Saturday, 27 November 2010

London LOOP section 10 Moor Park - Elstree

Moor Park Golf Course
This is one of the longer sections of the LOOP and I had managed to find myself another glorious day to tackle it. Exactly a month after my last foray I was very pleased to find that a lot of leaves were still on the trees, although with a forecast of heavy rain and wind in the next few days, I suspected that this would be the last that I would see of the leaves in all their autumn glory.
Bramble Colours
I took the train from Elstree and Borehamwood station to the beginning of the walk at Moor Park where I had left off last month. By taking the train only as far as West Hampstead and walking the short distance from the main railway station to the underground station nearby I saved myself some time and money on the train ticket (a useful tip for end to end walkers like me). Moor Park was rather different from last time in that it was almost deserted – no school children on a Sunday morning! With a decided nip in the air I was keen to get walking and as soon as I left the station I retraced my steps along the link route that I had traversed last time. Underfoot was extremely wet courtesy of a very heavy dew and I soon regretted not taking a chance on my yet-to-be-worn winter walking boots. My summer boots were very wet very quickly, although to be fair the water didn’t actually penetrate through the canvass.
Crossing the Common
At the end of the wood I turned left to skirt around a golf course, one of several that I would be seeing today. The number of players on the course was quite respectable despite the wet underfoot conditions. I suspect most of the players already on the course were eager to get finished before lunchtime. As I wandered across the course the colours of the blackberry bushes were what struck me most. I had never really considered how bright their leaves can get in the autumn, as I usually lose interest in them when the berries are finished. Yet there was a rich tapestry of reds and yellows on all the bushes, whetting my appetite on what was surely going to come later in the walk.
Autumn Colours
At the far end of the golf course I had the first viewpoint of the day as the LOOP bade farewell to the Colne Valley for the last time and headed determinedly eastwards as the Colne and its partner the Grand Union Canal headed north. After crossing a main road the LOOP crossed a green space that was covered in morning dew. It sparkled in the sunlight so much that you could have been forgiven for thinking it was frost, but it was actually too mild for that overnight. The air was thick with the smell of wood smoke and fireworks from the Bonfire Night celebrations the night before, a smell I always associate with autumn. The green space was thronged with dog walkers all making interesting tracks across the grass, a sort of reverse snail trail!
Golden Carpet
After a brief dalliance with a piece of suburbia I was thrust into Oxhey Woods, a very pleasant slice of ancient woodland full of pretty colours but rather defaced by various pieces of rubbish. Why do people feel it’s necessary to leave their rubbish in such lovely surroundings and spoil it for everyone else? It’s not as even as if it was the odd piece of litter either – we are talking tables and mattresses! After passing by a very expensive looking lodge house and through sun dappled woods I became aware of yet another housing estate and with it brought more fly-tipped rubbish. Groan! Thus far I had also been following a couple of fellow walkers from Moor Park station. They looked lost as I approached them but avoided my gaze so I wandered on having failed to connect with them. I had a feeling that they were fellow LOOP walkers but clearly didn’t want my company. Who knows they may still be lost for all I know!
Oxhey Woods Viewpoint
After a fairly long section of woodland walking I was pleasantly surprised to get out into the open air shortly afterwards. This supposedly was the second viewpoint with a sweep of London allegedly before me (according to the guidebook anyway). It is true that Wembley Stadium and Harrow-on-the-Hill church were very visible landmarks away in the distance but other than that it wasn’t a very memorable if I’m honest. The path soon dropped away from this ‘high point’ (slightly raised more like!) and down to a farm where I met a dreaded mud bath that I had to pick my way through very carefully for fear of being swallowed up by it!
Pinnerwood House
A little past the farm I also passed Pinnerwood House, apparently the home of Edward Bulwer Lytton, all round Victorian hero by all accounts. I have to confess I had never previously heard of him yet it is claimed that he originated some of the great clich├ęs of our time in his capacity as author (he was also a politician, poet and playwright). He coined the phrases ‘pursuit of the almighty dollar’, ‘the pen is mightier than the sword’ and my personal favourite ‘the great unwashed’. Anyhow his former house is a much photographed landmark of the LOOP and deservedly so.
West Coast Main Line
It was to be the last highlight for awhile; from here it was an airy but rather uninspiring walk around seemingly endless fields until I reached the West Coast Main Line, the main rail route from London to North West England and Scotland. It was surprisingly quiet even for a Sunday, suggesting perhaps that at least some of the lines were closed for the day. A couple of trains did pass though just to dispel my first though, which was complete closure. I crossed the line by means of a bridge where I was almost completely enclosed, presumably to prevent vandalism of the line below by people throwing stuff over. Secure it might have been but I was pleased to get across as it was far from a pleasant experience.
Grim's Dyke Golf Course
The path continued along a road and crossed at a junction by a garden centre, still managing to do decent trade despite the lateness of the season. I was pleased to cross the road opposite and continue out into open countryside. I got the distinct impression that the rather unloved piece of land I passed first was an unofficial rubbish dump and it was therefore some relief to pass through a gate and out into a golf course. This was the third encountered today and clearly golf is a very popular pastime in these parts. I guess planning golf courses was also a lot easier than houses in the green belt around London? I continued up the side of Grim’s Dyke golf course until I got to a track at the top of the hill, where I turned to look back across the view behind me. It was actually pretty good – rather better than the one across London earlier. A little further along the track and I came upon Grim’s Dyke, the ancient feature that the golf course is named after. This earthwork’s origin is a mystery and also barely discernable underneath all the vegetation. It did mark the beginning of another lengthy section of woodland walking as I crossed Harrow Weald.
Grim's Dyke
