We lived in France for about 10 years and in 2006 we decided to take a walk to visit our friends who also lived in France – normally a six-hour car journey. This is an account of our walk…..
345 mile walk
Since moving to France we have visited our friends every year around the end of July. They live in the Haute Vienne region – a journey of 620 kilometers by road taking about seven hours including refreshment and rest stops. Last autumn we decided that our next trip would be a little different. We are keen walkers and thought it would be a good idea to walk all the way this time! Dave looked at a map of France and drew a straight line between our house and theirs – a distance of 400 kilometers as the crow flies. Our aim was to try to stick to the line as much as possible by walking footpaths, bridleways, cycle routes and country lanes, avoiding main roads and heavy traffic as much as possible. We guessed that it would take around six weeks in all. Our neighbour told us that there was a long distance pathway along the Nantes Brest Canal so we decided that we would probably make for the canal first, follow it as far as Nort sur Edre, head for Ancenis (exactly on our line) and then decide which way to go from there. Our chosen accommodation was to be a lightweight tent we bought from Blacks in Gloucester earlier this year (thanks to them for help and advice). We had lightweight sleeping bags and basic cooking equipment to enable us to be as independent as possible on the way. Our only mistake was starting our journey too late in the year – by the time we had been walking for four weeks, the temperature was becoming too high and we were getting up very early in the morning to get our walking done before it got too hot at 10 a.m. It just got too hot to continue so we called it a day at Chauvigny. We telephoned our friend and he arranged to pick us up the next day. We were about 100 kilometers or one weeks walk from our destination – it took one hour in the car! We had managed to walk 555 kilometers (345 miles) in five weeks.
Here is the story of our walk:
On 12th June 2006 we left our little house at 6:15 a.m. The birds were singing and it was just getting light although it was very overcast. The morning was very drizzly and we arrived in Landivisiau at 11 a.m. with no accommodation arranged. There was no campsite nearby so stayed at a B&B. Madam Andre was very welcoming and breakfast the next morning was delicious – crepes, bread, butter & homemade jam, apple cake, yoghurt and plenty of coffee.
The next morning was very wet – used our umbrellas again. Found several places to have a brew-up on the way to our destination – Plouneor Menez. About a mile out of town we met a woman who was collecting dandelion leaves for her rabbit! She told us that there was no official campsite but that we could pitch our tent in the local sports field. Not sure about it but we continued on and found the sports ground. We asked another person about camping and they confirmed that we could camp in the playing field. There was water available and a small shop nearby so there we stayed – for free!
Day three found us walking up and over the Monts D’Aree to Huelgoat (pronounced “wellgwat”) – we somehow lost the track and found ourselves on top and up to our knees in gorse and scrubby grass. Point to remember – only follow way-marked footpaths. We finally found a track, which led us back on the right path and downhill towards Huelgoat. Beautiful walk along a quiet lane; a cuckoo was singing its heart out and the verges were covered in wild flowers, butterflies and moths: a hare came down the road towards us and got very close before it saw us and ran off. Our first official campsite was “Camping La Riviere d’Argent” just outside Huelgoat – reasonable site with the usual facilities – bit pricey we thought at 12€. The shop was not well stocked and we needed bread so the chap said he was going into town later and would fetch some for us.
Day four and we were walking towards Carhaix. Followed Grande Randonee signs – big mistake – managed to walk an extra 6 kilometres! Beautiful day though, warm and pleasant, lovely views too. We asked in a small village where the nearest campsite was and were directed towards the Camping Municipal at Carhaix Plouger – a good site with a very friendly reception from Nicolas Kernevez and Karen Kerviel who made us very welcome (the bar is good too!). Reasonable charge of 5.10€ for one night – would recommend this site.
Day five and we planned to join the canal just south of town so we walked into Carhaix-Plouger – a very steep climb for about 1.5 kilometres and found the tourist information office where we bought a guide book called “Le Canal Nantes à Brest”. We walked down towards the canal and luckily found a Netto supermarket on the way as we had run out of coffee and needed to buy supplies for later on. Finally reached the canal just in time for lunch. There were picnic tables – quite a novelty sitting at a table to eat! Started walking along the canal after lunch – beautiful lock-keeper’s cottage with roses around the door; trees lined the canal offering welcome shade from the sun; dragonflies and damselfies by the hundred. Came to an Air de Repos – a picnic spot with tables and benches, plus water and toilet facilities. Stayed the night – free.
