Welcome to Sheffield Cycle Routes!

Welcome to the Sheffield Cycle Routes website – the definitive guide to getting out and about by bike in Sheffield and South Yorkshire. I try to keep this as up to date as possible, but if you spot any errors or route closures please let me know via the comments. If you know of a great cycle route in South Yorkshire and roundabout, let me know and I’ll see about including it!

If you click on the headers above you’ll get a bit of text that tells you what that section is all about. To view the routes, hover over the menu options at the top and sub-options will appear that you can slide over to access. For Blog Posts, scroll down.

Site changes are logged here.

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra

It takes a lot of going wrong before you find the best route. 

Bring Back British Rail?

I think people ought to be wary when they talk about “Bring Back British Rail”. Network Rail was re-nationalised when the Audit Commission told the government it had too much government money going into it and had to be on the Treasury’s books. Now NR does use government money, but  as a semi-private company (actually more like a trust, with a Board of Trustees) it was also able to borrow money from the markets. The markets were perfectly happy to lend it money – lots of it – since the assets NR has are gynormous, that was their guarantee that they could recoup.

You could say that this means that one-third of the railway is nationalised but since NR’s assets are so much more valuable than any other part of the system it’s a lot more than that. Leasing companies own the rolling stock, but as this asset is constantly on the move and therefore gets worn out it depreciates rapidly. Train Operating Companies just run the trains and manage stations so their key asset is staff. The profits they make – and not all do – are a very small proportion of the railway “spend”.and they are expected to start paying money back into the treasury during the course of the Franchise

An interesting video shows how British Rail delayed the opening of the Newcastle Metro because it was not in their interest to see it opened. (starts at 15:00)

What’s happened now is that the Chancellor, Philip Hammond is having to support a lot of uncosted promises in the Tory manifesto and is faced with a declining economy in the wake of Brexit so he’s told NR that they have to sell off one point eight billion of assets. NR managers may have naively thought that money would be reinvested in the railway, but no, it will be spent on tax cuts for the rich and suchlike. So places like Sheffield will continue to have diesel trains, probably until HS2 arrives, contributing to the worsening air pollution. Since then, Transport Minister Grayling has cancelled the electrification of the Midland Main Line saying that the needs of the cities and towns north of Kettering can be met by a technology that does not yet exist – bi-mode trains that can travel over 100 miles under their own power without using diesel. On top of that is the requirement that the ancient HST’s (one of BR’s success stories) have to be made DDA-compliant at a cost of £50m or scrapped by the end of next year. The NAO has just reported that this decision was all about cost and nothing to do with new technology. Grayling has also cancelled about half of the planned electrification of the Great Western.

No doubt under a government led by Jeremy, or even better Caroline and Natalie, all would be marvellous in the railway world, but as soon as you get crooked people like May,  Hammond and Grayling in charge, things can very quickly go pear shaped, so it’s best to keep them at arms length.

In Rail magazine, Michael Holden, the former CEO of East Coast when it was directly operated (aka nationalised)  argues against privatisation. Much has been made of the “success” of EC in as much as that it paid back in to the treasury (money that the railway industry isn’t getting back – again spent on tax cuts for the rich, costs of Brexit and suchlike) but the reality is EC put no investment back into the service, just running the same trains on the same tracks, so while places like Leeds, Newcastle and Edinburgh continued to get a good service, outliers like Lincoln, Bradford and Middlesbrough were left out in the cold.

