A writer describes the scenes at Le Grand Depart, the opening stages of the Tour De France in the United Kingdom.
Two million people had turned out on the most northerly stage in the history of the Tour de France. They waited to cheer on the world’s best cyclists, excitement pounding through their veins. Some spectators, because of early morning road closures, had to get to their spot before 7am. Others had ventured high into the Dales on Friday night when the roads, gleaming black with new asphalt, experienced an early evening nose-to-tail jam of camper vans, cars and cyclists, all heading to campsites and laybys before the roads were closed. Two to three million had been expected, but not every would-be entrepreneur made a killing. Quite a few farmers found that their advertised offers of "Parking £10, no toilets, no facilities" were not taken up.
The midday start was undeniably classy. At Harewood House, the lavish 18th century dwelling, excited spectators and cyclists mingled. The presence of royalty and A-list celebrities had attracted an even bigger media scrum than had been anticipated. A Red Arrows flypast completed the sense of occasion as spectators gazed heavenwards and the roar filled the sky.
It was a day of extraordinary colour, fervour and intensity, marred by a disastrous finale. It felt like the whole of Yorkshire embraced the Tour with spectacular enthusiasm, only to see its favourite cycling son crash out of the stage in the town where his mother lives. The calamitous clash of bikes involving Mark Cavendish, during the first stage's final sprint through Harrogate, stunned the sun-bathed crowd and left the rider clutching his collarbone. The dream had been victory for Cavendish in the town that had proudly adopted him. The finish was cruelly different for the stricken sprinter, but should not be allowed to cast too long a shadow over the remarkable scenes that preceded it.
The roads were full of bikes until the cavalcade of support vehicles came through with the vans and sponsored trucks who threw merchandise to the whooping crowds – including boxes of Yorkshire Tea and paper flags. High-fiving British police motorcyclists trailed behind them and were a huge hit with spectators, though the accompanying French gendarmes looked a little bemused. The hills rang with northern-accented French as spectators practised their tour terms on each other, "la lanterne rouge" – the last man – "le peloton" – the front riders – "échappé" – a breakaway: all were suddenly lingua franca in the Dales.
The crowds were left in an excited frenzy as they waited for the snake-like formation of cyclists to appear. By the time the French police on the motorbikes could be seen speeding ahead of the riders, a happy hysteria had overtaken the crowd. For the crowd watching the intense action it was all a bit of a blur. In a whir of lycra and straining calf muscles, the sleek, bent bodies flashed past, urged on by the crowds. The spectators pressed forward, to within inches of the wheels in places. It was anarchic and furious. It was the Tour.
For the riders, the route must have been the brightest of blurs as the villages and well-wishers flashed by: the 198 bikes cut a swath through miles of yellow bunting, green-jacketed "tour makers" and stewards. Endless tiny knitted jerseys fluttered in the breeze. The streets were chock-a-block with French, English and British flags and the ubiquitous yellow-sprayed bicycles and polkadot-painted pubs. On the hillsides, the sheep were coloured shades of red, white and blue. At St Wilfrid's in Pool-in-Wharfedale, even the graveyard was festooned with cardboard bikes. Messages of support were chalked on to the road and a festival spirit hung in the air.
The real winner in this race is undoubtedly Yorkshire itself. One of England’s hidden gems, its beauty is often under the radar. It has now taken centre stage as one of Britain’s most desirable holiday destinations. The eyes of the world are focused on the area’s meandering narrow roads, its bustling market towns, imposing abbeys and cathedrals and the brutal, punishing climb of Buttertubs Pass. The ancient city of York saw it’s restored walls infiltrated again as an army of cycling fans gathered to watch; the city shone bright in Yorkshire’s crown. They couldn't have hoped for a better shop window for Yorkshire than this.
Read Passage B carefully, and then answer Question 3 on the Question Paper.
Passage B: Nature’s Buzz
This information is taken from a website designed to inform people of the differences between bumblebees and honeybees and to highlight the important role of pollinators.
Many people often mistake the honeybee from the bumblebee yet they are very different. The honeybee’s appearance is smaller and slimmer than the bumblebee’s and it looks more like a wasp. They also have short tongues so they prefer open flowers compared to the many different species of bumblebees that have different lengths of tongue so they are able to feed from different shaped flowers. There are 24 different species of bumblebee in the UK but only one species of honeybee in Europe.
Even the homes of the two are different, with bumblebees living in nests with 50-400 bees and honeybees living in hives of up to 50,000 - 60,000 bees. The queen and many of her daughters live in the hive all year and the queen can live for three to four years. However, life is rather different for the bumblebee queen who hibernates in a hole in the ground; although she lives for a year, the other bumblebees only live for a few months.
One of the common misunderstandings between the two types of bees surrounds their production of honey. Although both produce honey of a sort, the bumblebees only make a small amount of a honey-like substance to eat for themselves. The honeybee, as its name suggests, makes lots of honey that beekeepers can harvest to eat or sell. The production of honey is a fascinating process; research has shown that honeybees use a 'waggle dance' to inform other worker bees of the exact location of the food source. Some of these locations can be up to 500ft from their hive. When the bees are successful in locating good food supplies, they then return to their hive and perform this dance on the honeycomb. Although bumblebees do not dance, they may communicate by passing pollen between worker bees.
Honeybees have been exploited for honey for thousands of years, but they have become increasingly valued for their beneficial by-product of pollination that is necessary to transform flowers, or blossom, to seed and fruit. Although wind and wild bees can also perform the task, domesticated honeybees are by far the best pollinators because there are far more of them than wild insects at a vital time of year. They also latch on to a pollen supply and stay with it.
A typical hive, which starts the year with 35,000 honeybees, will milk an orchard of pollen systematically before turning to other sites. In comparison, the tiny colonies of bumblebees that exist are inefficient, wandering randomly from hedgerow flowers to blossom. Honeybees are vital for pollination especially when the weather has been cold.
Not surprisingly, the disappearance of honeybees has worrying implications for agriculture and is causing some panic amongst fruit farmers. Without honeybees in the orchards, and without alternative supplies, the fruit won’t blossom. One of the solutions is to develop self-pollinating varieties of apple but this type of development needed to start 40 years ago.
The effects could also be serious for oil seed rape growers where honeybees are not essential, but speed up pollination significantly. This ensures an even seed set, with the result that everything ripens at the same point. As a consequence, Britain's 350 professional beekeepers are in constant demand throughout the summer, transporting their 35,000 hives between strawberries, beans, commercial greenhouses and rape fields. The process culminates with the heather contracts in late summer and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food advises fruit farmers to provide one hive per acre in apple orchards, moving to four in the more insect-dependent cherry orchards. Although no one can put a firm monetary value on this, one estimate puts it at £900m every year. The honey is worth £15 - 20m, a small amount in comparison, however, the benefits of honey are not just financial there is evidence that suggests there are significant health benefits linked with it too.
Another difficulty is the potential damage to wildlife. Honeybees are vital pollinators for many wild flowers and trees and so without them and their crucial work, many nuts and berries will fail to grow and the effects on birds and animals could be terrible.