Day six – just a short walk to Glomel today as Dot’s feet were beginning to complain! Left our “campsite” at 8.30 a.m. and arrived at Glomel by 10.40 a.m. Dot picked up supplies at the shop – sausage and lentils, instant potato, tomatoes, cheese spread, nectarines, bread wine and cider. Also bought postcards and some corn plasters for Dave. The lakeside campsite was deserted when we got there. Found a good pitch and put the tent up, had a shower then had a lazy afternoon in the sun. Later that afternoon a woman came by on a bike to collect the money – 5.10€. A bit of rain in the night plus a few rumbles of thunder.
Day seven saw us up and away by 6.50 a.m. after a hot sticky night. The lake was very still with little swirls of steam rising as the morning sun rose. We walked for about 2.5 kilometres through woodland where we saw a fox ambling along in front of us. Back on to the canal and we were grateful for the shade provided by the trees again as it was getting quite hot. We stopped for lunch under a tree not far from a lock-keepers cottage and Dave made bacon sandwiches. We shared the headphones and listened to I’m sorry I Haven’t a Clue on my little radio. More walking after lunch – fortunately the track changed to the other side of the canal where it was shadier. We arrived at Guareg at 3.40 p.m. We phoned our daughters who wished Dave a Happy Fathers Day – lovely to speak to them. When we arrived at the campsite “Camping Tost Aven” we were given a free bottle of cold beer each as we had arrived on foot. Good campsite at a very reasonable 6.80€.
Day eight and we headed for a campsite on the Lac de Guerlédan – a lake formed after a hydroelectric dam was built in the 1930’s effectively cutting the canal into two. We arrived by the lake around lunchtime only to find that the campsite was closed for refurbishment! We spotted a restaurant right on the edge of the lake – The Merlin. We were made very welcome, we sat on huge wooden seats overlooking the lake and the owner brought out cushions and offered us a blanket too as it was a bit breezy. We had coffee and then ordered lunch of Ciabatta with ham and cheese mmmmmm. We stayed for nearly two hours before taking our leave and continuing on by following a footpath around the edge of the lake. This may have been a mistake as the going was very difficult in places – very rough terrain, steep climbs and descents with loose gravel underfoot – we got very hot. Eventually we arrived at the dam where we stopped for a rest. 1 kilometre further along the canal we arrived at a small village called St Aignan. There was a small museum with a tourist information sign outside where we met a lovely man called Daniel. We asked him where we could camp for the night – he said that there was no campsite in the village but we could camp on the village green! He also mentioned a place to the back of the church but a local woman gardening nearby thought that it would be too “humide”. We plumped for the ground behind the church, as it was a bit more secluded. Once again we had free camping. We had a few beers in the local bar. We noticed a “Home Sweet Home” sign hung up in the bar and the owner said it was gift from an English couple who own a house nearby and she asked us to translate it into French – not easy.
Day nine and we were away by 7.15 a.m. We walked along a quiet lane for a few kilometres before joining the canal. Two cyclists rode by as we were walking along. We left the canal at Ecluse 113, as we decided to shorten our walk by missing out Pontivy and walking cross-country via Neuillac and picking the canal up again at Saint Drédeno – saving us about eight kilometres. Found a lovely bar in Neuillac – like stepping back in time to the fifties. The two women in the bar chatted to us and wished us “bon courage” for our walk. We joined the canal again and headed for a free campsite at Bojus. We stopped for a rest and two cyclists rode by again – the same ones that had passed us the day before! I think they must have wondered how we got in front of them – they couldn’t have known that we had taken a short cut! We stopped by a lock for a rest and saw our first boat coming through the lock. We had a pleasant walk downhill passing several locks before we arrived at Bojus – basically a village playground with water and toilet facilities.
Day ten – Midsummer’s Day. After a night of croaking frogs we were away by 7.30 a.m. Dot’s feet were not good so we decided to make it a short day by stopping at Rohan. We walked six kilometres and arrived at the campsite by 8.30 a.m.! Not a bad site; pretty location right by the canal although it cost 7€ – a bit pricey!! Had a very lazy day, listened to the radio, had a stroll round the town, dozed, wrote postcards and plenty of tea and coffee.