The other current example of a rail system being directly managed by the DfT is Southern Railway, which is run on a management contract, leaving the civil servants who wrote the contract happy to let the operating company take the flack for their decisions, Clearly the RMT are using the dispute to attack the government and their members being quite well paid can afford to do that – I have no problem with that other than the distress it is causing passengers with some people losing their jobs because they can’t get to work – but let’s not pretend that it is about who pushes a button on the train. Plenty of trains have no guards and some have no drivers either – they still have to have a staff presence on the train

Let’s turn to the thorny topic of ticketing. It is in the nature of the transport system that they get very well used at some times of day and not so much at others. For the Railway system this means that valuable stock is either running round empty or sitting idle in sidings, while the fixed asset is also not being used. BR’s attitude to that was just to let the trains run around empty. Only when the Saver ticket was introduced did you start to see cheaper off-peak fares introduced. Now there is a wide range of ticket options and people say it is too complicated and confusing. I personally don’t see that – I go to my favourite app, select the journey I want and then just have to make a choice about the type of ticket I want – e.g. can I be sure that I’ll turn up in time for that train to so I can gamble on a no flexibility advanced purchase ticket or do I pay a bit more for a ticket that I can use on a range of trains. There are some fares that are cheaper if you split your journey, but the technology is there to deal with that, and such problems used to exist with BR – for example you couldn’t travel between Sheffield and London via Doncaster, if you tried it the conductor would give you a severe ticking off and possibly make you pay again (by the way, when dealing with train staff a lot depends on how honest, polite and good-natured you are with them)  – but if you went to Sheffield ticket office and asked for a Sheffield to London via Doncaster ticket they couldn’t sell it you. In those days it was a lot quicker to go via Donnie – it’s roughly equal now although journey times between Sheff and London on MML are going to get longer soon. Oh and by the way it used to cost £3 (probably £5 in new money) for a bike reservation on Inter-City – all bike reservations are free now.

Are our train services more expensive that those in other countries? Well firstly you have to take the exchange rate into account first. Since the Brexit referendum everything has got more expensive for Brits when abroad – by about 20%. In the recent dispute in France it has come to light that French trains cost about 30% more to run than British ones for an equivalent journey. A return trip from Sheffield to Bordeaux will cost you about £300 with most of that going to SNCF. A review the Man at Seat 61 found that most leisure fares in the UK are cheaper than in Europe. Peak-time fares are too expensive in the UK and that is the result of a government decision that passengers should bear the cost of investment in the railway, bearing in mind the years of under-investment in BR which we have still not caught up on.

So what other models of running the railway system could be looked at? Some commentators have advocated the Community Rail model – this has worked very well in bringing rural and branch lines back to life, whether it would work for the long-distance lines could be looked at.

My point is that when you say Bring Back British Rail, be careful what you wish for. Those of us who actually remember British Rail know how crap it was –  ancient rolling stock running on creaky lines, but also that it was run primarily for the benefit of the staff and the management, not the customers. For all their failings TOCs are at least customer focused.  

Some say, well they brought in the HST which was a success – yes they did but they also attempted to build the Advanced Passenger Train which  failed, although tilting trains turns out to be quite easy to do. (See Pendolino) They also brought in the Pacer, the most hated train ever (I’m sure they didn’t want to) Some of the Sprinter variants are quite good.

Now we get lefties saying things like “when we said bring back British Rail we didn’t actually mean bring back British Rail – how could people possibly think that?”

More recently we have had the furore surrounding the disastrous timetable change in May 2018. Whose fault was that? Opinions vary but it is apparent that the DfT and Network Rail were major players

The man in seat F16 (travelling First Class from London to Sheffield in peak time for £17)

 

West Manchester Fadeaway

Should you wish to try something a bit different, we’ve organised a visit to Western Manchester. This will be on  Monday 6th August, meeting at Manchester Piccadilly at 10:30 a.m. David Yates, who helped us organise a Cycle-Rail Forum for the North meeting and ride, has offered to repeat his guided tour. We go out along the Bridgewater canal and to return to Manchester we’ll use the cycle path alongside Leigh guided busway and NCN55, taking in a tour of Salford Quays. You could also join us at Irlam station for lunch at about 12:30. (Regular trains from Oxford Rd)
The area is redolent with history – you have the Bridgewater Canal, the first canal in the world to carry freight, and the Manchester – Liverpool railway, the first passenger railway in the world. Chat Moss is a massive peat bog with a nature reserve. We will  also pass through Salford Quays. You may have read about the remarkable regeneration of Irlam due to investment from a local entrepreneur in the Guardian recently. We will also pass by Manchester’s 2nd Airport.
The ride is about 35 flat miles and we aim to take all day over it. A Brompton might be best for ease of transport but the ride could be done on any bike. Note that if you plan to travel on First Trans-Pennine Express cycle reservations for non-folding bikes  are mandatory.
Drop me a line direct if you’d like to come along – simonmichaelgeller@gmail.com