In the woodland are a number of man-made features of different vintages. First the modern, with a very large telecom mast unsympathetically dumped in the middle of the wood. It was so big that it could conceivably pick up signals from outer space (perhaps that is its function?). A slightly older construction was a little further ahead; the 1870 house also known as Grim’s Dyke and formerly the home of WS Gilbert or Gilbert and Sullivan fame. The weed choked lake reached before the house is the scene of Gilbert’s death. He had a heart attack while trying to rescue a woman who apparently got into difficulties when he was trying to teach her to swim. When I reached the old house I realised that I had strayed from the official path – it was worth it though. The old place is now a country house hotel that still puts on Gilbert and Sullivan productions. Iolanthe and The Pirates of Penzance were upcoming productions – good fun if you like that sort of thing.
Grim's Dyke House
I re-found the path through the woods and came out on Old Redding Lane. This is something of a local beauty spot, with a well-used car park and a great view southwards across the metropolis. Wembley Stadium suddenly looked a lot closer from this point and the intervening countryside looked like an autumn parkland rather than the endless houses you might expect of such a view. I lingered for a minute then continued along the road past the intriguingly name ‘The Case is Altered’ pub. Apparently this is more common a name that I realised, but it usually refers to a change to licensing law some 300 or so years ago. This example though apparently takes its name from a corruption of ‘casa alta’, Spanish for high house. Certainly the pub sign confirms that, for it depicts soldiers trying to capture the place, although the signage itself has seen better days sadly.
The Case is Altered
After a brief respite from woods it was back into woodland walking again, crossing another section of Harrow Weald. On a sunny autumn day it was a joy to be walking through all these patches of woodland, but I’m not sure it would be so appealing at any other time of year. The woodland was finally interrupted by the A409 – a particularly busy road that was tough to cross. On the other side the character of the walk changed completely as I entered the grounds of Bentley Priory. The pathway through the grounds is surfaced, which made the going rather easier. I soon became aware of a very large barbed wire fence on my left and remembered that Bentley Priory was the famed headquarters of RAF Fighter Command during World War II. Apparently the old place is still owned by the Ministry of Defence, hence the rather stern looking security measures around the outside. As I walked around the perimeter fence I got the odd glimpse of the Italianate architecture of the old place, but I wasn’t going to risk taking pictures in these nervous times!
Bentley Woods
At the far end of Bentley Priory were some very salubrious houses of various vintages all clustered together on an exclusive looking estate perhaps once populated by the top brass in the air force but now more likely to be owned by footballers, stockbrokers and swanky lawyers? The path only briefly flirted with such a world though and it was soon back into woodland as I passed by Stanmore Cricket Club and then some picturesque looking ponds known as Caesar’s Lakes. These were allegedly dug by the Romans when they occupied this area (hence the name) but nobody seems sure. As I skirted Stanmore (famed for being at the end of the Jubilee Line) I became aware of two very different gatherings of people. The first was the sporting fraternity of Harrow Rugby Club, where boys from various ages were competing in some fiercely competitive games (if the crowd’s reaction was anything to go by). The second was the gathering of Muslims for what I took to be a pretty important event at the Islamic Centre just opposite the rugby club. There was a degree of traffic chaos in the area caused by both events, but it was good to see plenty of life around. Too often on this walk I have wandered through suburbia and seen no-one at all.
Bentley Park
I finally left the woodland and heathland behind a little further on when I passed by the National Orthopaedic Hospital. Judging from the appearance of the LOOP side of the campus the hospital isn’t used much, since many of the buildings look semi-derelict. Yet there seems to be no reference to this on the website – it’s all a bit confusing really.
Reflections
However, this did mark the point at which woodland walking was almost completely left behind. I could hear the roar of the M1 ahead of me and at the corner of the hospital campus I got a great view out across the green belt towards St Albans. Although the motorway did create quite a din, it did not impose itself too much on the view which was a relief. I wandered down though a few fields before coming to an underpass that I could use to get across. I am always surprised at how wide these bridges are, and this one resembled a short tunnel it was so dark underneath. After playing chicken across the road underneath the motorway (the rather busy A41), I then faced a half mile trudge along the road into Elstree. This wasn’t actually that bad, although I was pretty frustrated not to be able to cross and join the perimeter path around Aldenham Reservoir at the first opportunity. Instead I had to miss a good chunk of it before the opportunity arose.
More Reflections
The bit of shoreline of the reservoir I did walk was delightful. By now the sky was full of puffy white clouds which meant that the shadows and light were even better than earlier when it was a cloudless sky. The water was like glass and all around was a throng of activity with Sunday strollers, families airing their children and the members of the lake boating club busying themselves with preparing their boats for winter. The lake itself was apparently built by French PoWs in the Napoleonic War and in keeping with the reluctance of forced labour they made a poor job of it. Apparently the reservoir leaked for years before it was finally fixed by the installation of a concrete dam.
National Orthopaedic Hospital
From the reservoir it was a short but fairly uninteresting walk into Borehamwood. Sadly the LOOP misses the charming village of Elstree entirely, with a brief view of the church all that is visible from the path. After crossing Watling Street, the old Roman Road that headed for North Wales and is now the pretty unimportant A5183, the LOOP then made an annoying detour away from the short road into Borehamwood, adding an extra half mile to my journey just so I could get a good look at yet another golf course! Over in the distance I was also getting pretty distracted by a police helicopter hovering over Borehamwood and I couldn’t help thinking that it had something to do with my car! Of course when I got closer I soon realised that it didn’t, but I have to confess that I rather rushed the last mile or so of the walk, not taking very much in.
Aldenham Reservoir
This is the longest section of the LOOP so far completed, although it is still a relatively modest twelve miles. It is perfect to do on an autumn day when the colours are at their most radiant. Would I have enjoyed it is much at another time of year? Difficult to say, especially as there are no real stand out parts of the walk. Pleasant it was, but nothing like as enjoyable as the previous section walking along the Grand Union Canal.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Stokes Bay Railway

