Tag Archives: Canal

Via Francigena Day 7/29: From Châlons-en-Champagne to Brienne-le-Château

"Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible to ourself.", Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

In this post…

  1. Introduction
  2. The statistics and metrics of this day
  3. The most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts
  4. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 24, from Châlons-en-Champagne to La-Chaussée-sur-Marne
  5. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 25, from La-Chaussée-sur-Marne to Vitry-le-François
  6. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 26, from Vitry-le-François to Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont.
  7. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 27, from Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont to Lentilles.
  8. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 28, from Lentilles to Brienne-le-Château.
  9. Video tour of the Municipal Pilgrims’ hostel of Brienne-le-Château.
  10. Pictures of the day.

Introduction

Blog post about the 6th and 7th day published during the journey on the 23rd August 2016
Blog post about the 6th and 7th day published during the journey on the 23rd August 2016

This post complements the post I published on the 23rd of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had on the 5th of August 2016 while riding between Châlons-en-Champagne and Brienne-le-Château, in France. I am not going to repeat the content of that post in this one again, but I will try to add a few highlights for each one of the stages below. I encourage you to read the previous post before continuing on this one.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

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Most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts:


P1010559This was a long day in the Via Francigena. I covered several stages of the Lightfoot guide and rode almost 90 Km. It wouldn’t be productive to write again about something I have already written in this blog post, therefore if you didn’t have a chance to read the previous post click on this link, read the post and jump back here as that post does not include any of the videos for this day.


I will however mentioned P1010560again that if you are cycling this route using Google Maps for navigation, it is possible that the cycling route Google Maps will propose is the same one it did for me, in other words, along side the railway tracks after the tiny village of Arrembécourt (see video of stage 27). If you are travelling light and on a mountain bike, then that should be no problem, but if that isn’t the case and like mine your bike weights 50 Kg and is a hybrid or touring bike with touring tyres, then I would recommend that you continue the journey on the D6 towards Chavanges and take the D2 to Lentilles (the same one I took after the train track adventure). It’s a longer route, but stone free.P1010578As you arrive in Lentilles be sure to factor in some time to visit the 16th Century church built of wood and clay; the Church of St Jacques et St Philippe. Personally that small church had a bigger impact on me than many of the ostentatious cathedrals I have seen along the Via Francigena.

Another thing I want to mention before I finalize this text is the municipal pilgrims’ hostel in Brienne-le-Château and also how nice the lady in the tourism information office was to me. First of all, to stay in the pilgrims’ hostel you need to arrive in town at a time that the tourist information office is open, as you have to pay the fee and collect the hostel’s keys from there (although the hostel itself is about 2 Km away in the perimeter of town). Second, before going on the P1010589pilgrimage, like most people I did a lot of research about the route and the places to stay. I read in some blogs that some pilgrims thought the house to be haunted. I must confess, being the only pilgrim sleeping there that night made me apprehensive. The house is indeed a little spooky, but if there were other spiritual entities sharing the house with me that night they did not bother me. The house is old and used to be a hunters’ cabin so my guess is that, if there were to be any ghosts there, they would have been those of the animals that were killed (incl. the two deers whose heads are at the front wall of the house, assuming they are real)

If you want to see more pictures from this day, please take a look at my picture gallery (down below) from Flickr.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 24, from Châlons-en-Champagne to La-Chaussée-sur-Marne

Video Length: 5 min

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 25, from La-Chaussée-sur-Marne to Vitry-le-François.

Video Length: 4 min 21 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 26, from Vitry-le-François to Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont

Video Length: 3 min 43 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 27, from Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont to Lentilles

Video Length: 5 min 7 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 28, from Lentilles to Brienne-le-Château

Video Length: 4 min 19 sec

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Video tour of the Municipal Pilgrims’ hostel of Brienne-le-Château

Video Length: 7 min 30 sec

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Pictures of the day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form.
Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.
Thank you for your time!


Do you like these posts? Why, then, don’t you pay me a coffee to help with the blog hosting cost and as a caffeine incentive to keep me going through the long hours of the night? (Suggested amount: £2.00 or USD $3.00 or 2.50€ or whatever you want to give).
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Via Francigena, Day 6/29: From Reims to Châlons-en-Champagne


"I like to walk at my ease, and stop when I like. A wandering life is what I want. To walk through a beautiful country in fine weather, without being obliged to hurry, with a pleasant prospect at the end, is of all kinds of life, the one best suited to my taste.", Rousseau.

