It seems that the V43 Vélo Francette is not our little secret any longer. It has just been voted the best cycle route in Europe.
Fiets et Wandelbeurs – a Belgian cycling and rambling organisation – has recognised the beauty and convenience of the route. According to Google Translate and a judicious bit of editing, the jury said something like:
“The route is fully marked, the start and end points are easily accessible by train, there are en route various boarding points for the train, there are along the route adequate accommodations and La Vélo Francette is suitable for young and old. By connecting to other routes such as the Véloscénie, la Loire à Vélo and Vélodyssée, it is also possible to cycle laps. This route is an important new link in the ever-expanding network of cycle routes in France.”
The Vélodyssée mentioned is the EV1 running from Roscoff in Brittany to the Spanish border via France’s Atlantic coast. The Breton section is a route we have ambitions to explore. The V40 Véloscénie connects Paris to Mont St Michel and also runs near us – we ride and walk it often.
The 617km path of the Vélo Francette stretches from the English Channel (or la Manche, if you prefer) all the way down to the Atlantic coast at La Rochelle. It was officially opened in June 2015.
The More Significant Other and I take something of a proprietorial interest in the Vélo Francette having (we thought) discovered it. We’ve mostly ridden the section between Flers and Domfront, in the Orne département of Normandy. It’s less than 20km, if memory serves, but offers a wide variety of scenery, from beautiful woodland to open countryside, plus rivers and even an old forge.
We’ve also explored some sections further south towards Ambrières in the Mayenne département of the Pays de la Loire. So that’s a tiny fraction of the greenway’s total length. But having met so few other people on it, we’ve started to feel like we own it.
I say ‘greenway’ because a significant proportion of the Vélo Francette consists of voies vertes – either former railway lines or (most notably in the Mayenne) the former towpath alongside the river. It is, therefore, very safe to ride. Relatively little of the V43 forces you onto roads, and when it does they are sparely used country lanes. This was a factor in it winning the award. There are also very few significant gradients (other than one small section for which there is an alternative route).
This summer we hope to ride a lot more of the Vélo Francette and other voies vertes in the Grand Ouest – Normandy, Brittany and the Pays de la Loire. And, of course, we’ll be telling you all about it.