A ride through the past

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One of the joys of cycling is getting to understand the landscape. You become very aware of geography – you know, stuff like hills and valleys. And you also come to understand towns and villages in a new way – in particular, how they sit in the land.

The area of Normandy and the Mayenne where we live is an ancient landscape. It’s common to see a village long before you reach it because it’s clustered on a far hill, or at the end of a long, straight road (what have the Romans ever done for us?), of because of its church’s spire acting like a beacon.

Often, if you squint a bit and there isn’t a milk truck thundering past your ear, you can glimpse what that same view must have looked like in mediaeval times.

Yesterday’s ride took us along some familiar, some unfamiliar roads. It was one of those rides where you don’t care where you go – it’s all about the going. The day started dull, but as soon as the sun started to poke through we knew we couldn’t resist riding.

Ready to set off. The bikes posed at what we like to call the ‘gate’ to our property – except that the gateposts fell down years ago and there never was a gate. The thing on the left is the post box.

The village in the top two pictures is Brecé. From there we cycled down a road I haven’t taken in many years. It curved and meandered down through a valley until we eventually hit Colombiers-du-Plessis – somewhere I’ve only ever driven through. But on bikes, stopping is easy. We found an open-sided building with a picnic table where we could eat our snacks. I think it was the small critter outside that enticed us in.

Inside was the local library.

We could have headed directly back through the local town, but the day was enticing us to go further. While the wind had been cold early on, by now we’d really warned up. I stripped off a layer, so I was down to t-shirt, Endura jacket and hi-vis gilet.

We improvised a route home, taking a large curve that initially took us further away from home. On e-bikes you always know you can get home okay – just crank up the power a notch.


We ended up passing through the picturesque village of St-Aubin-Fosse-Louvain. The road on which we approached is again one we’ve travelled many times before, although always in the car. There was a stretch that I’d assumed was level. Even on the bike it was impossible to perceive any gradient. Yet we freewheeled along it at 27kph. Maybe it’s one of those magic hills.

As the road nears St-Aubin it snakes side to side as it climbs a steep hill. On a bike, you understand how the path was formed by people on foot and horse negotiating a stream and the slope. Modern improvements can’t mask the route imposed by geography. And again, the village was first glimpsed pretty much as it’s been seen for centuries. It’s like riding into the past.


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