This is why I love riding here:

Spring or Autumn I can set off early in the morning, knowing the mist will lift by about 10.00 and at the weekend, apart from the hunting season, I probably won’t see anyone, not even walkers. I will hear distant dogs, the mew of buzzards, the harsh caw of crows. And cows of course. At the bookends of summer days there may be deer and once in a while, I might see boar though personally, I’m aware these hairy pigs have a mixed reputation. Red squirrels and marten might be caught by surprise and frequently there are feral cats and a quick scatter if they have kittens.

My favourite are donkeys. I’ll always stop and talk to donkeys, especially the ones with dreadlocks. Herons hunting frogs in ponds watch suspiciously as I pass by. Should I stop and aim a camera at them, they squawk and take off, uncaring of my careful composition, circle at a safe distance then return to the menu. I can understand they must eat but I hope they never manage to catch salamanders, there are not enough of them around to be heron food. They can have as many frogs as they like.

I Guide Your Ride

Villages come and go along the routes I take, all of them full of leaning ancient houses, with shuttered windows to keep them cool in the summer. Occasionally under a shady tree there will be a card game in progress, boules possibly, and at lunchtime, if there is a bar, an old man might be slaking his thirst on a hot day.
And the fields. You have to love an old field, their shapes haven’t changed much in centuries but some are simply beautiful for no reason easy to pin down. Maybe it is the wild flowers they host with casual abandon, a mad palette of colours, maybe its the trees that form the boundaries, still, hardly moving because the Charente is not known for wastefully chucking air around.

Then there are the odd things that distract, the faded dilapidated blues of timeworn doors, the way any pot past its best cooking days becomes a miniature garden, how the pink, or is it purple, of wisteria in bloom wandering along the front of a carelessly charming house, seems determined to divert my attention from the journey ahead. And of course there are the French, who will happily listen to my halting efforts at speaking their language, always willing to wish me bon courage with my ballade de velo. For them to be courteous is normal and in over five years of living here I have only met one rude French person.

I Guide Your Ride2

What else is there? The tracks, the tiny little roads, the links between farms and hamlets, the paths that flow over gentle hills and tumble down the steeper ones, the crackle of brittle acorns crushed beneath the wheels, the cooling swish of wet grass on a long downhill, the way you can string together a 50 mile ride, probably 75% off road and hardly come across any cars. Finally, having earned it, mulling over the best bits, a cold beer sinks without trace like water into hot sand.
Any fisherman, any walker, any jogger, can claim to see or notice these or similar treasures, but I being greedy, can have very nearly all of them to myself, in just one half day spent on a bike.

And all of this is why you will love riding here too.