12 May 2008

An English weekend away...

JD and I went on a little mini-holiday this weekend. We packed the tent and our bikes and headed off for Sherwood Forest for some cycling in Nottinghamshire. The weather was hot, the new bicycle carrier for the car was working like a dream and the campsite had clean toilets. What more can you want. Saturday's cycling was perhaps not the most productive (we got lost at just about every junction) but it was good fun. Only 12.5km in total.

Sunday was a bit more fun. We drove to Edwinstowe and cycled around until we came to Clumber park. What a nightmare. On a sunny day, English people all get in their cars and drive to a big grassy park where they all park their cars, rent a bike and cycle no more than 200metres from their cars. We accidentally entered Clumber Park and I got really confused and wanted to leave as soon as possible. It was so busy, we could hardly cycle. And all you saw was half naked people on a big grass area next to their thousands of cars, pretending they were in the country side, surrounded by thousands of people, a visitors' centre, a chapel and bike hire shops. Really frighting experience. Of course we got lost again on our way to the exit and nearly run over by a few big 4x4 cars that were queuing up to get in to the park with their windows shut and air conditioning on full blast. AARRGGHH!

We finally managed to escape and when we arrived back in Edwinstowe, we stumbled across something wonderfully relaxing: a village cricket match on the cricket green. We sat down for 45 minutes and were mesmerised by the whole thing. So typically English. Relaxing, fun. Just lovely. The local butcher in the same team as the policeman and a couple of young boys thrown in for good measure. Wonderful end of a nice weekend.

Let me make an observation here: cycling in England is shit. The network for cyclists is terrible, signposting of cycle routes is dismal. No wonder people don't cycle much in this country, for fun or as a commuter. It is dreadful. I know as a Dutch person, I have been spoilt by how well the roads cater for cyclists but even specially created cycle tracks have terrible signposting, meaning you really need a compass to make sure you know to turn left or right at every junction. In The Netherlands, on cycle paths, be they recreational or on 'commuter routes', the signs point towards towns and places, rather than, for example 'Blue Route' or 'Green Route'. This means that if you get lost on the way, you can always find your way again really easily by going in the general direction of the route you were following. Of course I understand that The Netherlands have so many cycle tracks anyway that there is rarely a need to create separate cycle routes for recreation. But even then, recreational routes are signposted clearly below the straightforward direction signs. (see picture)

When you go cycling through the woods or countryside, you are presented at just about every junction with charming little 'toadstools' that tell you where to go. I love these and they are part of my childhood memories. They not only have the directions and distances marked on them but they also have a unique 5 digit number. These numbers are marked on the cycling maps and are very useful aid to checking your position.

How did Dutch cycling-directions become so organised? Well, it is all done by 1 organisation so the tourist-type routes are signposted by the same people responsible for signposting all the other routes hence everything fits together, all routes can be mixed & matched without any trouble and are easy to find. You can get on your bike on a Sunday without a map and with only a rough idea of where you want to go, you will be able to follow the signs and get where you want to be. (if you are interested, this site explains all about how wonderfully organised cycling in The Netherlands is)

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