France for me is all about the nightingales….
Thirty or so miles in from the coast the serenade began, France has a theme tune and on this occasion it wasn’t me singing ‘Lost in France’ or worse still, ‘Je Suis Un Rock Star’. This little brown bird could be seen as the Susan Boyle of the spring talent show, definitely no visual bling.
Arriving in Dieppe has such a familiar feel by bike, although this time without a view along the Avenue Verte, the stoker’s position affords me time to study the hedgerows and verges, with plenty of time to watch the birds. Early spring must be the richest time to set off on a journey, optimism fills the air and the first bluebells are carpeting the woodlands. Clear blue skies and a warm sun did not warn of the cold nights, waking to thick frost and ice in the pans.
A wonderful campsite near Francastle in an old orchard in full blossom provided entertaining bantams and our first serenade by the nightingale. A voice that is certain to charm the ladies arriving from Africa from the night skies and still going strong to lead the dawn chorus.
The French dawn chorus is spectacular, the nightingale accompanied by the trusty blackbird builds to a crescendo as others join and then gently settles to te gentle pulse of the cuckoo. Spring has definitely sprung and from the stoker’s saddle its hard not to feel the joy, with no steering, braking, gears or traffic to cloud the journey.
France has also been about the Romans. They certainly did not believe in going round hills, so as we plump for direct roads to Belgium, we cover 40 miles stretches of continual climbs. I would mention the downhills if it wasn’;t for the headwinds forcing us to pedal all the way! The entertainment of the skylarks’ aerial antics and calls and swoops of the lapwing across vast, open fields deserves applause from the passing traveller.
At Bavay, the evidence of Romans was clear at the top of yet another huge climb, the restoration of a huge fortress is underway. Straight on to Le Cateau and a kindly farmer giving us space to pitch and a beautiful red sky to sleep under, with inquisitive cows peering through cracks in the barn door to inspect the new neighbours.
From here the Romans afforded us passage into Belgium and each night warmer than the last as we head north, the beginning of the cyclist’s tan already evident. That attractive blow torch effect across the forehead and nose and nut brown hands