Day eleven and started walking at 7 a.m. heading for Josslin. We had sun and cloud – not too hot and ideal for walking. The chateau at Josslin is huge and dominates the town. We managed to find a small shop where we bought the usual supplies and then headed out of town towards our campsite for the night at “Camping des Cerisiers”, Brancillet. It was nothing like where we have stayed before. Quite a few caravans that look very neglected; the toilet and shower block was not very clean when we arrived but it was better the next morning. The cost was 5.90€ so not too bad.
Day twelve and the clear skies all night meant that the morning started very cold. As we reached the canal the mist was just beginning to rise. We kept warm by walking and made good time by taking a detour along an old railway track designated as a footpath and arrived at Le Roc St André as the clock struck 12 noon. The campsite is right by the side of the canal with good facilities; the cost was 6.50€ so not too expensive. Worked out that we have come 200 kilometres so far – not bad.
Day thirteen – a longer walk today – 22 kilometres to Saint Martin sur Oust so we were away just as the church bell rang 7.a.m. We reached Malstroit around 9 a.m. and stopped for breakfast (it looks to be a pretty place worth a future visit). Listened to the last ever Home Truths on the radio. Met a pilgrim on the way back from Saint Jacques de Compostella – he had cycled 2001 kilometres and seemed so happy and said it was a good trip. Arrived at Saint Martin sur Oust at 3.30 p.m. and our first port of call was a bar just over the bridge. We had a glass of chilled beer each – very welcome. The campsite was just down the road – it was very full but we managed to find a vacant corner for 6.90€.
Day fourteen – left at 7 a.m. The canal walk, as usual, is very pretty – herons by the dozen, tree-lined towpath, wild flowers in abundance. Dot listened to the Archers on her radio. Sat by a lock for a rest; there were several boats waiting to go through on both sides of the lock. We asked someone where the nearest campsite was and he gave us directions to one nearby. As it was a lane leading away from the canal and uphill to boot we decided to sleep out this evening instead. The scenery changed dramatically the Oust River flowed through a valley of granite rocks. We stopped at a picnic spot, found a table and watched people rock-climbing on the other side of the river while we ate our lunch. We filled our water bottles at a bar/restaurant nearby and walked on. The land levelled out again and we could hear Breton music from across the valley – very haunting and quite beautiful. We stopped for the night just off the towpath – for free of course.
Day fifteen – Just a short walk and we arrived at Redon around 9 a.m. our first stop was for a petit café. Redon is an attractive old town and well worth a visit. Dot wandered around the market full of fresh fruit and vegetables – didn’t buy any though because of the weight. Found a Leclerc supermarket as we were leaving Redon so bought supplies for the evening. We also bought a decent knife and a small frying pan. Our next campsite was called Le Bellion and we arrived mid-afternoon. The campsite was deserted. There was a notice advising us to telephone for assistance. Dot rang the number and a woman said she would drop by around 7 p.m. Dot did a bit of washing and then we lazed for the rest of the afternoon. The woman came as promised – she was very pleasant and said that no rain was expected – only 3.19€ for the night! Luxury supper this evening – mushroom & ham omelette with tomato and salad, bottle of red wine banana for pudding – yum……..
Day sixteen – Today we saw repair work in progress on the towpath. There was a team of men tipping loads of orange/red gravel ready for levelling. It was very difficult to walk over the loose gravel. Further along, the canal opened up to a wider river with reeds on the far side and marshy land to the left. We saw a female swan with 3 cygnets and could hear frogs croaking loudly but never saw any. We made good progress and arrived at a small town called Guenrouet just as the clock struck 12 noon. We ate lunch then had a nap till about 1.45 p.m. Dave went into town to buy supplies while Dot stayed with the rucksacks and rested her feet. It was a short walk to our next overnight (free again) stop near the Chateau de Carheil. We ate supper then put up the tent on a small patch of grass to the side of the towpath. We watched some birds of prey sitting in an old dead tree the other side of the river – couldn’t see very clearly but it looked like there were two young ones as well.
Day seventeen – Beautiful misty morning. Dave was on the look out for a picnic table and/or bench to sit at for breakfast. We stopped for water at a lock-keepers house and walked on – still no bench or table. Eventually we sat on a wooden platform on the edge of the river (used for mooring boats waiting for the lock to be operated) and ate breakfast. Carried on walking and planned to stop around 12.30 p.m. for lunch if we could find a picnic table – Dave’s mission was to find a picnic table each time we stopped! As it turned out we didn’t find one and ended up walking on to our campsite for that night at Blain, a pleasant site with an undercover area with table and bench for eating “al fresco”.
