Young Londoners visit the Loire.
OUR ADVENTURES TO THE LOIRE VALLEY
by Avantika, Avalon, Hannah, Yameen, Yusuf, Jake, Celia and Alex.
Firstly, thank you very much to the Neil Mackenzie Trust for their generous grant that enabled us to have this amazing trip altogether.
We have decided to split this report into three distinct areas:
A diary with details of our trip and the kilometres travelled.
Feedback from young people – including challenges and highs.
Feedback from parents
The Trip – 19/08-28/08/2022 (abridged)
Download full report : loire2
Our original application was for a cycle trip to the southwest of France cycling towards the Spanish border. However, we had to change this at the last minute as the whole area was sealed off due to large forest fires which meant that the original route had been closed and many campsites along it. Climate Change in action and this theme continued throughout our trip and feed into our John Muir Award Project.
We followed part of the EuroVelo 6 route, the section we chose to cycle started at Tours and finished in Nantes, it was a cycle ride of approximate 337km over 7 days, averaging 48km per day.
It was indeed a challenge for all, we carried our own panniers with equipment, clothes, and food with the aim of being as self-sufficient as we could be. The route followed most of the time the river Loire and along designated cycle paths for around 70% of the journey.
Day by day summary.
Friday 19th London to Tours
We just about all meet at 16:30 at St. Pancras International Station all of us ready for our adventure, if not a little nervous at the same time. We set off for France at 17:30 pm, two hours later the Eurostar arrived in Paris Gare du Nord from there we took the R3 to Austerlitz station the other side of the Seine, Avalon really loved the doorhandles on the R3. We had a little wait here before the next train, so we took a break to eat our packed dinners and we had a few fries on the side. The train we took to Tours was very plush, sofa like seats and we were the only ones in the carriage. The journey lasted around two hours and we arrived there at 1.15am. From the station it was a good 15-minute walk to the hotel, and we all struggled carrying the pannier bags as they were very awkward. By the time everyone was settled, and, in their rooms, it was already 2 am and we all fell asleep very quickly.
…………………………………………. Download full report and photographs : loire2
36km to rock somewhere outside Gennes
We woke up refreshed and ready for a new adventure, Monday breakfast was the staple croissant and applesauce after which we packed up the tents and prepared the cycles for the day. Today was probably the easiest cycle ride as we continued to follow the river and we seemed to quickly reach the town of Gennes. We had lunch here and then we had some free time to go and wander around the town Alex went off and discovered a delicious bakery … which we all then went to find. Importantly we were able to stock up on supplies and goodies for the next few days. Some of the group were a little late getting back …they got lost apparently ..!
We cycled a few more kilometres to a small village with some bakeries, we stopped here for some drinks as it was a really hot day, Jake tried to make some weird mix with the drinks that didn’t go down to well. After another 2 km, we arrived at the place we would be spending the evening, early enough to enjoy. Hotel for the evening was a structure made of rocks “Dolmen de la Pageire”, we were wild camping this time we were more prepared and knew what to expect the rock was an amazing experience. It had good sleeping conditions and great climbing; it gave us a chance to build even more skills and learn from each other. It also had amazing views of stunning fields and forest. We explored the forest which was very enjoyable and where we found two chairs. After dinner we were first set a challenge by Alex and Celia where we were in teams and had to label the bike parts after which we looked for different ways to climb the rock which strengthened our team building skills as we supported each other. We ended the day in a relaxing manner talking and listening to music while watching the sunset. We then went to sleep surprisingly comfortable.
62km to Saint Herblain
Thursday, the second longest day of cycling and everyone woke up with lots of ants in their tents and in their panniers. We emptied everything and tried to banish all the ants with limited success, we were to find out later. Having completed this task, we ate our breakfasts and prepared for the cycling.
We cycled along by the river all morning which was very pleasant until we reached a very conveniently placed supermarket at the end of the path, so we purchased lunch and ate it in the local park where Avalon found more trees to climb, and Avantika found some very sour grapes. We spent a little bit of time here before the afternoon cycle into Nantes. This cycle again was by the river and pleasant until about 3km outside Nantes when we suddenly started noticing a lot of fly tipping and burnt-out cars, to be honest we all found this piece of path a little scary. Having got through this we then arrived in Nantes and stopped for a quick water break where some of the young people played chase, Jake used his parkour skills and jumped over the riverbank wall… but then was unable to climb back up it and we had to put Operation save Jake into action.
Jake having been rescued we continued to Saint Herblain where we would find our accommodation for two nights. The cycle from Nantes was a little industrial to start with but then we found our way into a nature reserve and had to cycle along a boardwalk which was really fun.
Have unloaded the bikes we opened the tents in the garden to dry them off a little and Alex and Celia went to get some food. We had a feast that night pizza, chicken, salad and to finish off ice cream. After this we collectively choose a film to watch and relaxed with popcorn. We were all happy to be sleeping in beds that evening, although Alex and Celia slept on the floor in the lounge.
Travels around Nantes
Saturday was the last full day of the holidays and we had to leave the house as we were staying in Nantes that evening to make catching the train easier on Sunday morning as it was at 5.30am.
We were staying in a lovely apartment about 15-minute walk from the station and we all had a good night sleep even if it wasn’t for very long as Alex woke us up at 4:30 am.
This diary just gives a taster of all the things we learnt and experienced on this trip, and we all feel that we have grown in some way having completed this amazing Journey.
We had a five hour wait in Paris …but finally made it back to London with many stories to share.
Young people’s feelings and thoughts about the trip
“This trip showed me another side of the culture of the French. It allowed me to truly experience life as a local which I would never have seen if it wasn’t for this trip. We pushed past our previous thought to be physical limits through kindness and encouragement.
We went through a short trail, where multiple people kept on falling of their bikes, but through perseverance and prioritizing the team goal over one’s own (which we learnt from Alex) we successfully made it through to arrive to a warm bed and running water (which this trip allowed me to see its value).We all had lots of fun on this trip and got to learn a little about ourselves as a bonus.”. (Hannah)
“I’m very proud of myself for cycling, such a long way and distance in such a short amount of time and sleeping out in the open and in the cave” (Yameen)
…………………………………… Download full report and photographs: loire2
Parents feedback – it is easy as a worker to forget how these trips can change the prospective of a young person and the feedback we received from the parents after this trip really helps to high light the necessity for all young people to have access to such schemes no matter their family background or parental income.
“I’ve been meaning to write to you about how the trip away has impacted Avalon’s life.
She seems different, more buoyant, more confident, more resilient, more positive, less anxious, and much much happier. Avalon seems to have settled more into herself and for the first time actually likes herself. School is presently ok; this has never happened before!!!!
I wish all young people who struggle could have the same opportunity. Experiences like this can raise people up and out of their darkness and give them the confidence and resilience to make positive life choices leading into young adults”. Linda (mum)
“I feel that Jake learnt some valuable lessons on this trip emotionally and physically, he has matured because of them. He Developed more independence but being away made him value his family more. The trip improved his confidence and self-esteem because he has more self-belief.
He’s gained more motivation to take parts in multiple sports clubs and activities on a weekly basis which is so important for him. As he has a lot of nervous energy and playing sports and cycling keeps him busy and fit and has helped with his focus at school. I think he’s learnt a lot more about what his body needs to function as an athlete and is now taking more of an interest in nutrition to fuel his body. I’m so pleased he took part”. (Laura)
Download full report and photographs: loire2