Fantasy Sportive

admin   May 5, 2020   Comments Off on Fantasy Sportive

Last week we published the updated club development plan. One area where we’d like some volunteers is a “Sportive sub-committee”. And this got us thinking – designing a new sportive course sounds like a great activity to try in a lock down….

An inspiring theme is a good place to start. The Tour of Strangford is obviously based around The Lough and it’s iconic ferry. Last year’s Journey to the Source of the Lagan was inspired by Nick Sanders’ epic adventure “Journey to the Source of the Nile”, only on a slightly smaller scale. We then took that basic idea and tried to connect it to the club’s 75th anniversary. Seventy five bridges didn’t quite work out, but in the end we found a route that was 75km from Belfast to the source.

Lunch stop bike parking on the JSL

So – here’s an example of what can happen when you’ve been stuck in the house too long… The inspiration is the film “The Bridges of Madison County”. Ignore the love drama story line – the bit we’re interested in is that the National Geographic magazine sent a photojournalist (played by Clint Eastwood) to Madison County in Iowa to photograph their covered bridges. How could we adapt that idea to County Down…?

A covered bridge in Madison County

My wife comes from Ardglass, located in the ancient Irish kingdon of Lecale. When we were planning our wedding, the local chapel was due to close for renovations. We looked around for an alternative venue, and discovered there were lots of quaint old churches in this area. Adapting the theme from bridges, the idea for the “Rural Churches of Lecale” was born.

Lecale is an ancient Irish Kingdom in east county Down, roughly bounded by the Quoile marshes and the Blackstaff River in the west (the black dashed line above) and the Irish Sea. A draft route is shown in red, and some churches of interest are marked with green circles.

A quick review of the map revealed over three dozen churches in this small area. A possible route round them is shown above – starting in the Quoile carpark, and following an anticlockwise loop. Some highlights are marked with green circles.

Rathmullan Church in Scollogstown has an imposing location overlooking Tyrella beach, but the main reason for mentioning it is the great village name..

The Star of the Sea at Rossglass has the best name, and also some of the best views across Dundrum Bay to where the Mountains of Mourne sweep down to the sea.

Just a mile north of Ardglass, on the coast road to Dunsford, are the ruins of the ancient St Nicholas Church of Ardtole. The church was abandoned in the 15th century after the congregation was massacred to avenge an insult (Jonathan Swift used the story in Gulliver’s Travels).

There are rumours of a private chapel in someone’s back garden in Strangford. We’re still trying to get more details on that one, so there’s no photo yet.

The final one is also my favourite – Saul parish church, with its beautiful round tower. The inside is also worth a look, especially on a sunny day with the stain glass windows brightly lit.

The next step is to actually get out and start riding the roads, refining the route, picking a lunch stop, etc. Maybe some day soon….

Hopefully that’s inspired you to design your own fantasy sportive. If you’ve any ideas, or you’d like to help out on the sportive subcommittee (or any other area of the development plan), let us know – email