The Battle For Broomhall Rd

Junction of Broomhall Rd and Victoria Rd

Broomhall Rd is a leafy avenue passing through the Broomhall conservation area in Sheffield, much loved by John Betjeman amongst others. Unfortunately it had also become a rat-run for drivers wishing to bypass the complex junction system at Brook Hill. The rat-running problem in the northern section of Broomhall was solved by an ingenious traffic management scheme developed in consulation with residents many years ago, but this did leave the southern area vulnerable to traffic. The area is also well used by students, University staff and people taking their kids to nurseries in the area amongst others. 

A proposal was made to link the two Sheffield Hallam University (SHU) sites  – City and Collegiate  – with an enhanced walking and cycling route and this has now been put in place on Broomhall Rd.  Making a section of Broomhall Rd one-way with contra-flow cycling means that is still possible to access Clarkehouse Rd but you have to go a longer way round on traffic calmed streets. I think the new route is long enough to discourage rat-running.

The CycleSheffield view  as I understand it is that the scheme is not radical enough and all the parking on one side of Broomhall Rd should have been removed to make more space for people walking and on bikes. Their initial response is here. 

Personally although I’m never against segregated cycleways I’m not sure the level of traffic on this road, particularly now the level of rat-running has been reduced, warrants segregation.

Complaints about the scheme have focused on two issues – drivers are violating the no entry signs and continuing up Broomhall Rd in the wrong direction and parking has been reduced making it more difficult to drive up to the nursery gates and drop your kids off. It is also alleged that the road is too narrow for contra-flow cycling.  Brunswick St however is much narrower than Broomhall Rd and contra-flow cycling works successfully here.

SHU hasn’t covered itself in glory – they seem happy to have the council take the flak for this scheme although it was done at their behest. I’m cross that they have recently closed two of the cut-throughs from Collegiate Crescent to Broomgrove Rd, one possibly temporarily, the other looks permanent. I’ve been using these routes since I lived on Southgrove Rd in the 1970s and they would make a natural extension from the Broomhall Rd route into the Groves, both for walkers and cyclists. They have also annoyed local residents by leaving portakabins in place for teaching, that they said they would remove by 2015. 
Traffic doesn’t “have” to take the long way round Collegiate Cres & Park Lane – most of the through traffic is rat-running and should stay on the Ring Road. Alternatively people could just leave their cars at home and use alternative means of transport. I think the long way round route that traffic now has to do is long enough to discourage most drivers from doing it regularly and that as tends to happen, people will get used to it and find alternative routes.  There is a bit more traffic on Victoria Rd now but it is in manageable numbers.
The lower section has been narrowed to reduce speeds and the discouragement of rat-running I mentioned previously will I think make a difference to this area.
I quite like the parking areas delineated with brick that they have put in.
Down at the City end, the existing cycle link at the end of Broomhall St (joining the ring road)  is still in place and form the link from the Ring Route to the Broomhall Rd route.
Presumably the route will continue along Wellington St –  there’s a plan for a plateau over Fitzwilliam St  which looks a bit wimpy –  the one further up  linking to Devonshire St is only a minor improvement  & I think CycleSheffield were right to ask for a proper light controlled crossing here. Egerton Walk is shown as a cycle route on the plan but is currently only a footpath. – this area is being resurfaced at the moment. I guess it will all link up once the New Retail Quarter is done.
I hope the council shows resolution and doesn’t make any more than minor amendments to this scheme and then cracks on and sorts out the Clarkehouse Rd problem, of which more later.

