I was born on the outskirts of London, strangely I think this was the first time I had cycled there – it is not a pleasure, the black cabs and buses are a menace, no wonder so many cycle accidents are happening.
Looking back, it was a great ride and an excellent way to return to cycle touring – having a worthwhile objective at the end makes it all the more fulfilling when you get there. All-in-all the ride was just over 200 miles with which I had no problem, in fact I wanted more!
STATS – MAPS – STUFF
Tour: 5th to 9th May 2009, 4 days
Total Mileage: 214 miles
I used Michelin 1:150,000 maps for the trip – No 304 and 305 – which were perfectly adequate, though they do not show topography – which wasn’t really a problem on this trip. I have since discovered French IGN maps (like Ordnance Survey 1:50,000 maps) but the detail they provide is not really necessary for such a ride.
(A) Redhill-Turners Hill-Lewes-Telescombe: 39 miles
From Redhill go via the A25 then south east via Smallfield.
B2028 through Turners Hill and continue south through Ardingly
@ Lindfield (just before the duckpond) TL onto B2111
TR at junction with A272
Then immediately left (50m) onto small lane to Wivelsfield
@ Wivelsfield TL (east) to Wivelsfield Green
Approx 600m TR onto lane (by school) and straight on (south east i.e. left): look for Heath Farm, and East Chilington on the map
TL @ B2116 along base of South Downs and SO to main road
TR @ A275 towards Lewes
Where the road splits going into Lewes keep straight on (right) up the hill
@ Cross road /traffic lights (opposite prison) SO down v steep hill on road to Newhaven
(this runs along the east side of the River Ouse Valley through Ilford, Southease & Piddinghoe)
(B) Dieppe to Paris, 146 miles:
Click Below For Google Map Routes:
|PLACE||DIRECTIONS / NOTES||MILES|
|Dieppe||TR out of port Quai Gaston Lalitte|
|Quai de le Marne with port on right|
|TL on Rue Guerrier before bridge then @ x5 way junction take LF onto Rue du Mont de Neuville continuing onto Rue Emile Lebon|
|FR on to Rue Albert Lebel|
|Thibernot||Continues onto Rue du Gen de Gaulle and under D485 to Thibernot|
|Martin-Eglise||On to Rue du Monestere then to Martin-Eglise|
|D1 Rue Henri IV to Archelles|
|Just outside Archelles FR on Rue des Launays joining Avenue Verte (or TL @ D149 before St-Aubyn-le-Cauf). Continue along track .|
|Neufchatel||Take Avenue Verte which runs into Forges on the D1314||25|
|Forges-les-Eaux||D915 out of Forges (to Gournay) @ 1.8m TL on D61 to Le Belliere||35|
|Continue on D61 then D120 to Haussez, Les Ravines, Hyaumet @ Beuvreuil take D8 then D916 to Gournay-en-Bray|
|Gournay-en-Bray||N31 take first right just out of town to Douce-Rue or St Germer-de-Fly||59|
|TL onto D129 then shortly after onto D109 to St Aubin-en-Bray|
|Auneuil||Continue on the D109 then join D2 to Auneuil|
|Auteuill||D2 to Auteuill||75|
|Noailles||D2 to Noailles (Silly-Tillard just before)|
|Take D44 to Cauvigny|
|And on to Ully-St-Georges & PSO||98|
|Precy-sur-Oise||Cross D603 / 92 to D17|
|D909 cross D924|
|TL approx 1m onto D118|
|TR @ 0.6m onto D316 / D1016 for short distance|
|TL on to D118 again to Orry-la-Ville|
|Plailly||Cross A1 on D118 to Plailly||112|
|South on minor road to Vemars|
|TL on D26 to Moussy-le-Neuf|
|Villeneuve-s/s-Dammartin||Cross D401 still on D26 to Villeneuve|
|Continue on D26 to Thieux then Compans|
|Villeparisis||D9 into Mitry Mory and TL down to Villeparisis||131|
|Paris centre||Take canal||146|