Day eighteen – We were not planning to walk very far today so we ate a leisurely breakfast before we left. Dave’s tendon on the front part of his lower leg was very painful so we walked at a slow pace of about 3 kilometres per hour. Stopped at a picnic area just outside the small town of La Chevallerais. Dave rested while Dot walked into town to buy lunch and something for supper. After lunch we had a lovely nap in a shady spot under some trees and started walking again at 4 p.m. Followed the canal towpath under the N137 and then walked across the D537. There was a bar nearby – did we stop for a beer? No – we stopped for two beers – very cold and very welcome!! Walked on for a few more kilometres till we came to a small clearing just off the towpath for a free camp again. An added bonus – someone had recently cut the grass and there were piles of dried grass so we collected it up and stuffed it under the tent to make a mattress. We slept very well.
Day nineteen – our last day on the canal. It was a beautiful morning – the sun rose like a red ball over the trees and swirls of mist were gently rising from the surface of the water. We reached the end of the canal section of our walk and had breakfast just over the road from the lock-keepers cottage. We then had a walk of about 3 kilometres into Nort-sur-Erdre along a road – fortunately not too busy but very hot and no shade. Walked into the first bar we came to for a cold beer and asked the owner where the campsite was. He pointed the way and said it is about 2 kilometres away. We found a supermarket and bought food for lunch and supper. The walk to the campsite was very hot so we were very pleased to find that the campsite was shady with lots of trees. The manager welcomed us and showed us to a beautiful shady spot complete with picnic table and bench. Dot had a lazy afternoon and Dave walked into town to make enquiries about footpaths along the Loire and whether there are any boat trips up the river. No boat trips but a good walking/cycling track all along the river. We decided to have a day off tomorrow and take a taxi to Ancenis instead of walking. Dave’s leg was still a bit painful and Dot’s many blisters needed a break!
Day twenty. We had a lie-in this morning; tea at 7:30 a.m. After a leisurely breakfast we packed everything up and walked towards the campsite entrance. The taxi arrived at 8.50 and it wasn’t long before we were at the campsite at Ancenis. It cost 40€ including tip but it was worth it. We registered and found a pitch, which promised to be in the shade most of the day. The campsite is quite expensive but has a swimming pool, restaurant and bar: we paid 23€ 50 for two nights. We walked into town and found the information office where we found a handbook called “Loire by Bike” which contained all the information we needed: campsites, cycle routes and footpaths, picnic areas etc. Had a lovely lunch in town. Dave had toasted baguette with chicken and emmenthal: Dot had moules et frites (mussels and chips). Both meals were very simple but delicious. Shopped for food then back to the campsite. A very hot day so relaxed for the rest of the day and did nothing at all.
Day twenty-one: It was very hot today: somewhere in the thirties. Did absolutely nothing all day except telephone Dave’s dad, Dot’s parents, and our two daughters. It was a wonderful “chill out” day. We studied the maps for the next day. Foot report: Dot’s blisters are on the mend and Dave’s leg is swollen but not too uncomfortable.
Day twenty-two and we started our journey along the Loire. We woke at 4.30 a.m. to the sound of thunder and flashes of lightening so we decided to get up straight away and pack up before it started to rain. We had just finished when the heavens opened so we took shelter by the shower block until the rain stopped. We crossed the suspension bridge across the Loire just as the sun was rising; a beautiful scene. After walking about eight kilometres it began to rain so up went the umbrellas. We sheltered under a tree for a while then carried on until we came to St Florent-le-Viell. There was a campsite there but we decided to walk on as it was not a municipal site and would have been expensive; besides, it was only mid-morning. We followed the cycle track for a while before resting for a two-hour lunch on the edge of a cornfield by a long row of tall trees. We walked on and stopped to fill our water bottles at a shady picnic spot where we took another break. It was very hot and we were tempted to stop walking and camp overnight. Rashly we decide to walk on to the campsite at Montjean-sur-Loire. The first things we asked for were two cold beers, and very welcome they were too. The campsite is very good, we had a friendly reception and they lent us a table and two chairs too. The cost was 11€ 40.