No Left Turn Unstoned*

On May 21st I attended a meeting in Unstone, NE Derbyshire, about the proposed cycle route along the B6057 and linking up the Peak Resort bridleways with Dronfield (although the planned route doesn’t quite reach Dronfield)   This would be a major plank in the completion of a Sheffield to Chesterfield Cycle Route – the current route is described here.

There and back again

The views expressed in this blog post are entirely my own.

 

Currently the cycling experience along here is pretty bad.  When the A61 bypass was built nothing was done to rebalance this road in favour of walkers, cyclists, disabled people or horse riders.  As a result most riders you see are youngish, male, wearing lycra helmets etc – the confident cyclist”. There is a steep gradient to the north of the route which attracts fast riding. There has been some criticism of the scheme from cyclists and this has mostly come from this type of cyclist. There would be nothing to stop this type of cyclist from continuing to use the road except that the carriageway would be narrower. As a fairly confident cyclist myself I think I would tend to stay on the road in the down hill direction and use the shared use path when climbing.

 

The village is blighted by what is in effect a major road running through it. The Post Office is the only local business left along the road. Although the Post Office is being provided with 3 parking spaces as part of the scheme (currently people park illegally outside or park on side roads and have to cross the road without a crossing the postmaster complained bitterly about it. Local people commented that if he sold anything that was worth having other than stamps they would use it more.

There were a lot of deaf people in the room. Some were genuinely hard of hearing, others just didn’t want to hear what council officers and others had to say.  One gentleman had to be taken out by his daughter after he constantly interrupted other speakers.
The council officers knew their stuff and did their best but didn’t come over particularly well.
The plan is for a shared use route,  1.4 miles long. mostly 3 metres wide, but will be 2.6 metres wide in places because there isn’t enough road space for the full width.  The cost is £900k. from ring-fenced govt. funding. 
The Railway Bridge is a problem, it has a narrow separate footbridge the current proposal is for Cyclists Dismount signs. This bridge would have to be rebuilt for electrification (the HS2 spur will run along here) so this would be the solutrion to that in the long term. Actually if you dismount on a narrow path you double the width you are taking up making it impossible for others to pass you – “Cyclists Dead Slow” would be better IMO.
Narrowing the road would bring down traffic speeds, a major cause of concern for everyone. However, the officers didn’t really provide the evidence for that.
The Business Case shows £5.95 return for every £1 spent.
The scheme would involve the Closure of Church St & Old Whittington lane, removing some rat-running.
There is some doubt as to whether the peak resort is going ahead? – as far as DCC knows it is, but if it doesn’t, the bridleway asset as well as the access road network is in place for whatever replaces it.
At the south end a link to Chesterfield is in the planning stages.
There was some talk about using the disused railway between Dronfield and Unstone instead (who know there was one?) I have my doubts about this as it doesn’t really connect the two communities but could make a good leisure route. You need to get across the railway to access it which would make it expensive. I plan to go and take a look
The meeting concluded with an informal vote which went against the scheme. However, I don’t feel that this in any way demonstrated local democracy – people didn’t seem to understand what they were voting about, and had no inkling that they were turning down a £900k investment in their community.  I think it has been poorly marketed  – it should be marketed as a traffic calming scheme with a shared us path included, not just a cycle route.
The attitude amongst attendees then was that they had a major problem with the road running through their village but weren’t prepared to allow anyone to do anything about it.  I hope the scheme goes ahead.

 

*This refers to a catchphrase invented by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters in the ’60’s. The were fervent advocates of the use of marijuana and LSD, and when discussing politics were adamant that the alleged heightened consciousness effects of these drugs should be brought into play. Tom Wolfe reported this in his seminal work, “The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test” which inspired young people all over the world to adopt the alternative lifestyle advocated by the Pranksters. When they got bored with smoking dope they tended to do things like set up yoghurt farms and wholefood shops and of course started riding bikes.

Marijuana production and use is now legal in many US states. Tom Wolfe died on May 14 2018, aged 88. R.I.P.

One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest by Ken Kesey is on at the Crucible, 8 Jun – 23 Jun.

