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Lost in France
Our visit to Neufchatel was most enjoyable and we enjoyed three days riding. It rained a little but that is no big surprise this year.
There were nine in the party including first-timers Neil Osborne and David Randall. All reached the Hotel Les Airelles safely by various routes. Chris Webber and I had a smooth crossing with the Shuttle through the tunnel, but others used the Dover - Calais or Newhaven - Dieppe ferries.
Our first days ride was to Londinières for coffee and we all sat in the sun outside the little cafe watching the world go by. We then moved on to Dieppe, where we took a light lunch. It has become accepted nowadays that lunch will consist of little more than a sandwich or a cake or a bowl of soup. With a decent breakfast to start the day and a substantial meal in the evening there is little need for much to eat at midday.
Whilst enjoying a drink in Dieppe I saw a poster advertising an exhibition of paintings in nearby Varengeville sur Mer. The painting that adorned the poster was a striking seascape. In the afternoon I took the opportunity to divert two miles from the route in order to take a look at the exhibition. We only took about 20 minutes to have a look round but I felt it was worthwhile. We continued on up the valley to St Aubin sur Scie and then over into the next valley to St Hellier and up through the beautiful Forêt d'Eawy and up to the V 1 'doodlebug' launch site. Most riders had not visited this previously so it was worth inclusion. We stopped off at the supermarket to fill up with petrol for the next day as fuel is hard to come by on a Sunday.
On Sunday it rained. Hard. We set out regardless and splashed our way to Gournay en bray, where we enjoyed an extended coffee break in the centre of the town, The bikes got a lot of attention and the locals cast odd glances at the bunch of dripping riders in their midst. We pressed on to the historic village of Gerberoy where a Festival of Roses was taking place. The road through the village was closed to traffic (did that stop us ?) and a jazz group was playing under the cover of the market hall. It was still raining quite hard but there were lots of people there to enjoy the craft stalls, art exhibitions and the beautiful village itself.
Unfortunately, on leaving the village, Martin Brockwell was involved in quite a severe accident that did not do his Ariel Leader any good at all. I went back in the van to rescue Martin and the bike and fetched them back to the hotel. Fortunately Martin suffered no more than a swollen hand and some uncomfortable bruising. Having loaded the Ariel into the van, Jim Brockwell's Scott refused to start, having stood in the rain for a couple of hours. We unloaded my James, which Jim rode back to the hotel and loaded the Scott in alongside his dad's Ariel. They stayed in the van over night but the Scott's oil tap was left open. The bike had dried out by the morning but there were clouds of smoke from the oil that had seeped through.
Once we all got back to the hotel the rain stopped.
The final day's run (Monday) was 123 miles according to the route. We followed a beautiful scenic route to the Hotel de l'Aigle in Grandcourt, where we sat in the sun enjoying a coffee. Being a small party, we were all there at the same time though we had arrived in dribs and drabs. Strangely someone had been out and removed about 20 miles of the morning route, including a roundabout and a couple of other junctions. We had a bit of freestyle route finding near Nibas but eventually found our way to St Valery sur Somme. This is where William the Conqueror set sail for England in the run up to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. We completely ignored the 'no lunch' rule and had a huge meal that we didn't need. When we came to pay, Dave Randall discovered he had lost his wallet. Realising that he had used it at Grandcourt to pay for his coffee he and Neil retraced the route there only to find the bar was closed. After banging on the door a while the owner came and unlocked but said that she had not seen the wallet. It was not until Dave got back to our hotel and took off his over trousers that he discovered the wallet tucked neatly into the waistband of his jeans. He had slipped it there in a hurry when he helped me to take the empty coffee cups back to the bar !
The afternoon run included one road that was nine miles long. It was followed by a section where the route sheet was, once again, at variance with the local road layout. We muddled through however ! We passed through Vieux Rouen and some beautiful forest roads before dropping back down to Neufchatel in readiness for another blow-out meal.
Bill Mills - Matchless twin