Day twenty-three and our day started with a very pleasant walk through the town of Montjean-sur-Loire. Pretty gardens and sculptures stay in our memory. The town was dotted with sculptures large and small: a group of large ones in a field and a series of smaller ones as we walked along the river and out of town. We crossed the river onto Basse Isle, saw our first field of sunflowers, not much traffic, more pretty gardens full of roses and hollyhocks, very peaceful walking. Stopped for breakfast by an old farm. While Dave was brewing the tea we could hear a kitten mewing but couldn’t see it. The mum appeared from behind some bushes and the kitten ran out to her. The mother cat was still suckling the kitten and was very thin and obviously hungry. We had some sausage left from the day before so we cut some thin slices for her to eat. She was a bit timid at first but she came over and then the kitten followed warily. Mum ate several slices and the kitten licked Dave’s fingers. As we walked away the mother cat was washing herself and the kitten was trying to suckle. We crossed over another bridge to the other side of the Loire and had a short rest before walking on to Possoniere. It was very hot and the road seemed to go on for ever. Dave spotted a randonee footpath off to the left, which we decided to take. It took us to the town via someone’s vegetable garden (the path went straight through the middle!). Possoniere is a very long town and it took ages to get to the centre where we found a welcome bar and a cold beer each. The campsite is right by the river and we found the perfect spot right under a flowering cherry tree giving us shade all day. When we went to register the manageress told us that a heavy storm had been forecast and that a flood alert was in force and asked if we still wanted to stay. We decided that we deserved a good rest and the campsite was good so booked for three nights! That evening the storm arrived and it rumbled and flashed through the night.
Day twenty-four and we had a wonderfully lazy day. Despite the fact that the railway line runs past the campsite, the atmosphere in Possoniere is very relaxing and well worth a visit. Trains went by but we didn’t notice them after a while. There is a very good restaurant overlooking the river and typical Loire fishing boats are moored up nearby, When we arrived, a group of people were helping a young African man to make a replica Malinese fishing boat. They were working under a temporary shelter and the sound of hammering mingled with African music. A group of youngsters camped in our field for the night planning to watch the World Cup semi finals. They had adults with them and they were very well behaved; we were invited to watch as well if we wished. However we had booked to go for a meal by the river that evening. Dave ate Tartare petits patapons (fromage blanc seasoned with black pepper, black olives, sea salt, thin slices of fresh tomatoes, locally smoked fish, chives, sundried tomato and lemon to squeeze over). Dot ate Rillauds et Confit Oignons (slowly casseroled pieces of pork in a spicy sweet gravy and a rich onion chutney). We had a plate of chips between us and washed it all down with a bottle of house red. For desert we had delicious caramelised pear tart with chocolate topping. Dot made a mental note to experiment with the recipe. The whole meal cost 41€ and was worth every penny.
Day twenty-five: the day of the missing underpants!! Over breakfast we discussed our options for the next few days and decided that we would get the train from Possoniere to Saumur and continue along the Loire a far as Candes Saint Martin where the Vienne joins the Loire. We strolled up to the railway station and bought our tickets. When we got back to the campsite Dave noticed that his washing had disappeared from the line. We thought that the group that had been in our field the night before might have taken the washing in error. Dave walked up to the camp office to report the loss. The manageress was sympathetic and said that she would try and contact one of the adults who had come with the youngsters. We stayed for a beer and noticed that the Malinese boat was about to be launched. A group of local musicians walked up from the lower quay with a tall African dressed in a long yellow robe. Speeches were made and the boat was pulled down into the river and splashed with water amidst lots of shouting and clapping. Dave offered to send some video to a woman whose digital camera wasn’t working. She invited us for drinks later and turned out to be the Maire’s wife! We strolled round later that afternoon and had a pleasant time talking to Celestin and Helene about our walk, the Loire, cycling, and Dave’s missing clothes including our one and only towel. Helene very kindly gave us a small yellow towel. We arrived back at the campsite around 6.30 p.m. and as we turned the corner Dave said “My washing’s back!” There is was, back on the line; all of it that was except for his pair of underpants (they were new, we had only bought them a few days before).Turns out that the washing was taken in error and had been hung back on the line as we were not by our tent. The group leader offered to pay for the underpants but we declined.