In this post…

  1. Introduction
  2. The statistics and metrics of the day
  3. The most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts
  4. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 21, from Reims to Verzenay
  5. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 22, from Verzenay to Condé-sur-Marne
  6. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 23, from Condé-sur-Marne to Châlons-en-Champagne.
  7. Pictures of the day.

Introduction

Blog post about the 6th and 7th day published during the journey on the 23rd August 2016
Blog post about the 6th and 7th day published during the journey on the 23rd August 2016

This post complements the post I published on the 23rd of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had on the 4th of August 2016 while riding between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne in France. I am not going to repeat the content of that post in this one again, but I will try to add a few highlights for each one of the stages below. I encourage you to read the previous post before continuing on this one.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

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Most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts:

Champagne cork seats in Reims' Tourist Information Office
Champagne cork seats in Reims’ Tourist Information Office

As I mentioned on the earlier post, I left Reims quite late because I walked to a nearby MacDonalds to have breakfast and to the Tourism Information Office to get my pilgrim’s credential stamped. On the way back I decided to go have a chat with a couple that was sitting with their bikes on a café and, confirming my suspicions they were also Francigena Pilgrims who started in Canterbury and were heading to Rome by bike.

Giovanni and wife were also cycling from Canterbury to Rome
Giovanni and wife were also cycling from Canterbury to Rome

The gentleman’s name was Giovanni. Unfortunately  I forgot to write their names down and don’t remember the name of his wife anymore.  I believe she was German, but I could be mistaken. They were, at that time, the first cycling pilgrims I had seen on the journey, so I was very happy to meet them, even though I thought it was going to be the last time I see them as they were following a different route. They were riding Mountain Bikes and decided for a rougher track. I was, however, wrong. As I arrived in Châlons-en-Champagne at the end of the day, guess who I met at the Tourism Information Office? Exactly! Small world. We then got our pilgrims’ credentials stamped and the address of the local youth hostel and decided to spend the night there.

Myself in Yellow, David at my side. On the other side of the table, Fabio in blue and Giovanni and wife.
Myself in Yellow, David at my side. On the other side of the table, Fabio in blue and Giovanni and wife.

The Youth Hostel in Châlons-en-Champagne is very good. Typical hostel with rooms containing several bunk beds, but every thing was clean and tidy. There we meet other pilgrims and travelers, like David from Belgium, who wanted to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela, and Fabio who was just cycling from Holland, were he lived with family, to his home town  of Brindisi in Italy. Fabio had already bought some food on the local market and invited us all for dinner. A delicious pasta, that he cooked in the Youth Hostel’s guest kitchen.

After dinner we all went out for a walk around town and for some beers. It was a great evening in the company of some really nice people.

The journey from Reims to Châlons-en-Champagne was really beautiful, despite the rain and the risk of falling due to the slippery tyre grooves on the ground of the canal towpath.

Champagne Vineyards on the way to Verzenay.
Champagne Vineyards on the way to Verzenay.

On the way to Verzenay I rode among the vineyards of champagne produces like Moet et Chandon, one of the most recognisable (and expensive) brands of Champagne. If was like being in the middle of a sea of grapes. I was tempted to eat a few off the trees, but they appeared to be too green. As in Verzenay, everything in Condé-sur-Marne was closed, so I couldn’t find any place to stamp my pilgrim’s credentials.

Those tyre grooves where my bike is standing were at times quite deep and with the rain quite muddy and slippery. Really beautiful ride though.
Those tyre grooves where my bike is standing were at times quite deep and with the rain quite muddy and slippery. Really beautiful ride though.
Felt almost like I was riding on a "Cycling Autobahn". Very smooth surface.
Felt almost like I was riding on a “Cycling Autobahn”. Very smooth surface.

From Condé-sur-Marne to Châlons-en-Champagne was entirely done on canal towpaths as my bike was also heavy in the front (I had 2x 10 Kg panniers in the front) it wasn’t easy to steer quickly at times and the grooves were wet and narrow and had quite a bit of mud in them. The townpath eventually became a concrete paved cycle lane and I felt like I was riding on a “Cycling Autobahn”. It was one of the best cycle lanes I rode in life, completely smooth.