Gosport Station
Having exhausted all the ‘official’ railway walks/ cycle rides in Sussex my attention must now turn to neighbouring counties to see what I can find there.  Hampshire is a particularly rich vein to tap into and of course I have already found a few (Hayling Billy, Meon Valley Line and the Hamble Rail Trail).  A particularly intriguing railway that demanded exploration in the very short time I had available while in the area a couple of weeks ago is the Stokes Bay Railway.  This short line in the southern part of Gosport was constructed as a short cut to the Isle of Wight before the pier was built in Portsmouth for Isle of Wight ferries.  The line closed as long ago as 1915 so it is something of a miracle that any of it survives at all, but a quick look at the map will show that most of the line has been turned into a cycle path.  An interesting little potted history of the line can be found on http://www.disused-stations.org.uk/s/stokes_bay/index.shtml including a couple of pictures of the pier and how it would once have looked like.
Former Stokes Bay Station

I parked at the sea end of the line.  There would once have been a pier out to sea here, but the site is now occupied by the local lifeboat station, a rather fitting change of use.  The pier finally succumbed to demolition in the early 1970s when the Royal Engineers were allowed to use the rest of the structure to practice their methods on.  There is almost no trace of any railway across the green area at the back of the lifeboat station so I picked up the trail once again in Crescent Road just to the north.  From here a well defined and signed cycle trail suddenly starts out of nowhere and heads north.  This is the line of the old railway, although inevitably there is little in the way of clues indicating its original use.
Now a Cycle Trail

