Monday, 18 February 2008

Journey's end

This is where the real journey for Mark and our virtual, geographical journey ended on Friday afternoon in the Avenue de Wagram just off the Place de L'Etoile in Paris. The tracker kept running well after Mark crossed the line and recorded all the spots where the interviewers and photographers ushered him to get the best shots! In keeping with what became the norm throughout this blog whenever Mark was in a big city, I will gloss over the geography and simply say that in Paris there is too much geography .......and history, art, literature and culture to do justice to it in a blog.

On Friday the geography in any case was not about a city but about the conclusion of a journey which had taken Mark around the world. His circumnavigation of the globe makes our world seem both smaller and bigger.... smaller because one guy has cycled round it on a bike but much bigger because in doing so, he has shown us the environmental and cultural diversity which exists in 360 degrees of longitude. It was a priviledge to be in Paris to watch the return of this extraordinary young man who has engaged so many people with the world.

I was recently at an event where Michael Palin was speaking about Geography. He said "Geography is as much about what you see outside as what you learn inside". Mark's gargantuan efforts over 195 days have given us a new perspective on the world and the chance to see it 'on the outside' in a different way. 'Geo Blogging with Mark' has been a learning journey for me and if I have managed to share some of my enthusiasm for the subject I love with a wider audience, it will have been a very worthwhile project.

When I started writing about Mark's journey, I had intended simply writing the occasional posting as part of my departmental blog for school. Somewhere towards the 'end' of Europe, the potential for a bigger project suggested itself and I migrated all the postings onto 'Geo Blogging with Mark' and since then, like Topsy, it just 'growed'.

A lot of people have asked me what will happen to the blog. The first thing I plan to do is to proof read and sort the errors then I will print out a hardcopy to give to Mark. At 600+ pages it will be a long read but I hope it will remind him of some of the places he cycled through but had no time to explore. At some point I will also 'tag' the posts with some extra labels so that the geographical content is more accessible for teachers in the classroom. I would like to think that in years to come, when I need a good example of an ox bow lake, I will know exactly where to look!

And finally, for those who liked the 'big pictures', here's the biggest and best picture of all........

I'm going to miss following that blue line!

If you have enjoyed my geographical meanderings, please consider making a donation to Mark's charities . They are all very worthy causes and by giving a little you will be doing a lot to help children, young people, communities and environments around our wonderful world.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Over 300 visitors in a day

According to the CLUSTRMAP
329 visitors the previous 'day' to GeoBloggingwithMark...
Lots of press and media coverage.

BBC NEWS web pages with a link to how HSD pupils followed Mark's journey (check out the 'Open at a Glance' window)


The HINDU article.

The INDEPENDENT article.

The GUARDIAN article.


Even The SUN - headline: "A ride result...."

Bike Radar website article

The COURIER article.

The DAILY RECORD article.
This article also has a list of facts...


18,300 - The number of miles Mark cycled.

13 - His average speed in mph.

20 - The number of countries cycled through on the epic trip.

3 - The number of crashes he had.

12 - The number of tyres used.

7 - The number of punctures.

6 - The number of pairs of shorts worn out.

115-120 - Mark's average heart rate measured in beats per minute.

2000-6000 - How many calories he burned off every day.

10-20 - The number of pints of liquid he drank every day.

8 - The number of police cells Mark slept in.

£ 45,000 - The total cost of the record attempt, that was raised through sponsorship.

Still time to donate to Mark's charities.


AKA "Mrs. V"

Friday, 15 February 2008

Mark de Triumph!

As promised, and courtesy of the wonderful digital world we now live in, here are just a few pics of this afternoon's events here in Paris.....

It was a freezing day..... cold, frosty, foggy and a long wait for the crowds and the press pack at the Arc de Triomphe but it was just amazing to see Mark and his police escort approach the finish line... the top of the Avenue de Wagram

Official congratulations from the British Ambassador...... Triumph at the Triomphe..... (my son tells me that the car in the background is an Aston Martin DB9 coupé and that there couldn't be a better backdrop for a world record breaker!)

Coping with the paparazzi

...and not looking at all like someone who's just cycled around the world......

Before signing off from Paris, I would like to offer public thanks to my good friend and fellow geographer Alan Parkinson who has maintained the blog so well in the last couple of days and while I was away at Christmas.

The final day...