Although I covered less than 54 Km this day and despite the rain I had a great time cycling this track and would recommend it to everyone, pilgrim or not.

Please take a look at my picture album (down below) for this day in Flickr.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 21, from Reims to Verzenay

Video Length: 4 min and 19 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 22, From Verzenay to Condé-sur-Marne.

Video Length: 4 min 36 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 23, From Condé-sur-Marne to Châlons-en-Champagne

Video Length: 5 min 10 sec

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Pictures of the day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form.
Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.
Thank you for your time!


Do you like these posts? Why, then, don’t you pay me a coffee to help with the blog hosting cost and as a caffeine incentive to keep me going through the long hours of the night? (Suggested amount: £2.00 or USD $3.00 or 2.50€ or whatever you want to give).
You may donate through my Patreon Page or through PayPal directly.

Become a Patron





EyeCycled the Bath Two Tunnels Greenway Circuit

This is a follow-up post of my previous report about my bike ride from Bracknell to Bath on the National Cycle Route 4.

At the entrance to the Devonshire tunnel
At the entrance to the Devonshire tunnel
Devonshire Tunnel
Devonshire Tunnel

As I mentioned before the reason I cycled to Bath was to experience the Bath Two Tunnels Greenway Circular Route. After two days of brilliant weather and sunshine the day of this ride was pouring down with rain. Unfortunately weather is something we still cannot control and unlike people who might be doing this for living, this is my hobby and as such I don´t have the luxury of choosing to ride and record only in good weather.

Despite the bad weather it was worth it.

Just a few notes before we proceed to the video:

  • The route I took didn´t follow exactly the Sustrans route (PDF), but is very close. In urban areas the Sustrans signage is very poor and I got a bit lost a few times. Google Maps helped a lot as well as passers-by to which I am very grateful (if you can recognize yourself in the video drop me a note).
  • Visit Bath as a page dedicated to the Two Tunnels Greenway Path full of interesting pictures
  • If you are planning to do this with small children note there are portions of this route on busy urban roads
  • The Combe Down tunnel is said to be the longest cycling / walking tunnel only in the UK and possibly in Europe. It´s just over 1 mile long (or 1672 metres to be precise). It has some quite interesting light / music displays inside.
  • The Devonshire Tunnels is smaller at 409 m
  • On the cycle paths the surface is paved and smooth.
  • If you are not local and are staying at the YHA Bath, like I did, the closest point to the route appears to be the The Holburne Museum, which is where I started from and went back to.

Note to self 1: Next time I go out to cycle under heavy rain, need to remember to wipe the water of the camera lens more often.

Note to self 2: Find a better solution to protect my phone during rides under heavy rain. The phone pouch got completely wet inside.

Back to the hostel, soaking wet.
Back to the hostel, soaking wet.

Planning my next cycling to be around this area as well, taking the route from Bath to Bristol which is only 13 miles long, completely paved over an old railway track and full of things to see.

Keep tuned!

Bracknell to Bath on the National Cycling Route 4

(If you don´t like reading, scrool down for the videos)

Few weeks ago I was watching the Cycle Show on ITV4 and they brought a piece celebrating the 20 years of Sustrans in the UK. They recorded a portion of that show riding on what is known as the Bath Two Tunnels Greenway circuit, a 13 miles (21 Km) long circular route around Bath.

Bath on it own is already worth the trip, but what is interesting about this route are the two re-purposed railway tunnels, that had their tracks replaced by paved and smooth shared pedestrian / cycle way.

With just over 1 mile, the Combe Down tunnel is the UK´s longest pedestrian / cycle ONLY tunnel and possibly the longest in Europe as well.

Sign of the National Cycle Route 4 in Reading
Sign of the National Cycle Route 4 in Reading

That sparked my interest! I was already thinking of riding the route 4 to Bath or Bristol, so, naturally I had to go check it out. The plan was to leave Bracknell and ride to initially to Reading and take route 4 from there.

The trip was done in 2 days.

In day 1 the plan was to ride from Bracknell to Pewsey, which is half way between Reading and Bath. On Day 2 I would complete the trip to Bath. Pewsey is a small town and there aren´t a lot of places to stay for the night. The only B&B in town (well, the only I could find) was already fully booked as there was a music festival happening in town that weekend.