2 New Bike Routes in Derbyshire


Just south of Dronfield, a new bridleway route is emerging through Unstone: At the moment, you can access it along Sheffield Rd but when the works are complete you’ll be able to use it to avoid a busy section of the road completely. This is on the back of the Peak Gateway resort, a Center Parcs – type complex to be built in this area.

Did I mention I’d had my bike rebuilt?

There’s a gap in the bridleway where it goes across a field but when complete it will enable you to get to Hill Top and hence across the A61 and into the Peak District.

Meanwhile a bit further West,  the Rowsley  – Matlock route is being officially opened this week.

 

…great for trainspotters!

 

 

Highways England Designated Funds Scheme

I joined a webinar about this scheme which provides funding for schemes on the Strategic Road Network – £250m  total funds
Malcolm Wilkinson 
Gave examples of schemes
Cycling Safety & Integration (CSI)
Smallest scheme £10k up to £2.5m
111 schemes so far.
e.g. M49 (SW)
A27 nr. Lewes
Curved barrier alongside the M1 in S.Yorks.
Also S. Yorks police starting to use electric vehicles – up to 20 vehicles.
My question, which didn’t get asked, was: I see a lot of well-intentioned crossing schemes at major road junctions as I cycle around the UK. However a lot of these are poorly maintained, over-grown and strewn with broken glass and litter and if not unusable are highly unwelcoming, What measures are you taking to ensure that these schemes are kept open and clear for use?
(Examples: Crossing of the North Circular/A104  (Woodford)
A225/A282 Woolwich
A41/NCN5 Sandwell.
Scammonden  M62/NCN68 Crossing )
Another question did address this:
Will designated funds continue to be capital only (Relates to my question)  – They are looking at resource being included in RIS2 which would allow for maintenance.
Advisory group includes Sustrans (Jason Torrance) & CBT (Bridget Fox)
Mike Wilson RIS2 
(Road Investment Strategy 2)
Mike set out the decision making process
Consultation Jan 2018
RIS 1 included Trans-Pennine Links  – See this doc:-
Questions: 
(Panel comprised Mike Wilson,  Malcolm Wilkinson, Jason Torrance (Sustrans), Vinita Hill, Designated Funds Director )
How are the Freight and Public Transport industries involved?
What about J.15 of the M6?
How can people volunteer to contribute to the advisory route?
Stakeholder group is much wider than the advisory group – start with the designated funds email box.
Can projects span funds?  – Yes but more complicated.
How do you find out if there is a scheme in your area?
Ask via the inbox (Vinita)
Are there any PT Schemes – yes there are some.
Are any other organisations other than Sustrans putting in bids for cycling projects  – no but they could. (e.g. TPT)
How can we view the full programme?
 – Not available yet.
How do they determine the amount of funding for housing related projects?
 – Key factor is matched funding.
Innovation £75m
Air Quality ? £20m
They would like feedback  – was this a good format? I think yes.
So I guess the TPT and other cycling orgs need to look at the programme of  improvements, choose ones that might be approved by Highways England, and put in bids!

E-Bike tryout session

We’re having an e-bike tryout session on the 19th November at the Meersbrook Human Powered Vehicle Centre (head down the alley between 13 & 15 Lismore Rd to find it) Interested in trying out an electric bike, but not sure where to start? We’ll have a range of electric bikes to try, along with expert advice on hand, a wood-burning stove on the go and tea, coffee and cake (of course!) Drop in any time between 12 & 4.Sign up at  https://www.facebook.com/events/138941903391660/

Cycling the Canals du Midi et Garonne

Last year some pals of ours moved to rural France and we thought we’d show up our friends who thought it would be too difficult to go and see them by travelling down by train and bike. On that trip we included some of the Canal du Garonne and we enjoyed it so much we thought we’d do some more of the canals this year. So, we planned a trip from Montpellier.

