To Noyant

by Administrator 8. June 2008 16:10

Sunday Le Lude to Noyant

Not our day of rest - about 16 miles including a bit of difficulty finding the GR36 (our new route down to Saumur where we pick up the GR3 up the Loire). We then did a mix of road, field, wood and marsh, the latter only a short section and easily, with our hard won expertise, circumnavigated.
On the one occasion we lost the route we passed through the small village of Disse sous le Lude where a motor bike cum tractor convention/car boot sale was in progress, we thought about buying a vintage tractor but could not see how to get it home, but it would have been really useful!!
We scored points for another hare and a small deer and the day passed in the usual fashion, arriving in Noyant at about 15:00hrs. This is just about the smallest Municipal we have been on with 12 pitches only and absolutely nothing open in the village, not even a single bar, on a Sunday afternoon. We had planned ahead yesterday for this eventuality, so we are carrying 2 days food (for today and tomorrow) as getting food in little villages in France can be notoriously difficult on Mondays.
Link to where we are on Google Maps



by Administrator 8. June 2008 16:02
Notes on the geography of the last few weeks.

We had not realised quite how flat this area of northern France is. In the north of Normandy around Cherbourg the land is about 300ft above sea level and obviously as we followed the coast down to Le Mont St Michel we never rose above 100 ft and often were walking along the shore line which was crossed by multiple small rivers/ streams each with their own mini estuary culminating in the walk across the sands of Le Mont St Michel with it’s three main water courses entering the sea there. The most southerly of these was Le Couesnon flowing north from the high (300ft) lands south of Fougeres.
Travelling southeast to Laval we met the Mayenne at Laval at a height of somewhat less than 200ft having “peaked” at about 600ft around Ernee as we crossed the watershed from those northern flowing steams to those draining southwards into the mighty Loire including the Mayenne joining it at Angers and the Sarthe flowing from Le Mans at the dizzy height of 150ft down to the Loire also at Angers at 49ft above sea level. This drop of only 100ft over 52miles as the crow flies and with the surrounding country not rising above 150ft with few exceptions, goes quite a long way to explaining our problems with land drainage during the last 10days and the size of these sluggishly flowing rivers. Most of which with the weirs and locks on then are navigable to boats a lot bigger than British Narrow boats.
We are currently at Le Lude on the Loir (110ft above sea level) a tributary of the Sarthe and the chateau here is poised a dizzying 30ft above the river on “high” ground.
I hope that the next few days will see no more of the sort of ground we have been covering and the soils seem sandier and better drained than further north. But we shall not get above 500ft for several weeks until south of Poitiers, and over 1000ft until south of Limoges, as we reach the watershed between those rivers draning northwards into the Loire and those southwards into the Dordogne which loops south then west to enter the sea with the Garonne in the Bordeaux estuary.


Rest Day

by Administrator 7. June 2008 19:46

Day off in Le Lude.

Morning well spent talking to tourist information lady, getting campsite info and washing. Afternoon visiting the local chateau in town which was more interesting than most being still lived in and with a guide who made the effort to speak both French and English. Medieval stronghold pre 100 years war, captured and held for a few year by the English, protected better than many during La Revolution with many treasures rediscovered during a major reconstruction in the 19th century and more or less in the same family since (haven’t the French heard of inheritance tax?). Very well preserved and although the pictures of the past family members got a bit much there was a very nice old Flemish oil painting. Though the highlight were the old kitchens with wood burning ovens and copperware with vaulted ceilings still used to make the preserves on sale at the gate.
We had our first barbecue ce soir which explains the lateness of this blog . On the banks of the Loir with some dry wood and the grill Tony has been carrying, we had to use it or it would be going home next week.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To le Lude

by Administrator 6. June 2008 18:33

Bazouges sur Loir to Le Lude.

Both these towns are on the Loir, a tributary via the Sarthe of the Loire (which is the one you’ve all heard of). Both are very pleasant with a river big enough to boat on may be the size of the Wye at Hay, but since we are still in the flatlands they are slow flowing and with weirs to control and increase volume of water retained.
They are however 18 miles on foot apart. It was a good day with about half of the walking on roads and half on forest tracks (without significant mud or water). Le Lude is a bit bigger and has allowed us to solve two impending problems , a bank with a guichet (or ATM), and a 24 hour petrol station which allowed us 650mls of unleaded at 1.20 Euros without asking awkward questions in a language we are ill prepared to answer in. Thus we now have money and stove fuel.
On the way here we saw a hare, it started up from a ditch by a house we passed and ran 50yds down the road. We suffered the addition of about 3/4mile to our route to go round what we believe to be a hunting enclosure for boar.
The camping here is by the river and we will stay here for tomorrow to gather a bit of data about the next leg to Saumur about which we have little idea of where to stay apart from one site in a not ideal position. We need to talk to the nice lady in the tourist info who was just shutting up shop as we arrived and was already late.
Photo of the Chateau at Le Lude which is quite startling in the middle of a small town.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Bazouges sur le Loir

