Tricky has just spent a week at the seaside in what can only be described as an area of biking and bird-watching bliss: the Baie de Somme. It took us a fair few trains to get there, with varying levels of bike-transporting techniques, but it was well worth the effort.
Unlike other trips, when I’ve moved on every day, this time I based myself in two different places (Le Crotoy & Cayeux-sur-Mer) and headed out on day trips with Tricky. It was a very nice experience, particularly as I’m especially keen on coastal birds. I’ve written before about where the growing enthusiasm for bird-watching comes from but I think the enthusiasm is getting worse….it may soon be an addiction! I spent a lot of time at the Marquenterre bird reserve, which was absolutely brilliant. Not only did I improve my bird identification skills, I also learnt some new (pretty useless in daily life) French vocabulary. It was exciting to see my first ever spoonbill and then my second…and then 10th…and then 40th! The spoonbill has such a distinctive way of feeding that it would be impossible to ever get bored of watching it. I also saw my first ever black winged stilt which has the most amazing legs (with my cyclist thighs, I am incredibly envious of the slender stilt legs!)
This bird knowledge turned out to be pretty useful because the Baie de Somme area has created some signed cycle routes and, instead of numbering them or signing them with colours, they are marked with bird silhouettes. So, unless you can identify the silhouette on a signpost at the speed, getting lost is inevitable! Luckily, I didn’t get lost at all which must tell you something about the quality of the signage and my bird identification skills. Following the trails enabled me to explore the land area really thoroughly:
but I had to abandon Tricky and get in a boat to truly experience the bay itself. The tides in this area are interesting. The water goes out miles and then comes back in at a speed that could easily cut you off, if you had ignored all the warning signs. In an attempt not to be stuck on a sand bar in the middle of a bay, and to see some seals, I joined a group trip out to the edge of the bay one evening. It was brilliant. We rowed out in these boats:
and then stopped and got out on a sand bank to see the seals. As the tide came back in, the seals started to swim around our feet and then, as we got back in the boat, they swam with us back up to Le Crotoy. It was a really enjoyable experience and an excellent place to be as the sun set over the hills.
After 6 days of pootling around the bay area, I headed to Dieppe. A lot of locals had been very inquisitive about my trip and each time I mentioned that I would be taking the train back from Dieppe, they all had the same response: “it’s very hilly between here and Dieppe”, followed by a bit of a laugh. They weren’t lieing. The paths around the bay itself are beautiful signed and designed for cyclists and I spent all 6 days cycling without my helmet and without much of a need for a map. However, on my final cycling day, from Cayeux-sur-mer to Dieppe, it was definitely a case of ‘helmet on, map at the ready.’ My hilly ride was also accompanied by a Force 6 wind, 95% of the time working as a headwind. But despite that, I really enjoyed it. I stopped for coffee in the very interesting town of Eu. It has a bit of a history with William the Conqueror and a long connection to Ireland. After coffee I just kept pedalling through undulating French countryside until I hurtled down hill at the speed of a lunatic in to Dieppe. It wasn’t the warmest of welcomes:
as the bridge was up so I couldn’t get in to the town straight away but it was a really nice place indeed.
In fact, Dieppe with its ports, fantastic fish restaurants, pedestrianised centre and sea water swimming pools, comes highly recommended. A perfect place to end a very lovely trip.