Leaving work at lunchtime we were on the train to London (1st class naturally – there are some benefits to being over 60) with the bikes travelling 2nd class of course. Dropping the bikes off at Euro despatch and meeting an old friend by chance in the departure lounge, we were on to Paris. We stayed at the brand new Citizenm Paris Gare de Lyon, popped in to our favourite craft beer bar nearby and on the morning were set for our train from Paris Austerlitz to Toulouse (you can’t book bikes on the direct train to Montpellier so we changed at Toulouse – a long day’s travel on the inter-cité) Checked in with Marie Noelle at the airbnb and with the bikes stored in her son’s flat downstairs set of to explore the city. We found a cool area with a good bar and restaurant and returned home to sleep.

Saturday 2/9

Montpeliier – Sete 45k

The next day started with a ride down the river to the coast, where we tried out the track that runs along the canal that passes through the lagoon – water on all sides but the track was poor quality and soon ran out, so we headed inland and made our way towards Sete on a mixture of roads and tracks, guided by Google. Just outside Sete we had an encounter with a mad motorist who overtook someone in the middle of town, practically creaming me.  Calmed down from that, then on Sete which we did not like one bit. Often first impressions of a town can be telling and the way that we found ourselves dumped in an industrial area on the outskirts of town, favoured by youth doing wheelies in motorbikes in an intimidating fashion, should have told us all we needed to know,  We found a litter-strewn unsigned route under the motorway and the railway that brought us in via the old and somewhat derelict dock area. 

Our accommodation, another AirBnB, was poor. We had a crap experience in a tourist restaurant and the evening was only saved by the nice people in the Jaipur curry house. We’re not going back to Sete if we can avoid it! 

Sunday 3/9 Sete to Mirepeisset  95k

The next day was our longest. Following the cycle route out of Sete, (not sorry to leave) this takes the strand along which the road, railway and cycle route stretch with easy access to the beach. We’d left early enough to get a swim in and  see the traffic jam as we  left the beach area and headed alongside the road toward Agde, getting a bit lost en route but using the Garmin to guide us in.

“Mandatory” “bike route” into Agde

There are some very poor bike routes and terrible signage in this area. Crossing the river at Agde we had reached the start of the Canal du Midi. A short ride along the towpath confirmed our suspicions that the towpath was not going to be good for riding in this area, so we worked out a road route which mostly worked pretty well, taking us through some nightmare theme parks.  Further along we reached a good quality stretch of path and that took us for about 20k towards Béziers. The flight of locks at Béziers has become a real tourist attraction with cruise boats, a restaurant etc.  Beyond that the towpath is crap again so we took to the road, using Google to navigate as Garmin is a bit too fond of busy roads. Stopping for a late lunch at a country house where very attractive young women were being delivered in limousines, we rolled on but made the mistake of using Garmin to navigate in for the last section, thereby ending the ride on busy D roads instead of trundling romantically along the canal.

Typical surface on the Canal Du Midi east of Castelnaudry

We arrived at the nights accommodation, a Houseboat, actually a Norfolk Broads cruiser, moored at Porte La Minervoise close to Mirepeisset. We were in time for basic tapas & beer in the canal side and enjoyed our nights stay on Bella Mia, moored just up from the junction of canal du midi and canal du Robine (that heads towards Narbonne).

Monday 4/9

Mirepeisset to Paguignan  (about 10 k)  

Crossing the former tourist line from Narbonne to Bize

A short but very pleasant ride past Bize to Paguignan to stay in a friend’s grenier (converted grain store) good to see Ralph who lives and works nearby, for B&T seeds. A good evening at La Grange.

Tuesday 5/9 Paguignan  – Carcassone    

The hottest day, temps up to 33C. and with a strong headwind that did at least cool us a little. Did some of it on the towpath but the surface still too poor for distance cycling. Noticeable that many of the diseased limes have been cut down giving the Canalside a very different feel. Some good road riding today even with the headwind .  In Carcassonne we stayed in an apartment complex, made our way down to the town centre for bagel burgers, and Leffe.

Carcassone – Castelnaudary 40km

We visited Decathlon before leaving town which meant a great tour of the industrial sector. 