The Bruce Arms
The Bruce Arms

I didn´t take my tent with me, but took an air mattress and a sleeping bag just in case. As I was getting closer to Pewsey I was stopping and asking people for places to stay and was already thinking I would have to sleep under the stars that night. Thankfully I met a nice gentleman, whose name I unfortunately can no longer remember, who suggested a small change in the route and a pub along the way where I may find accommodation.

Small Caravan in the Bruce Arms, my home for the night.
Small Caravan in the Bruce Arms, my home for the night.

That was the Bruce Arms, about 2.5 miles before Pewsey.

The Bruce Arms has actually a good camping ground, with all facilities available, but as I hadn´t brought my tend, Matt, the owner of Bruce Arms, kindly offered a small caravan for the night.

I did just under 80 Km that day and the beer was well deserved.

Day 1 video is below

Things to watch out for on this ride:

  • The NCR4 between Reading and Bath follows mostly the towpath of the rivers Kennet and Avon as well as the canals. The towpath is smooth in a few places, but mostly very bumpy. Lots of loose gravel and exposed tree roots. In places the path is very close to the edge of the canal especially when you go under bridges, so be careful.
  • Lots of gates, I mean, lots really. It´s a very rural area and you find cattle roaming around. Make sure you don´t leave any gates open.
  • Don´t take too much on your rack as you will have to remove the cargo to overcome some of the gates and obstacles along the way. If you use quick release panniers you won´t have a problem, but if you have to unload and load again you´re going to be pissed.

On day Day 2 the ride was shorter, just 62 Km or 39 miles. Initially on minor roads and then back on the towpath.

The Honey Street Café
The Honey Street Café

I left the Bruce Arms without breakfast, so the plan was to ride a few miles and find a nice café along the way. I was thinking I would find one in Pewsey few miles down the road, but it was Sunday and pretty much everything was closed. So I continued on my way until a small village called Honey Street where I found the Honey Street café. definitely a great place for tea or breakfast.

Honey Street Café Garden
Honey Street Café Garden

Their garden is full of flowers and is right alongside the canal and the food is also delicious. To my surprise they had freshly squeezed Orange juice and it tasted almost the same as the Spanish juice during my Pilgrimage couple of months ago. I had the Big Boaters Breakfast which is essentially a double English Breakfast. I truly recommend this small café.

From that point on I was back on the towpath and would be pretty much towpath all the way to Bath.

Caen Hill Locks. View from the top.
Caen Hill Locks. View from the top.

If you have time there are many points worth stopping along the way, but the Caen Hill Locks in Devizes is one of the most impressive.

As you approach Bath you´s pass by 2 aqueducts as well (bridges of water over water). The Avoncliff aqueduct near Bradford on Avon is the first and a few miles later the Dundas Aqueduct near Bath. Although I didn´t, there are nice cafés and pubs nearby for a stop if you want.

The day 2 video is below

Things to watch out for on this route:

  • Same as above
  • Lots of vegetation on both side of the towpath, sometimes completely covering the view ahead.
  • A lot of traffic with cyclists and pedestrians (remember if was Sunday and it was a nice day. Work days the route is likely quieter)
YHA Bath
YHA Bath

I had booked 2 nights in the Youth Hostel in Bath, which is almost on top of Bathwick Hill. The hostel is great, one of the best I stayed. Rooms and facilities are very clean, staff is extremely friendly and always ready to help, breakfast and dinner are really good. The room I stayed had 5 bunk beds (10 beds) and everyone has a locker, but you have to remember to bring your own lock to secure your stuff in the locker. The hostel is only about 15 – 20 min walk from Bath´s historic town centre or there is a frequent bus service right in front (Bus 18 or U18). The only problem with the hostel really is that is on top of the hill and after having ridden 62 Km on a loaded bike that hill is a challenge.

Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey

I won´t go much about how nice Bath is. Go there and see for yourself… It´s worth it!

Well, as I mentioned at the start of this post, I went to Bath to ride the Two Tunnels circuit and so I did on the next day, under heavy rain. unfortunately 2 sunny days seems to be the limit of nice days in a row in the UK 🙂

Pulteney Bridge in Bath
Pulteney Bridge in Bath

I´m working on the video for the Two Tunnels now and will add another post about it here shortly.

Hope this is useful and thank you for your time. Please share this post it in Social Media and follow us on Facebook and Tweeter, if you find appropriate.