Arromanches and Mulberry Harbour

In which we dismantle the tandem, drive to Lemolay, reassemble the tandem, cycle to Arromanches and drive back again

For our first cycling holiday in Normandy, in 2004, we stayed in a friend’s house near Lemolay-Littry (northeast of St Lô), from where we were able to make several trips out to the Normandy D-Day beaches. There’s a convenient car park at Lemolay railway station that usually has a lot of space to leave a car. So we decided to split the tandem and cart it off to Lemolay to ride in the general direction of Port-en-Bessin-Huppain and Arromanches. The route goes past a significant number of locations important in the D-Day actions of 1944, from landing beaches, to significant elements of the GermanAtlantic Wall (for example the huge gun battery at Longues-sur-mer). We’d visited many of these sites before, so we were mostly interested in just enjoying the landscape.

From Lemolay, we rode through classic Norman agricultural landscapes, passing under the main N13 route to Bayeux and beyond at Mosles, before cutting across country to Port-en-Bessin. We’d stopped there a few years ago for lunch and found it a more attractive town than you’d think from its appearance from the main road. However, it was a bit early to stop for lunch, so we decided to press on to Arromanches. Shortly after passing through Port-en-Bessin, the road rears up a fairly steep climb. Once again the hub gear performed perfectly as we sailed up the hill, past a bloke pushing his mountain bike. From there, it’s an easy enough roll along to Arromanches.

On reaching Arromanches, the first thing on our mind was to find lunch. We quickly identified a likely restaurant which had the added benefit of a bicycle parking stand (a bit like an elegant Sheffield stand) that was visible from our table. After the not inconsiderable financial investment in the tandem, I didn’t want it to go walkabout. As a side bonus, the number of people who stopped to admire it was really quite gratifying. Lunch was rather good – I had skate in a creamy caper sauce, while The Stoker had a similar cod dish with courgettes.

After lunch we wandered down to the seafront, where there’s an attractive beach. The tide was out and one of the sections of the Mulberry Harbour was really close and, indeed, accessible to people on the beach. Other sections of Mulberry were visible lying in an arc in front of the town – you can just see these on some of the photos. It must have been some sight when the floating harbour was being assembled and when it was in use in 1944.

From Arromanches, we headed up the climb out of town and on in the direction of Bayeux before bearing east along some of the delightful minor C classed roads to skirt round Bayeux before joining a long straight road running parallel to the major N13 highway. This took us not only back through Mosles, but through a smelly section where animal feed pellets had been spilt across the road in fairly large quantities!

I steered us round a rather indirect route back to Lemolay station, in an attempt to find a route back avoiding a slight confusing box junction, but my attempts failed. The junction turned out to be pretty straightforward. Also straightforward was the breaking down of the tandem, though we appeared to have lost one of the plastic clips that hold the disc brake’s hydraulic hose to the open cable guide braze-ons. I presume it hadn’t been clipped on correctly and had pinged off while we were riding. (St John St Cycles sell these clips in packs of 5 – I bought two packs when we got back!).

The drive to Lemolay and back was pretty straightforward, along roads with light traffic, but with fairly frequent slow spells due to tractors and the like – it’s quite difficult overtaking these vehicles with a right hand drive car! On the other hand, the local drivers seem uniformly considerate when dealing with GB drivers (oh, and cyclists too).