Leaving Carcassonne the route was barrée, and we had a spot of bother finding an alternative. A road that looked as though it would take us in a straight line out of the urban area turned out to be the gated entrance to a private chateau. Eventually we bumped our way along the footpath on the other side of the canal, until we were able to cross at some lock gates.

We also had a spot of rain, but otherwise another hot & windy days cycling and I slip-streamed a tractor for a while which was very satisfying.  Whatever. Castlenaudry is a very pretty town with a lake formed from the canal harbour. Saw coypus &  ate burger (not coypu burger – don’t think so anyway!) on the canalside.

Coypu in Castelnaudry harbour

Thursday 7/9 Castelnaudary – Toulouse 66 km

About ten klicks out of Castelnaudry the dirt track towpath turns into tarmac, at the boundary with Haut Garonne. The landscape starts to change too, with the motorway and the railway following the canal, lets be clear about what was here first, and vineyards replaced with sunflower and wheat fields. On a good surface our speeds started to increase, it had been noticeable that people heading east had not been in a good mood and you could see why when they were forsaking traffic free tarmac for a bumpy dirt track. But after a tree rooty start we were rolling well as we made our way into Toulouse past Matabiau and out the other side without having to contend with city traffic. Our apartment was in the cool Minimes area and we found a decent bar with craft beer, a great local restaurant and local boulangerie although the bio Coop couldn’t get its act together early enough for us to use it for lunch provisions, a pity as we were getting a bit tired of cheese.  

Friday 8/9

Toulouse – Moissac  85km

A handsome bridge on the Canal du Garonne

Our second longest day but with good surfaces, clear signing and a generally downhill direction, the Canal is of course flat except for the écluses , locks,  we sped along. As you leave Toulouse you see the seamy side of the town, a lot of homeless people have found places to pitch camp on the land between the motorway and the canal. They didn’t bother us however, and after leaving behind the largest railway yard I have ever cycled past  we were out into the countryside again. 

At Dieupentale, I suddenly got a hankering for sausages  – you know how it is, as we came under a bridge, suddenly, a miracle! – a restaurant with saucisses on the menu.  We parked our bikes and approached, slavering – well I was – only to be told – “Vous avez réservé? C’est complet! Désolé.” Oh well, bread and cheese for lunch again! 

The Sausage restaurant
Old Dieupental Station (took the photo so I’d know where it was for next time)

We did get a bit lost in Moissac, having visited the town the bike route weirdly takes you around the town and you get your first view of the Garonne, a very wide river at this point. As you leave Moissac the river and the canal stay close together with the railway and the road. We stayed at Chambres D’Hotes at Pugnal, a lovely place run by Brian and Jenny, a very nice couple from Hertfordshire like me. www.pugnal.com

Saturday 9/9 Moissac – Agen

Our final day and we enjoyed the spin along the canal, again with the Garonne beside us.  On arrival I was determined to see the aqueduct that takes the canal over the river, so leaving Patrice at the station I sped along to take a look.  It is indeed an impressive structure and when I got halfway along it the heavens opened so by the time I got the half km back to the Gare I was soaked! This lasted for the rest of our time being driven to our friends house.

Pie

Richard on his tractor

After a very pleasant sojourn we were deposited back at the Ibis Agen for a night before the early train back to Paris. A note to fellow travellers – if you;re looking for somewhere to eat in Agen you can do a lot worse than the Grande  Brasserie at the station. Dinner was fab and breakfast wasn’t bad either.

Agen – Sheffield

And another note to fellow travellers – if you’ve booked your bikes on the TGV be assertive about getting them on. By the time we’d finished being nice to our travelling companions they had stuffed all their bags in the rather paltry bike space. We did just about manage to squeeze them on-

Bike Space on the Agen – Paris TGV (Goes via Bordeaux)

There only remained to cycle across Paris (this train went to Montparnasse, not the easiest station to cycle to Gare Du Nord from, but once you get to Bastille you can follow a segregated route along the canal, although if it’s market day there will be a bouchon) book the bikes in to Euro Despatch, go for a slap-up lunch and get the Eurostar home. Arriving back in Sheffield in the rain took the edge off things!