The walk isn’t terribly exciting until after the next road crossing the only real railway feature left intact appears suddenly.  The line crosses Anglesey inlet via a short viaduct and at this point the view across to Portsmouth and the iconic Spinaker Tower comes into view.  How different must this view have been to the Edwardian traveller?  For a start there probably would have been next to no housing in this part of Gosport.  Its early demise can surely be no surprise when you consider how sparsely populated this part of Hampshire was in those days.  Once the pier in Portsmouth opened, life for the Stokes Bay Pier and its shipping service to the Isle of Wight would always be a struggle.  The ferry service initially became summer only and then ceased altogether in 1913.  It was a miracle there were any railway services at all once the ferry service was withdrawn, but the trains managed to soldier on for another two years!
Anglesey Viaduct

The walk continues between houses after the interesting little interlude of the viaduct.  Autumn has really got a grip now and the relatively few trees alongside the former railway (in contrast to most walks of this nature) showed a nice range of colours from yellow to burgundy.  A little further along the track and there was another glimpse across the water, courtesy of another inlet of Portsmouth/ Gosport harbour.  This one was intriguingly called Workhouse Lake, giving a strong hint to its original identity.  No sign of a workhouse now, just yuppie housing development but at least the presence of some birdlife made it a lot more interesting,
Workhouse Lake

A short way past Workhouse Lake and the trackbed stops for now, although there is an interpretation board reminding people that this was once a railway.  I would imagine few people in the area actually know this without looking at the board since there are so few clues left. 
Autumn Colours

Across the road would have been the only intermediate station on the route, Gosport Road.  The site has been completely changed beyond all recognition from thos days since it is now occupied by a telephone exchange, itself of some vintage by the looks of things.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised if that too was supplanted by something else in a few years time.  The trackbed immediately to the north of here has also disappeared for about ¼ of a mile and I had to walk the length of St Andrews Road opposite and dive down the back alley of the houses on the left hand side before finding the track once again. 
Progress

This time the trackbed was a more conventional tunnel of trees although to be fair that didn’t last very long at all.  Just ahead the southern end of the former triangle junction of the line as it diverged from the Gosport to Fareham line is still a junction, but this time of cycle routes.  Originally the south to west line in the triangle didn’t exist and passengers for Stokes Bay would have been seriously inconvenienced by having to go into Gosport first and in many cases changing trains entirely.  This arrangement was finally fixed but not until several years after opening.
Now an Alley

As I was pressed for time I decided that the Fareham section of line would have to wait for another day.  I took the right hand option and headed the short distance past a fairly unloved looking recreation ground and past a school and through a housing estate now built right across the trackbed.  I was keen to see Gosport station, one of unusual design and a listed building as a result.  This meant that following closure in the 1960s the old place was left to rack and ruin as no-one really knew what to do with it.  I was rather surprised to find it a building site when I arrived.  The old place is now to become affordable housing courtesy of the Guinness Trust (see the marketing blurb at http://www.guinnesshomes.co.uk/pages/gosport-railway-station.htm ).  It wasn’t too easy to see how the place would look from the end that the trains would have once used, so I headed instead to the other end by negotiating a few streets.  The work then became much clearer, with many of the original features to remain although it would be hard to imagine that it was once a railway station.  Still there were some good pictures on the hoardings.  As I stood looking at what it was to become my image of the finished building was shattered by one of the workers who told me that it would look nothing like the publicity!
Triangle Junction

I couldn’t help smiling to myself as I headed back towards the seafront and vowed to be back to explore more in a few months time when the work has been completed.
Redevelopment of Gosport Station

