Puffing with the puffers - Pedalling to the pictures - CycleBlaze

March 25, 2022

Puffing with the puffers

Parthenay to Bressuire

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NORTH out of Parthenay is an old railway line. Clumsy locomotives with huge chimneys once pulled passengers and hens and cattle between trees long used to the smoke they created.

  It opened in 1857, the state took it over in 1877 and it struggled on until 1982, when it closed.

Clear road ahead
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  Forty years have passed since wheels rattled on rails and it could be that the route is now better known as a voie verte, a greenway, than ever it was as a railway.

  "Will you ride the voie verte?", the woman in the Vietnamese restaurant wanted to know last night. We chatted of how she preferred to walk to work than cycle on busy roads. We spoke of how she had been too young to remember the American war but that her parents had left Saigon because of it. If she could pedal to work on the bike path that has replaced the train line, she would be happier still.

  The line doesn't hide what it was but neither does it boast it. Old posts stand in long grass, denuded of the secret messages they once carried: a slope here, a descent there, a call to whistle or slow.

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  The cottages are still there that once housed the level-crossing operators. Families who lived there were grateful for the shovel of coal that firemen threw out for them. Now the houses have central heating and the walls are spruce and painted and no longer stained by smoke. Their owners work elsewhere and grow vegetables at weekends.

One of the old stations has been kept for camping
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  It is a gentle ride with only the frequent criss-cross barriers to displease. But they in turn keep out motorised traffic, so complaints are not in order.

  The path was ours for the most part. Three walkers, a jogger and three cyclists in plain clothes waved as we passed.  The branches of trackside trees were lightly enough charged to let through the spring sunshine in stripes.

Happiness is a voie verte after a day of hills
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  The stations are much as they were, though the one at Clessé has sidings and a freight truck and a crossing gate.

  It was a short ride, with a break for coffee, but a gentle pleasure after the hills of yesterday. The steam-glistened pistons that turned wheels of steel have long fallen silent. That's a shame but it's we, happy cyclists, who have profited.

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Steve Miller/GrampiesIn our area there is a 289 km rail corridor that has been unused by trains for years, the sleepers now all rotten. But no voie verte for us, because this is not France!

I was hoping, after your into page, to get a closer look at the new e-bike!
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6 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Steve Miller/GrampiesSend me your email address again, Steve, and you shall have it!
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6 months ago