First view on tracker - the excitement is mounting...The team are all installed in Paris waiting for the first sight of Mark.
Below is an item from the Independent's blog. Click the image to read the full article.
Also 2 articles on BBC News site: one with a big mention for this blog and the work of Mrs. V.

Head of geography Val Vannet and junior school ICT teacher Sharon Tonner developed a series of school projects tracking Mark's journey.

The two teachers have travelled to Paris to welcome him across the finish line.

Mrs Vannet said: "This is a fantastic endeavour, but it has also given us new ways to capture the imagination of our pupils.

Sharon Tonner and Val Vannet
Sharon Tonner and Val Vannet have travelled to Paris

"Knowing that Mark is actually passing through these places, and experiencing these cultures, helps to bring them to life for our pupils."

Mrs Tonner added: "Mark's journey is not just useful in helping to capture interest in learning about other countries in our world, but the very fact that he is undertaking such a journey has been a great source of inspiration for many of them, by showing them what one individual can achieve."

Mark's mother Una Beaumont has praised the efforts of the teachers, in particular the blog put together by Mrs Vannet.

She said: "She's written the most amazing parallel journey about the geography.

"Everyday she's written about the geography that he's passing through and people around the world have just been absolutely engrossed and delighted with all that she's been writing.

"She herself is very excited about all she's learned from it."

One of the pleasures awaiting Mark is going to be to read through what Val has written I'm sure and add a final dimension to his journey.

The final miles are through the outskirts of Paris where Mark will be picked up by a police escort.

Over to Val

Alan Parkinson
AKA "Mrs. V"

Thursday, 14 February 2008


First view this morning was of a patchwork landscape as Mark carried on towards Paris - on the outskirts of Villedomain, which is 220 kilometres from Paris ! Mark had a long day yesterday including cycling through the dark, and some surprisingly hilly terrain to pass through.

A few other bits of admin first. It's worth checking out the new photo galleries on the Artemis website. When I was blogging through New Zealand I spotted on Google Earth that Mark was passing a place called St. Andrews that had a golf course. It seems that Mark noticed it too, because he has an image of the entrance. It costs a lot less to play here than on the Old Course, but I doubt the 18th hole is quite as dramatic...Image: Mark Beaumont

According to Mark's web diary:

The BBC [are] joining up around lunch time [today] until the finishing line on Friday afternoon.

French road police are kindly going to meet Mark on the outskirts of Paris and escort him in along with the film crew. Lot of press and television interest for features and live coverage.

Keep an eye out on News 24 and BBC Scotland news. There was no mention tonight (Thursday)

Mark has passed through a series of patches of woodland, such as the Foret Domaniale de Russy, one of the remnants of the woodland that used to cover the whole area, and into the city of Blois, on the Loire (which rhymes...) - I wonder how many other place names rhyme with the river they stand on ?
Blois has a fine bridge which Mark would have crossed, and if he raised his eyes from the handlebars he would have seen the fine castle dominating the skyline, and then crossed the A10 autoroute, or L'Aquitaine, which I drove up last October coincidentally...
North of Blois, Mark carried on through a procession of small communes virtually unknown to Google ... At the village of Pontijou, I called up Google Earth and discovered that Mark was, at that point, less than 100 miles from the finish as the (French) crow flies... Another important point in the journey.
Mark continued on towards Chartres / Orleans as the light faded, with more chateaux along the route...

I will make a final post tomorrow morning when we get the first movement, and then return you to Mrs. V.

Sleep well !

Alan Parkinson
AKA "Mrs. V"

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

A stretch in the Limousin...

Bonjour once again from Norfolk...
Val is now on her way to Paris to meet Mark and team at the finishing line, and I will take you through the next few days, and try to close the final (ever narrowing) gap in the route, before Val returns to 'close the circle'.
If you haven't already, you might like to read the feature on Mark that is in today's SCOTSMAN newspaper.
Click the logo below to read, or HERE.
And why not do as I did and order a replica cycling jersey to help support Mark's charities.

As I logged on this morning, Mark was on the outskirts of Angouleme.

My favourite sporting event is, appropriately enough, the Tour de France...Angouleme hosted a stage finish in the 2007 Tour, which had an appropriately geographical logo...