Day twenty-six and we had our first ride on a French train. It arrived on time and we arrived in Angers where we made our way to another platform where we caught the train for Saumer. We walked along the main road out of the town having missed the signs for the cycleway. It wasn’t too busy and there was a good wide grass verge. We took a small lane off to the left and found ourselves walking past houses built into the cliffs. Some were very picturesque and others were derelict. We stopped at Turquant where we found a small supermarket and bought food and beer for lunch at a picnic area nearby. It was a very steep climb out of the village but worth the view. We saw the first of many vineyards close up and also a nuclear power station in the distance! It was a steep descent into Montsureau where we saw a campsite but didn’t like the look of it (too expensive looking) so we walked another two kilometres to Candes Saint Martin. It is very picturesque and the church is very beautiful. The campsite is quite pleasant, right by the river and a good number of trees. However it is not very good if you arrive on foot. There is no camp shop and no shops in Candes Saint Martin. Dave had a conversation with a chap about our predicament and he said that the shop wasn’t far away only three kilometres! A while later we saw him drive off and return a little later with bags of shopping. Now we know that three kilometres isn’t far by car or bike but it’s a long way there and back on foot when you’ve already walked all day. We hope he runs out of petrol one rainy day only three kilometres from a garage! We had three cuppasoups each and finished off the rest of our bread for supper.
Day twenty-seven and we leave the Loire and begin our walk along the Vienne. The dawn was beautiful as we walked across the bridge and onto a cycle track taking us through woodland a pleasant walk of about nine kilometres. We thought we might camp at Savigny-en-Vienne but decided against it, as there wasn’t a proper shop nearby only a boulangerie that sold the usual bread & cakes plus tinned or packet goods but didn’t sell butter! We asked and apparently the nearest shop wasn’t far away only three kilometres!!! We decided to walk on to Chinon about ten more kilometres. We arrived in Chinon around 11.30 a.m. The old town of Chinon dominated by its castle can be seen from anywhere on the campsite. As we checked in we noticed three warning notices giving instructions in case of emergency; the first stating that the campsite was in a flood zone; the second that the area was an earthquake zone and the third that a nuclear power station was not far away. Despite this we booked in for two days.
Day twenty-eight, a day off! We did the tourist bit and took a tour around Chinon on the Petit Train Touristique (it takes about 40 minutes). It picks up passengers right by the campsite and also in the town centre and up by the castle. This was the place where Joan of Arc first met the young Dauphin Charles. It was very interesting, we stopped at several places of interest, the commentary was in English, French and German, and well worth the money.
Day twenty-nine, Chinon to I’le Bouchard. We were away by 6.50 a.m. The chateau looked beautiful as the sun dawned. We had a pleasant walk along quiet roads running through a valley full of vineyards and fields of sunflowers and cereal crops. We got very hot but kept going until we reached our destination. We had our lunch under a huge weeping willow tree then walked the short distance to the campsite – the best one so far, as there is a SuperU right across the way from the campsite. It was such a pleasure to walk around the shop; not because of the things we could buy but because of the wonderful air conditioning – we stayed for ages just walking up and down the aisles! The campsite wasn’t bad either – 6€50 for the night.
Day thirty and we started walking at 6.30 a.m. We found a picnic table and stopped for breakfast around 8.30 a.m. We didn’t stop for long, as there wasn’t much shade. It got very hot so we put up our umbrellas – what a difference it made. We got a few funny looks but we didn’t care. It was still hot but more comfortable for walking. We arrived at Marsilly-sur-Vienne just before lunch. The campsite is very good and we found a good pitch with plenty of shade for just 7€. Just the other side of the hedge was a picnic table overlooking the river where we ate supper later that evening.
Day thirty-one and we are now getting up earlier than ever. We started off at 5.45 a.m. We walked along quiet roads all the way. It was only 12 kilometres so it wasn’t long before we reached our next campsite at Les Ormes. The cost was a very reasonable 4€50 and the manageress very friendly. We wandered off into the village where we bought supplies and had a walk around. The village boasts a beautiful church and covered market – well worth a look.
Day thirty-two and again we started at 5.45 a.m. We decided to walk as far as Chatellerault, about 18 kilometres away. We followed quiet country lanes to start with and then along the D1, which turned out to be very busy. We didn’t find anywhere to stop for breakfast until 8.30 a.m. where we found a shady spot by a beautiful field of sunflowers (Dave took some amazing photographs). The first campsite we came to was just on the outskirts of Chatellerault and was a very expensive 24€! We declined of course. We walked for another very hot 3 kilometres into the town centre and sat down under some trees for a rest. We ate lunch then asked at the local information centre where the municipal campsite was. Turns out it was another 4 or 5 kilometres out of town. By this time it was very hot and we were tired so we decided to get a taxi. It cost 8€ (6€10 plus tip). We booked for two nights at a very reasonable 6€10 per night. However, the campsite had very little shade, trains clattered by regularly and young men were riding motor bikes up and down a track running behind the campsite. We decided to only stay for one night so got a refund.
