Since discovering the Avenue Verte during my ride to Paris in 2009, I have frequently returned to a campsite just south of Dieppe to further enjoy the Avenue and the region through which it passes. The cycling possibilities are almost endless and very enjoyable. However, this time I wanted to use the Avenue as the starting point for a more wide-ranging tour of this part of Normandy but extending further south to the River Seine and around Rouen before returning back to Dieppe. From the Avenue Verte the objectives were Lyon-la-Forêt and then on to the River Seine, thereafter following the river downstream and before turning back to my favourite campsite south of Dieppe.
Day-1 Redhill to Dieppe (Martigny): 20 miles
I had always before ridden or taken the bike by car to Newhaven in order to catch the 10.30 a.m. ferry to Dieppe. However, this time we took the train via Brighton, which worked out well but required a very early start from home. There was no rush so, after landing at Dieppe in the afternoon we stopped at our favourite municipal campsite in Martigny for the first night, in order that the next day we could enjoy riding the full length of the Avenue and onwards at our leisure; whilst we had ridden extensively along the northern section of the Avenue before as far as Neufchâtel-en-Bray, Mrs G had not ventured further on the southern section to Forges-les-Eaux.
Day-2 Martigny to Lyon-la-Forêt: 48 miles
Early the next day we started off on my beloved Avenue Verte; I intend to review this more fully another time but suffice to say here, that the Avenue was a major revelation to me on my Redhill to Paris cycling trip in 2009, as an example of the wonderful cycling facilities of France which I keep returning to time-and-time again. We therefore moved slowly south along the cycle path for its full length of 25 miles before reaching Forges-les-Eaux; it has to be said that unlike most of the Avenue Verte, the last few miles are tricky to navigate and are generally not up to the very high standard along the rest of the cycle path.
Now back on the road, after lunch we headed south-westwards on the D921 climbing gently towards our final goal for the day of Lyon-la-Forêt, where we stayed at the municipal campsite. Located at the centre of the extensive Forêt de Lyon, the small town is very a popular and attractive overnight stop.
Day-3 Lyon-la-Forêt to Les Andelys to Poses: 37 miles
The scenery south of Lyon-la-Forêt is heavily influenced by the chalk geology that underlies most of this part of France, it being part of the so-called Paris Basin – a continuation of the same rocks that also form much of southern Britain. Finally the road dropped into Les Andelys, where the River Seine has cut deeply and meanders through the aforementioned chalk geology, thus creating striking chalk cliffs along some parts of the river.
After purchasing some lunch for later we crossed the River Seine to the west bank and started to trace our way northwards along the river’s floodplain towards Le Havre. The weather today was particularly hot and, like the river, we moved slowly downstream for a couple of hours before finally locating our campsite at Poses, a large but quiet commercial campsite situated on the banks of the river.
Generally we carry a small Trangia stove for a brew but usually try to find somewhere in the evening for a decent meal. This can be risky and was to prove so at Poses. Despite being an area of considerable tourist activity we could find nowhere for dinner at Poses, until at the last moment we came across an outstanding restaurant that had been closed earlier in the evening. The food was excellent but the ‘dining room’ itself was built over the edge of the river, with glass walls all round providing a spectacular eating venue with wonderful riverine views and ambience.
Day-4 Poses to Jumièges: 38 miles
The weather today started poorly and got worse. What’s more I found the navigating difficult, at first following the river before heading over the hills west of Orival to avoid Rouen, through the Forêt de Londe and then dropped steeply down to join the River Seine again, at which point the Seine forms very large sweeping meanders that can be crossed on free ferries.
I had not been sure where we would end up this night but in the end we crossed on a ferry and headed for Jumièges on the inside of a large meander and site of a striking Benedictine monastery. This ancient town had limited facilities but was interesting and made a good stopover.
Day-5 Jumièges to Martigny: 48 miles
We left the River Seine the next day just north of Jumièges at Duclair, in order to start the ride back towards Dieppe. I did not have a specific route in mind beforehand but knew this would mean a climb and probably some miles of nondescript scenery before eventually coming back to familiar territory and the Martigny municipal campsite again.
In the end the route we followed went from Duclair to Montville and Clere, before ending up at Bellencombre and thence along the familiar D154 road to Martigny , which turned out to be a quite pleasant and not too onerous ride.
This well-surfaced road initially follows the River Varenne before joining the Bèthune lower down and is a particularly beautiful ride, with an ancient forest to the east, verdant countryside to the west and dotted from time-to-time with trout-rich lakes and classic Normandy style farmhouses along the valley bottom – perhaps some of the most perfect riding I have ever done.
Day-6 Martigny to Redhill: 18.00 miles
With time to kill before catching the 6.00 p.m. ferry home, we did some local cycling around the, by now, very familiar local roads near to Martigny – followed by lunch in Dieppe.
Altogether it was a short tour, capturing the simple beauty of this part of Normandy, which incorporated both the Avenue Verte and the River Seine. As we had previously visited Rouen we navigated around the city this time but it would otherwise be worth a stop too. With a bit more effort and tighter ferry times the tour could probably be undertaken over a long weekend but, this is France – why rush!
STATS – MAPS – STUFF
Tour: 30th June to 5th July, 6 days
Total mileage (inc. other local rides): 229 miles
Maps: Michelin 1/150,000 Number 304