My darling and Hugo, our 16-year-old son, still talk to me regularly about their long walk in the countryside during Vélo, Swing and Peas at the end of September. This gave me the idea of looking for other unusual itineraries for cycling enthusiasts. That's how I came across the "Vélo & Fromages, France on a platter“, launched in 2019 by the Association des Départements de FranceWhat a great idea to unite two emblems of French art de vivre!

To honour my 'title' of Ambassador of Slow Tourism in Grand Châtellerault, I'm sharing with you in this article all the scouting I did to organise Hugo and his dad's surprise getaway.

Grand Châtellerault Tourist Office

Saddle up for a gourmet, environmentally-friendly micro-adventure!

THE "BIKE & CHEESE" CONCEPT

Hop on your bike and set off to meet the cheese producers, while discovering the region's landscapes and heritage. A feast for the eyes and taste buds, not to mention the calves!

THE CHÂTELLERAUD LOOP
Two "Bike & Cheese" tours pass through Grand Châtellerault: From the Vienne to the Gartempe and The Châtellerault loop.

I opt for the latter, which links Châtelleraut, Scorbé-Clairvaux, Saint-Gervais-les-Trois-Clochers, Leigné-sur-Usseau, Vellèches, Dangé-Saint-Romain and Ingrandes-sur-Vienne.
There are six cheese stages along the way.

Distance : 61 km - Duration 4h30 (not including stops)
Difficulty : 3/5 - Access All year round, for all types of bikes.

IN THE CHEESE DEPARTMENT
Three families of gourmet stops are on offer: at farmers' premises, in a processing plant and in local produce shops.

For lovers of Chabichou du Poitou
See you at L'Âne Vert in Sossais. On this 300-hectare farm, the Roux family rear 700 goats, 120 dairy cows and 120 sows. Their speciality? Goat's cheese made exclusively from their animals' raw milk: faisselle, bûchette, pyramide, galette, Chabi cendré and, the gourmet's Holy Grail: Chabichou du Poitou (PDO). At our table, it's that or nothing!
Direct farm sales Monday to Saturday, 8am to 12pm. Fridays from 8am to 12pm and from 3pm to 7pm.

For organic supporters
At Saint-Gervais-les-Trois-Clochers, the 140 hectares of the Joly family farm have been handed down from generation to generation. With Bruno, a turning point came. The estate became self-sufficient, thrifty and respectful of the environment. This work was rewarded with organic farming certification in 2013. At the same time, his wife Hélène set up a cheese dairy to transform the milk from their 85 cows into fromage frais, fromage frais, mature cheese, yoghurt and dessert cream, butter, milk, crème fraîche... Everything is delicious! Le Pré Joly celebrated its 10th birthday this summer.
Direct farm sales on Wednesdays and Fridays from 4pm to 7pm.
Tip: if you decide to do the Boucle Châtelleraudaise on a Saturday, you should know that Le Pré Joly is present in the morning in Châtellerault at the Halles and Châteauneuf markets.

For connoisseurs of raw-milk goat's milk cheese
Visit GAEC Pied de Chèvre In Vellèches, François Robin looks after a herd of 400 horned animals on his 84-hectare farm. Almost 10 years ago, the goat farmer joined forces with Nicolas Maillet to set up and run a 60 hectare cheese dairy. m² in the old cowshed. This is also where they welcome customers who love their farmhouse cheeses made from raw milk: fresh, in faisselle, the long blue Sainte Maure cheese and the tasty long salt and pepper cheese.
Direct farm sales Tuesday to Friday 10.30am-12pm and 3.30pm-5pm, Saturday 2pm-5pm.

For factory outlet aficionados
The EURIAL Poitouraine cheese dairy in Dangé
 collects cow's and goat's milk from around 200 producers in the region. It then transforms it into soft cheeses under the Soignon or Ligueil brands. On the menu in the factory outlet: camemberts, coulommiers, goats' cheeses, milk, butter, crème fraîche... Attractive prices.
Shop open Tuesday 9am-12pm, Wednesday and Thursday 9am-12pm and 2pm-4pm, Friday 8.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-4pm, Saturday 8am-12pm.

For a varied picnic basket
The local produce and farm shop Steph's Little Market in Ingrandes-sur-Vienne offers local cheeses, of course, but also honey, fruit and vegetables, bread, wine, meat, biscuits... All you need to break your fast is quality produce from short distribution channels.

BIKE SHOP
Most of the route follows charming country roads. Of the 61 km of the route, 16 km are dedicated to cycling. Between Châtellerault and Scorbé-Clairvaux, for example, the Green Line set up in the middle of the forest is proving to be a " the dream cycle path "according to my cyclist husband.

There are no preferential directions for driving along the roads of the Châtellerault loop. However, the section between Leigné and Vellèches has a slight difference in altitude, while the shaded sections are mainly located between Châtellerault and Scorbé-Clairvaux.

IN THE LANDSCAPE DEPARTMENT
Hugo and my darling came back enchanted by the views between Leigné-sur-Usseau and Vellèches, their favourite part of La Ligne Verte. The route through the Vienne valley, along the river between Dangé and Châtellerault, was also bucolic and soothing.

IN THE HERITAGE SECTION
Here is my selection of points of interest along the route:
the Haut-Clairvaux siteThis ancient castle was fortified by Richard the Lionheart. Stop off to admire the remains: the keep and the cadastral chapel.
the rural and fire museum in Leigné-sur-Usseau. A small, highly educational museum housed in an old farmhouse typical of the area. Open from April to October.
Marmande Tower in Vellèches. Admire this historic monument from the outside as it undergoes restoration work.
the Aigle factory outlet in Ingrandes. Yes, the famous rubber boots are made just outside Châtellerault!
the Grand Atelier musée d'art et d'industrie in Châtellerault. A chance to come full circle and discover the ancestors of the bicycle...

Marmande Tower in Vellèches

IN THE PRACTICAL SECTION

When should you leave?
Given that farm shops are closed on certain days, I'd advise you to avoid Sundays and Mondays when planning your cycling trip. On Wednesdays and Fridays, however, all the gourmet stops are open. And what about Saturdays? Almost perfect if you follow my Pré Joly tip at the Châtellerault market!

Where to eat?
If you choose the picnic option, I particularly recommend three places to spread your checked tablecloth:
- the village of Vaux-sur-Vienne for its beautiful viewpoint,
- at the foot of Marmande castle in Vellèches to admire its renovated tower,
- around the Battreau lake in Saint-Gervais, with services nearby. 

If you prefer to eat out, here are my top 3 on the itinerary:
Awakening the Senses in Dangé-Saint-Romain: very friendly welcome, home-cooked food using organic and local produce, original concept (starter, main course and dessert served in jars).
La Ferme Saint-Jacques in Châtellerault: after tying your horse to the protective barriers on the pavement, you can enjoy refined dishes based on the finest produce from the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. The speciality: spit-roasted meats.

Don't forget to book for these three great addresses!

Battreau lake at Dangé-Saint-Romain

Sport, terroir and discovery... Hugo and my darling came home delighted with their day's tour of the Boucle Châtelleraudaise. During their visits to the farm, as well as tastings, they had the chance to watch the milking. Always curious, my teenager was delighted to talk to the farmers and producers to find out how his favourite cheeses are made. " Cycling is the ideal way to enjoy these wonderful moments of meeting and sharing... "concludes the father.

Cycling is the ideal way to meet and share local produce.

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