Day thirty-three – Bastille Day 14th July and we were away by 5.30 a.m. It seemed to take ages to walk out of Chatellerault. The weather was very sunny and it was getting uncomfortably hot. We arrived at Bonneuil-Mattours just after 9.30 a.m. having walked 15 kilometres. We stopped in the town to buy food for lunch and supper then walked on to the campsite about 10 minutes walk further on. Cost 9€ 40. We had a short nap under a tree before putting up the tent. There was to be an evening of music and fireworks so we had another nap in the afternoon, as the fireworks would not start until after dark at 11 p.m. The fireworks were arranged on floating platforms on the river and also on the opposite bank so that the display was reflected in the water. Music accompanied the display and it was a fantastic 30 minutes and all for free. After the fireworks had finished there followed a couple of hours of music by a group; they sang English and American rock songs and were very good.
Day thirty-four and we got up at 4 a.m. It was still dark and not easy to pack everything but we were still away by 5 a.m. We took a small track through some woods and then turned left at the end of the track instead of right. It was a fortunate mistake as we found ourselves walking along a narrow lane that followed the river for 2 kilometres. We passed by a pretty little picnic area by a place called Chapel St Claude. Unfortunately it was too early to stop for breakfast. The lane was lined with little houses (most of them looked like holiday cottages) with steep gardens to the back or gardens across the lane: a very pleasant and picturesque walk. At the end of the lane we had a steep climb up onto a plateau – the sun was just rising. We stopped for breakfast around 7 a.m. by a farm track. We walked on downhill towards a small village called Bonnes where we stopped for a short rest before continuing on. We hoped to find a footpath that followed the river but there wasn’t one so we took the road, which fortunately wasn’t busy. Just outside the village the road started to climb steeply and before long we found ourselves walking in full sun so up went the umbrellas again! It was getting much too hot and luckily for us we came across a small hamlet called Breuil. There ahead of us was a small area of grass with a picnic bench surrounded by sycamore trees – how lucky was that? It was almost as if it had been waiting for us. We were both tired and hot after all the climbing in the heat of the morning sun. Just out of interest we worked out how far we had walked and calculated that, by the time we reached Chauvigny we would have walked 555 kilometres or 345 miles (nice numbers we thought). We both made a joint decision to end our walk at Chauvigny. We arrived mid-morning and it was market day so the town was bustling. We sat in the shade on the steps of the information centre to cool off. Dave went in and got information about the campsite and asked about buses and/or trains that would take us to Montmorrillon but there were no direct services – we would have to go via Poitiers! We walked towards the campsite and stopped for lunch in the local park. We watched a young couple having their wedding photographs taken while we ate lunch sat at a picnic table under a tree. The campsite was at the other end of the park. We booked in (6€ 50 for the night) and found a good pitch. We didn’t put the tent up straight away but had a lovely sleep under a shady tree instead. We entertained the neighbours later when we put the tent up – by this time it took no time at all as we’d had plenty of practice over the last five weeks. Later that afternoon we telephoned our friend and told him we had called it a day and he offered to come and fetch us. We arranged for him to come the next day as we had already booked in and put the tent up.
Day thirty-five. “Oh no. We’ve overslept!” said Dave. Only joking. Dave made tea at 7 a.m. It made quite a change to get up after the sunrise! We entertained the neighbours again by taking the tent down in record time – so much easier in daylight. The neighbours left soon after breakfast – put their dog and two chairs back into their camper van, backed up about 40 centimetres and picked up two yellow plastic wedges then drove off: not half as entertaining! Pete picked us up at 10 a.m. Lovely to see him. It took an hour to get to his place: it would have taken us a week. Pete dropped us off with about 500 metres to go and he recorded the last steps of our journey on our camcorder. He & Annie were there to welcome us by their gate. So there we have it. It was an amazing journey but one that we won’t be repeating on foot. We had a great time, met loads of people, went to some lovely places and have loads of special memories.
Where to next time? Who knows?