Two Guernsey newbies discover the second biggest of the Channel Islands on a bicycle built for two.
Possibly the best thing about a tandem bicycle is that no matter how fast the person in front of you Pedals, they can’t get away. As much as Drew, my boyfriend, and the captain of our tandem, might have liked to as I sang the chorus of A Bicycle Built For Two on repeat.
We had picked up our tandem bike, fondly named Barry, at the airport. After a quick coin toss to see who would have to steer it, we set off. It was our first time on the island and from the moment we landed, with no airport queues or passport control, I knew we were going to get along with the place.
With my face pressed firmly into Drew’s backpack, I couldn’t see a thing, It was a strange sensation peddling but having no idea what the up coming road was like. There was almost something quite relaxing about pedalling, but not having to worry about navigating the country roads.
Our first port of call was the campsite, flying over to Guernsey from London and packing only as much as we could fit in our backpacks had meant we couldn’t take a tent or camping equipment. That is not a problem at Fauxquets Valley Campsite, which is about 10 minutes ride from the airport. Started in 1974 as a family business, the campsite runs between May and October offering pre-made tents, which they call Hire Tents, equipped with cooking facilities and proper beds with bedding included.
The campsite owners, Teresa from Wales and Roland from Guernsey, met in the French Alps about 10 years ago and took over the campsite from Roland’s parents in 2008. Fauxquets is ideal for families or couples alike, with a heated swimming pool and farm animals for the children; and a relaxing sun terrace and bar area for the adults. This campsite has full facilities, and they really have thought of everything including ironing boards, irons and free hair driers. They offer pizza and BBQ nights, as well as a small farm shop and cafe where you can pre- order fresh bread and pastries.
Once we had dumped our bags in the tent we set off to explore the Island. Back on the tandem, we had got the hang of getting the bike going with only a few hiccups, mostly at traffics lights with long queues of friendly islanders behind us chuckling to themselves. I had decided to captain Barry for our second trip, but I was starting to regret it.
‘Stop trying to steer from the back!’
‘You are, stop it. Why are you peddling, we are going down hill, stop peddling!’
I had never noticed before but Drew has a rather unique way of cycling which involves his entire body in a strange wiggling motion that starts somewhere around his shoulders and somehow results in the bike moving. This did not bode well with him as the passenger on the tandem, as he wobbled like jelly inadvertently steering the tandem from the back, more often than not into an on coming hedge.
Our destination was Fermain Bay, about 20 minutes ride from the campsite. As we approached the beach the road got very steep so we abandoned poor Barry at the top of the hill and continued on foot. After about 15 minutes the woody path opened up into a beautiful bay with the bluest sea I had ever seen. The contrast to the pebble beach, the cliff face and the leafy trees that topped it made it all the more impressive. Dumping our stuff by the sea wall we walked out to the water.
Guernsey has a lovely atmosphere, everyone is friendly and even on a warm summers day the beach was not crowded. It’s also a great place to cycle because cars and their drivers seem very easy going and are very courteous. I noticed this not only when on the bike but when crossing the road as well. No one really seems to be in a rush, which is nice. Even the bus drivers waited patiently behind the tandem as we trundled up the hill.
Heading back to the tent for dinner we stopped off for some ‘hedge veg’ from one of the many veg stalls in people’s front gardens dotted around the island. They sell home grown produce and have honesty boxes for payment. The peppers and courgettes we picked up were a fantastic accompaniment to our campsite feast.
Back on the plane again I felt the trip had gone far too quickly. ‘Gosh, my legs are so sore!’ Said drew as he gingerly settled into the plane seat. Doing a quick mental check of all my limbs, they seemed to be fine. Perhaps I wasn’t peddling quite as hard as I thought on those long old hills!
Getting there: If you fancy a break but don’t want to travel too far – go to Guernsey on your next trip for a bit of sun and a break from the norm, flights take less than an hour and start from roughly £50 return.
Sarnia Cycle Hire offer a tandem with drop off and collection from the airport for £26 per day or £80 for a week.
Fauxquets Valley Campsite Hire Tents from £55 per night based on two adults sharing.