The Vélo-Rail Experience
Cycling with a difference!
If you want more entertainment than exercise then we’ve found the perfect thing for you to try!
It’s called the Vélo-Rail
(bicycle-rail) which can be found on an ancient railway line in the Charente-Limousine that stretches 32 km. There are two main routes you can take; Roumazières to Manot or Confolens to Manot return (see map
We took the Roumazières to Manot route as it’s a little shorter (approx 7.5 km) – well it’s actually 15 km because you have to do the return journey! It doesn’t really feel like such a distance as we stopped for coffee and cakes at the station-cum-café when we arrived at Manot. Each vélo-rail can take 2 peddlers and 3 passengers, although we had four adults which was an advantage (unfortunately the girls were not allowed to just sit behind and do none of the work!). If you are in a group, then don't worry, you can be 'linked' so you can all enjoy the experience together.
From Roumazières we cycled over our first level crossing and ancient viaduct (it's 160m with 6 arches). We then pedalled our way through woodland, of which we were warned that cocks, hens and ducks take the expenses between the rails and were unlikely to move out of our way. Unfortunately for us we didn’t get a free meal that day!
On we went, over the bridge to level crossing number 3. This was quite fun as we had to stop, dismount, open the gates having checked for traffic and push our vélo-rail through the crossing. We set off again towards Manot on a 3 km slope (without the need to pedal - very handy that the girls had taken over by then!) and we threaded our way between meadows towards Manot.
The journey itself seemed fast, maybe because I didn’t actually have to do much pedalling anyway! A little tip for the ladies – on this route take the second half of each journey only – its far easier, less pedalling and a lot less hard work. As you can appreciate, the 3 km downward slope to Manot required a 3 km or so return uphill cycle! I also think that if you wear slip-on sandals that they are strapped securely to your feet when cycling (mine clearly did not stay on my foot, which meant a little walk along the track for Pierre and Catriona to find my sandal! Oh, yes, and another thing, if you wear baggy trousers, do try not to get them stuck in the bicycle chain!
All-in-all it was a great morning out with lots of laughs along the way - although I’m not sure who won the entertainment prize – me or the vélo-rail! Do take something warm to wear, especially when its gets to September time and onwards as it does get a little chilly once you start to pick up speed!
For more details on tariffs, opening hours, etc visit the website or contact CFCL (Chemin de fer Charente-Limousine) directly:
La Gare - Avenue Gambetta - 16500 CONFOLENS
© Nikki Frankum
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