Mark travelled through the area north of Angouleme. This is apparently becoming a very popular area with Parisians who want a second home. Living in Norfolk, I am familiar with the impact of the impact of this desire on property prices and the communities which can become rather deserted on weekdays. On the other hand, it can help reverse the underpopulation of these villages which have lost the younger generation to the pull of the cities and neglect of the wonderful old buildings that one comes across in these places.
There's a long list of people who have moved to France and then written books about their 'hilarious' encounters with local people and local bureaucracy.
It probably began with Peter Mayle's 'Year in Provence' in the late 80's, and a string of books has followed people who have converted chateaux, farmhouses etc... This could be one way of reinforcing national stereotypes.

Wonder if Mark will tuck in to this local delicacy at lunchtime...Image by Flickr user Anne...

And I wonder how many villages like this one (which he passed through) Mark will pass through over the next few days...Image by Flickr user jaytee07

As Val mentioned yesterday, Mark is skirting Cognac country, as seen on the map below. I'm a single malt man myself...
Mark headed eastwards, skirting Limoges, famous for porcelain and oak barrels to age cognac. With its link to pottery, the UK twin-town of Limoges is a good match. Can you guess which town it's twinned with ?
He then headed northwards through the area known as Limousin - a procession of small communes. I have driven through France on numerous occasions and can visualise the small villages which he will cycle through and out the other side in just a few minutes, such as Le Dorat

Photo of Le Dorat copyright Flickr user hmckmcg

More tomorrow as the distance narrows to Paris...

Alan Parkinson
AKA "Mrs. V"

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

A nice Bordeaux or two!

I have just looked at today's route and felt obliged to pour myself a glass of Saint Emilion......

Although Mark started the day in the Landes (described in yesterday's posting), for much of the day he cycled through a number of the Bordeaux wine producing areas, across the Gironde and the Dordogne rivers before ending the day just south of Angouleme.

Shortly after leaving Roquefort this morning, Mark passed an area of the Landes which stood out on the aerial imagery and which, according to Google Earth, is a target practice area for French fighter planes.....

It would seem that the nearest air base where the planes which do their 'testing' in the Landes forest are based, is at Mont de Marsan which Mark passed yesterday....

Incidentally, if you follow the link, you might want to beware of the English translation of Wikipedia pages - it is not always very accurate!

On their northern edge the Landes give way to lowlands surrounding the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the estuary of the Gironde - Bordeaux wine country!Cycling from south to north, Mark crossed a whole spectrum of famous wine producing areas... of which more shortly. We have encountered grape vines in many locations along Mark's route - in Europe at the start of his journey, Turkey, Iran, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Portugal, Spain and now France and according to some research I've just done, 71% of all the grapes produced in the world are used for wine.... and the area of grape vines for wine production is growing at 2% per annum!

I have struggled to find a map of the Bordeaux wines which is going to be legible on the blog but I think this one should do...

I am not at all a connoisseur of wine but I do find the connections between wine and geography interesting. For example, in the south of the Bordeaux wine region is the area which produces Sauternes, a sweet dessert wine. This area lies just to the west of Langon where Mark crossed the Garonne this morning. The intense sweetness of the Sauternes wine is the result of the grapes being affected by a fungus that is commonly known as noble rot. In the autumn, the Ciron river, a tributary of the Garonne, produces mist that descends upon the area and persists till after dawn. These conditions are conducive to the growth of the fungus which dries out the grape and concentrates the sugars inside.

Across the river and in the area between the Garonne and the Dordogne is the region which produces 'Entre Deux Mers' dry white wine. Literally 'between two seas', the name refers to the two great tidal rivers which bound its vineyards. The wine producers of the Entre deux mers have a good website (click image to link)

Having cycled through the Entre Deux Mers territory, Mark reached the Dordogne at Branne, where I reckon he must have crossed the river by this bridge before heading into the area referred to the 'right bank' (of the Dordogne) before its confluence with its tributary, the Isle, at Libourne. The right bank region is associated with red wines such as Pomerol and Saint Emilion (hic!). Here on the right are some vineyards in the vicinity of Saint Emilion and a view of the confluence of the Dordogne and the Isle at Libourne ..... North of Libourne, it is still wine country - mainly reds and belonging to what is termed the generic Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superieur appellations. Mark cycled a lot of miles through fields like these today!

And tomorrow, he'll be nearing Cognac country....