Thursday, 11 November 2010

VeloRail Pont Erambourg

Our Train Awaits


A rather different type of outing this time! During our recent holiday in Normandy I finally got to have a go on a velorail, several years after I first learned of their existence. Now that my children are old enough it seemed like the time to try one out, since there were three opportunities within striking distance of the cottage where we stayed (http://www.eco-gites.eu/).
On Board
For those not in the know, France still has many miles of disused railway lines that are still intact. Apparently they are retained for strategic reasons in case the military need to use them and removal only happens once a solid case is put forward. This has led to the development of velorail (railway cycling) as a popular way of exploring some of these otherwise redundant and unused lines. There are approximately 50 velorail operations across the country and the one we decided to visit was about 12 miles from where we stayed. The operation is centred at Pont Erambourg, a small village between Caen and Flers in Calvados, Normandy. This line closed for passenger traffic in 1970 although there have been numerous attempts to reopen it since, partly because of the scenic nature of the line. It runs through what is ambitiously known as ‘Suisse Normande’ (Swiss Normandy), on account of its supposed resemblance to Switzerland (only in as much as there are a few hills and forests!). It is however, very pleasant countryside reminiscent of the Wye Valley in places.
Deserted House
This stretch of railway line actually has two velorail operations, a few miles apart but on different parts of the same line (http://velorails.pagesperso-orange.fr/ ). There is a society that has been formed to try and restore the line, possibly as a heritage railway. We opted for the Pont Erambourg location as it was nearer and at 13km for a round trip, rather shorter than the other one at Val de Maizet further north, which is a 22km round trip. Our children’s patience would have surely been tested by that one!
Role Reversal
Pont Erambourg is also host to something of a museum and the headquarters of the group trying to restore the railway. In the old goods station is a substantial collection of old rolling stock and a couple of locomotives in different states of repair. Sadly, although it is possible to look inside a couple of the railway carriages (old post office sorting coaches), most of the yard is off limits to casual visitors. I couldn’t help thinking that if this was in Britain it would be stuffed with visitors wanting to see every aspect of what was going on.
Heavy Traffic
However, we weren’t really here for the heritage railway stuff, welcome distraction though it was. Our mission was to acquire one of the nifty little railway cycles and explore the extent of the line that we were allowed to. The experience cost us the grand total of 18 Euros, probably a good deal more than the equivalent train journey would have cost! Before setting off we were appraised of the conventions and ‘rules of the road’. The first thing we had to learn was how to turn the cycle around. At 80kg per cycle it isn’t something you will want to lift unless absolutely necessary. At each end of the line therefore an ingenious little turntable arrangement has been put in place, whereby the whole cycle is lifted off the rails, enabling the users to easily turn it. The other thing we had to remember is that the cycle with the greatest number of people aboard has to give way to the one with the least. At first this sounded counter-intuitive, but the thinking became obvious when you realise that the only way to pass is to lift one of the cycles off the rails entirely. Having had the briefing in a mixture of French and English we felt confident enough to get started. We immediately passed by the station building of Pont Erambourg, now a private house that is well protected by a fence preventing velorail snoopers from gawping in the windows! Another point impressed on us was that there are several railway related buildings alongside that are now private houses, and the occupants appreciate peace and quiet from potentially noisy railway cyclists!
Into The Sunshine
Getting going was quite easy as the first stretch of the line out of Pont Erambourg is downhill. The cycles themselves have no gears and so only modest speeds can be achieved. Braking is fairly rudimentary with a metal shoe being applied directly to the wheel! Anyhow, after the initial novelty value of the cycling it felt really good to be cycling along real rails. Of course I have cycled along many old railway lines, but this experience is much more real since so much of the infrastructure is still in place and not just the rails.
Another Crossing
Shortly after getting going we crossed the Noireau River for the first time. This would be a constant companion for the rest of our journey, for the line actually follows the valley for the velorail section. From the viaduct across the river we caught a glimpse of Pont Erambourg, a scenic little village some distance from the former train station (perhaps a clue as to why the rail service was withdrawn). After we passed the village the next couple of kilometres were largely cut off from the surroundings by the wall of trees that has developed alongside the track. Yet it is a testament to the volunteers that help keep the track free of weeds that there was almost no growth on the track itself. After we had got the hang of the cycle my oldest daughter wanted to have a try but sadly she was too small to work the pedals (I think both of us had the thought that one of us might be able to rest while she pedalled!).
Approaching Berjou
When the trees thinned out and we could see the surrounding countryside, the line passed through a beautiful wooded valley save the small area devoted to growing crops on the valley floor (mostly maize). A house on our left caught my eye. It was one of many in France that awaits renovation, possibly by a foreigner looking for an opportunity to build a rural retreat. This one was slowly receding into nature, but what really caught my eye was a decrepit looking Volvo outside which had not a French, but a British numberplate! I was rather surprised to see an abandoned vehicle so far from its origin. Perhaps a sign of a failed project?
