A £7.6 million project has been launched to promote cycle tourism on both sides of the English Channel, bringing together local authorities on both sides of La Manche as well as ferry operators whose vessels sail across it.
The 17 partners in the Cycle West initiative – tagline Côte à Côte à Vélo – include the English counties of Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and the French regions Normandy and Brittany, plus shipping lines Brittany Ferries and Condor Ferries.
The project, first announced in March 2010, includes some 1,100 miles of new cycling routes that will link scenic countryside and tourist attractions in those areas bordering the Channel.
This week saw the launch of a new website for Cycle West, which is expected to attract tens of thousands of additional visitors to the participating regions each year, and at a meeting in London this week project leaders outlined progress being made on the scheme.
Quoted in the Dorset Echo, Jacqui Gisborne, regeneration and tourism officer at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council said that there were plans to promote the initiative at next year’s Olympic sailing regatta, expected to draw 60,000 visitors a day to the area.
“We want to demonstrate that there’s a lot more to Weymouth, Portland and Dorset than just nice countryside and beaches, we’ve got great activity tourism potential and that’s why this project is so brilliant,” she explained.
Adam Bows from Dorset County Council, who heads the local authority’s involvement in the initiative, added: “The county already receives 1.5 million tourists a year and many local jobs depend upon the money they spend – and we know that in Europe and in other parts of the UK, where cycling tourism is more developed, cyclists spend more per head than the average visitor.”
Councillor Andy Blackwood, Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s spokesman for leisure and tourism highlighted that the project provided a great opportunity for local businesses, saying: “We have such stunning local scenery, including large areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty - what better way to enjoy these than by bike?
“Businesses will need to respond to the opportunity – offering somewhere for guests to store and clean their bikes, for instance – and make sure we really give these visitors a warm, Dorset welcome.”
The newly-launched Cycle West website includes tourist information on the areas included in the initiative, as well as three specific itineraries that cycle tourists can follow.
The first of those, called Velodyssey, is 265 miles long and links Ilfracombe in North Devon to Redon in Southern Brittany, on the way visiting Okehampton, Tavistock, Morlaix and Josselin. It follows European Cycle route EV1 which itself runs 750 miles along the French Atlantic coast to the Spanish border.
Mainly flat and off-road, Velodyssey is said to be ideal for families and also includes the largest piece of infrastructure specifically designed for the Cycle West project, the 200-metre long Gem Bridge at Grenofen in Devon.
The other two routes both provide circular itineraries, allowing cyclists to join and leave them at any suitable point along the way.
The 600-mile Tour de Manche visits Roscoff, Mont Saint-Michel, Cherbourg, Poole, Torbay and Plymouth, including a couple of tough climbs and scenic coastal riding, with ferry crossings available from Poole to Cherbourg and Roscoff to Plymouth.
The shorter, 400-mile Petit Tour de Manche offers a shorter itinerary but likewise takes in Dorset’s Jurassic Coast and the bay around Mont Saint-Michel, as well as a potential stopover in Jersey, which itself offers 100 miles of cycle routes. An extension to the itinerary can be made to take in the Normandy D-Day beaches.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.