However, as I shall be preparing to depart for Paris, I am delighted to say that Alan Parkinson my 'guest presenter' who kindly blogged during my absence over Christmas while Mark was in New Zealand and the San Francisco area, has volunteered to Geoblog the next couple of days on the approach to Paris. There will therefore, be no interruption to normal service! If all goes to plan and technology doesn't let me down, my next posting should be from Paris.

A bientôt!

Monday, 11 February 2008

Bienvenue en France

Having read the web diary, it seems that Mark went on yesterday a little further than the GPS tracker led us to believe and that he stopped overnight just a few kilometres short of the French border in the village of Luzaide....The image above, sourced from Flickr, gives some impression of the terrain he tackled at the end of the day yesterday ! At this altitude (over 1000m) in the Pyrenees the predominant land use is woodland and pasture. It is, on average, 6 degrees cooler up here than at sea level and this dramatically shortens the growing season. In addition there is little flat land. However, it is also very wet! This area receives between 1500 and 2000mm of rain with no seasonal let -up. Rain bearing winds enter the Bay of Biscay from the Atlantic and there is nowhere for them to go except up. Believe me - this is the voice of experience talking. A camping holiday in the Western Pyrenees should not be undertaken lightly!

Shortly after setting out this morning, Mark crossed the French border. It is strange to think that after six months of watching him cross national borders, this is the last one. Of all the borders he crossed, I think it was the one between Turkey and Iran which sticks most in my mind. You can reread the relevant post here . At the time it seemed to me to be a crossing into the unknown and yet, as things turned out, both for Mark on the ground and for me 'virtually', Iran was a revelation and probably the place on his route which I'd most now like to visit. But I digress.......

The image right shows the border crossing which Mark would have passed through this morning before entering the region of Aquitaine and the département of Pyrenees Atlantiques. The administrative division of France is quite complicated but basically there are 22 regions which are sub-divided into 96 départments. These in turn are further sub divided into arondissements, cantons and communes. This hierarchical administrative system is explained here and the map below links to a website offering clickable maps of regions and départements....
Despite a cold start to the day, it looks as if the high pressure is, as predicted, holding fast. The satellite image left, courtesy of the Met Office, shows clear skies over Western Europe extending over the UK - except for the fog bank over eastern Scotland!

Isobars are still widely spaced meaning light winds and with the pressure situation not predicted to change much all week, the weather is likely to stay fine with sunshine predicted for Paris all week until Friday and beyond. So for those bound for Paris, the good news is that you shouldn't require your brollies!

By lunchtime today, Mark was already at Orthez....
Interestingly, when you read the web diary for today, there is a suggestion that after descending the north side of the Pyrenees, Mark was surprised by the very rolling nature of the terrain in eastern Aquitaine. The Pyrenees are drained by many rivers which flow north and west towards the Bay of Biscay, each separated by higher interfluve areas, so unfortunately he was cutting across all of these valleys and ridges as he cycled towards Orthez. The little clouds on the map above mark out these areas of higher ground where rising air has led to condensation of water vapour in air which has probably come in from the west.

Orthez itself is situated at a bridging point on one of these rivers - the Gave de Pau. Unfortunately, as you can see below, the boundary between some low res imagery (left) and high res imagery (right) cuts right through the town...

However, the imagery was evidently captured at different seasons and so provides a contrast between the greening fields of spring and the harvested fields of mid summer.

Beyond Orthez there is a pronounced change of land use as Mont de Marsan is approached. It is very clearly visible from 'space' as a dark triangle pushing in from the coast...
This is the Landes - an extensive area of managed pine forest which dates from the 18th century.... "Most of the region now occupied by the Landes forest was swampy land that was sparsely inhabited until the 19th century. The forest was planted to rehabilitate the landscape and provide for regional economic development. Since the 1970s, parts of the forest have given way to intensive agriculture (in particular, grain farming.)Many local people are still employed in forest-related pursuits, including forestry, sawmills and papermills, woodcrafts and fabrication of paper-based products."

It's almost like being back in the southern states if the USA again! If you'd like to get a better impression of the landscape of this quite unique corner of France, click here to take a virtual walk through the pine forests.

According to the web diary, Mark reached Roquefort this evening - not the Roquefort but one of at least another three in France which carry the same name.

The 'big picture' today is very reassuring as the head and tail of the blue line draw ever closer together .....
However, I thought you might also like to see a couple of images of our very low tech tracker at school. In August the map was covered in a trail of yellow pins, which one by one have given way to red...... ...and now there are only two more to go.....