Berjou Station
Our first test of the rules of the road came on this section as we approached a level crossing. Unlike ‘live’ railways the priorities are different at level crossings. Velorailers give way to road traffic, but in all honesty the first couple of level crossings that we reached probably only have a handful of road vehicles using them, so the chance of an encounter is probably pretty remote. At the first of the level crossings I admired the crossing keeper’s cottage. Rather like canal keeper’s cottages in Britain these are obviously very desirable places to live nowadays and this one was no exception with a beautifully laid out garden alongside the rail line too. They would have to like all the cycling tourists gawping at them as they passed by! I had a funny feeling though that it was actually a holiday rental.
Ground Frame
Further along the line we encountered something that would definitely be frowned on by the rail authorities if it were still operational. A herd of goats had strayed onto the track and initially they looked as if they were headed for us out of a sense of curiosity. Thankfully they didn’t get in our way, realising perhaps that we weren’t something to get in the way of as we steamed along the track!
Viaduc de Bordeaux
After another crossing of the river we came upon the next station along the line at Berjou. This was formerly a junction station, with a line that headed off to Falaise from here that closed as long ago as 1938. Unlike the Caen line that we were travelling on I guess that this line was too lightly used to ever contemplate keeping and all the track has been removed. We had passed a few of the remaining features of the line earlier on our way to the velorail. The trackbed doesn’t look as if it is available to walk on although seemingly intact for a fairly lengthy distance. What I took to be a goods yard during operational days has now been fenced off for some reason, although there are clues that it might be undergoing reinstatement as a railyard. New ballast on our part of the track, together with the retention of points (albeit that don’t lead anywhere) and some old railway relics suggested that it might have something to do with the heritage railway operation.
Lonely Cow
Berjou station would have served a fairly sparse community, so even if the railway is brought back as a ‘real’ line there is no guarantee that this station would be brought back into use. Yet, once it would have acted as a junction station between the two lines diverging from here so presumably there must have been some activity in the early part of the 20th Century. The station now is in good repair, although the platforms are starting to disappear under weed growth. The owner appears to gather rubbish, with a beat up looking Peugeot sitting in the garden which has been there quite awhile I’ll guess.
Finding the Tunnel
Shortly past the actual rail junction which is still quite evident, our line crosses the most impressive bridge yet, the Viaduc de Bordeaux. Not quite sure if there is any connection with the city, but the viaduct is still impressive although it looks like it got a bit of a beating in World War 2. Although clearly built for a double track, part of the decking has been badly damaged and removed entirely reducing the otherwise clean lines of the bridge. By now we could feel that the line was beginning to climb and we finally left the Noireau River behind for good at this point. We climbed over a ‘real’ level crossing that we had actually crossed in the car earlier and then headed up past a field with a very lonely looking cow in it. It tracked our every move as we passed by, presumably weighing up whether we were a threat. I gave it a wave and took its picture to make it feel better! After the cow we headed into woodland and after a short stretch bound by trees once again we caught sight of the French family ahead of us and as far as we knew, the only other family on the line.
Turning Round
As we got closer we could see that we had made it to the end of the line that could be cycled. Ahead was the 1.7 kilometre long Tunnel Les Gouttes, a formidable obstacle to velorailing. The tunnel is gated off now to put off even the most determined explorer. The tunnel had an interesting World War II apparently, with Hermann Goering supposedly sheltering in here in a special train while he met with his generals. Later in the war it became a shelter of a different nature when it protected nearly 1200 refugees while the battle for Falaise (one of the most ferocious of the Normandy campaign) raged around outside. Seeing this almost forgotten relic of the French railway system it is hard to believe that it had such an eventful past.
Berjou Station
For us, we negotiated past the French family by lifting our cycle off the rails temporarily and then turned it on the turntable. After the girls had inspected the tunnel we made our way back to Pont Erambourg. The return journey was a little less eventful although by now it was turning into a warm afternoon. A few other families had ventured out onto the rails and we had to lift our ‘bike’ off twice on the way back to let them past. Perhaps inevitably they were British!
Suisse Normande Countryside
Once back at Pont Erambourg we did our best to look around at the rolling stock gathered on the sidings. Unfortunately we were only really allowed to look inside the old postal carriages, but there were some interesting exhibits of how the line looked in its heyday. I just wish my French was better for I am sure I would have got a lot more out of the visit if it had been.
Pont Erambourg
Having broken my duck on this exercise, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Had my children been a little more patient (they definitely got quite restless on the way back), I would have loved to have a go on one of the other operations during the week. I can honestly see this being a feature of future trips to France and I shall keep abreast of new openings on http://www.veloraildefrance.com/ , the federation of velorailing activity. Having surveyed other opportunities there are some very interesting looking lines to explore elsewhere.
Awaiting Restoration