The second day of cycling along the Loire. A relatively flat 70km that would get steadily heavier going as the day heated up. The cycle path along the Loire is well signed, well routed through towns and villages to ensure you can get provisions. It also has lots of attractive river-side places to stop for a beer and for kids to play in a playground.
Our day began in Loir-et-Cher and at some point we crossed into Indre-et-Cher. French départements were created to enable a horse rider to reach any part from the central préfecture in a day. It’s probably the same distance as if you were travelling by bicycle.
This has been a day of castles. First, Chambord, the famous opulent palace. Then Blois, situated on its battlements in the town centre over looking the river. Finally Amboise, an astonishing fortress which is also where Leonardo Da Vinci is buried.
My recent reading about commons and land ownership means that I can’t see these places and not think about how the wealth needed to create them is made in part from confiscating land and taxing them local populations. This isn’t news, but these sights are often held in isolation from the story of their creation. At Chambord Europe’s longest stone wall kept the locals out of the forest to stop them hunting and foraging on land that would have been theirs on pain of death.
These are of course stories of rulers and social injustice from 100s of years ago. Arguably France had a conversation about this imbalance of land ownership in through the Revolution, but in the UK we never have. Consequently we still have owners of massive parcels of land who derive this ownership from William the Conqueror. As we think about how we use local resources to support local economies, we need to have a conversation about returning common land to them communities that surround them.