by Administrator 5. June 2008 17:12

Thursday Precigne to Bazouges sur le Loir

A good afternoon drying and we walked out in good order today, it was not to last. The route joined the GR and passed through the usual pleasant green lanes, some of which had been mown presumably by the local communities, the lanes gradually became boggy and then disappeared under water, we did our usual trick of getting through the hedge to find a nearly dry green lane paralleled ours. Great we thought, but after a few hundred yards the green lane entered a meadow with planted trees and there was now a wide full ditch between us and our original path. It rapidly became apparent that this was a water meadow and loud cursing could be heard as the water level topped the boots. At this point with one of your gallant heroes up to mid calf with full boots and the other removing boots and socks for sandals finding dry land was a priority. This appeared as a metalled road on the other side of a 4 foot ditch crossed on a bridge of sighs, creaks and snappings of some well seasoned old branches. As we gathered our wits and assessed the situation it became apparent that apart from one of us undoing the good of the previous afternoon re prevention of trench foot, we were unscathed. But were rapidly being treated as donors by the local mosquito population, still even if France is no longer rabies free it does not have malaria.
We had lunch in the pleasant town of Durtal and then through wooded hills (well what passes for hills round here, 300 feet above sea level) and down to the town of Bazouges with some nice old buildings on the opposite bank to the campsite.
We then shopped in the corner shop run by a pleasant Moroccan Frenchman and even managed a conversation about Moroccan cooking!!. It may be that since French was not his native tongue either he was more willing to try hard to be understood. Confit de citron preserved lemons.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Presigne

by Administrator 4. June 2008 12:40

Sable sur Sarthe to Precigne.

A rest day! Well only 6 miles, late start tents almost dry, finish for lunch and washing with a good chance of drying . Another interesting stile - see the blog still to come (too many photos to upload from here). We first walked into town to cross the river and picked up the GR 365 on the opposite bank, after ¾ hour we were 100 yards from our camp last night, another dog leg in the route results in us being only 4 miles away from yesterday but 6-7miles walked. The walk down the bank was much better than on the roads and startled this frog ? species with a bright green stripe from nose to tail.
Now at our ease in the Municipal at Precigne watching washing dry (hurray) , a necessary duty as clouds still threaten, but currently in warm sunshine.
When clothing suitably dried, then time to stroll into town to find a cool beer and other liquids to go with tonight’s tea.
Feet feeling relaxed today after just a few miles and not too much road walking.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Sable sur Sarthe

by Administrator 3. June 2008 19:02

St Denis to Sable sur Sarthe

We knew these two days would not be fun, we had 30 miles by direct road to link up the 2 GR systems. This second day was well started by the previous afternoon in St Denis with sun and breeze so we started drier than for some days. It was still trying to rain but very slowly cleared during the day. The meteo Tim saw on the papier of the monsieur in charge of the café/bar we had coffee in yesterday agreed with Geoff’s text that we may be due a few days good weather, I hope so, this may mean we can smell less like the pilgrims of old. We arrived in Sable at about 1400 and pitched tents to dry them out 17-18 miles today and then walked into town. The site has red squirrels, seen as we arrived and the weather has looked up since, now sitting in the evening sun drying out after a meal that only had to be carried 1 km from town. ( So for Ali, plenty veg melon and nectarines and tomatos, as well as the standard bottle of wine, missing for the last 2 days ). Next few days are not problems of carrying food or shopping and so we look to be in or around Saumur for the arrival of our two gracious ladies. (The first supply visit).
Really no interesting pics to show views or whatever so some sculpture from Sable from our shopping expedition and a view of the Harris Butchers bag that has been with him since Tim started (thanks Mark).
Link to where we are on Google Maps


The End of the Day

by Administrator 3. June 2008 19:01
The End of the Day.

This was on the Campsite at St Denis in a brief moment between heavy thunderstorms.


To St Denis du Maine

by Administrator 2. June 2008 16:05

Laval to St Denis du Maine

Set off in the rain after a wet night. Walking down the main road for the first hour in the rush hour in the rain with articulated lorries only inches away was no fun but it made the rest of the day during which rain was intermittent on the side roads seem quite pleasant by comparison. Much of the day looked like the photo.
We arrived at St Denis at about 13:30 having covered 15 miles and starting at 07:30, well we certainly didn’t want to stop. Found the campsite very nice on the shore of a small lake, but it is Monday so no shops or bakeries open. Still we have food for tonight and a Mars bar got us here. I think both our BMIs are dropping.
However the afternoon provided some precious drying time a breeze and the sun came together, even though clouds threatened and close observation was needed to prevent steps backwards in the drying process. Someone’s socks have been wet for days!!!
A little amble up into the village to see a) the local hotel closed and up for sale (anyone fancy a little lifestyle change?) b) the historic church stuffed full of statues, limestone frieze, carvings and C14 wallpaintings (so much to see in 1 place with an English soundtrack) and c) the ancient village washhouse which seemed to be a large wooden platform that could be lowered into the river.
Link to where we are on Google Maps


To Laval

by Administrator 1. June 2008 16:36

Sunday Port Brillet to Laval or St Pierre le Potier just south.

Comfortable night spent out of the rain in the Auberge, started walking at 08:00 after le petit dejuener. Got a different baguette from the boulangerie opposite, with seeds (Les Grivels I think) very good for lunch.
Tony got fairly stressed when his HTC Kaiser (phone, pda, gps, camera et al) refused to boot up at the start of the route, but after much bad language, and a phone call home to discover how to do a hard reset on the device (how can you press all those buttons with only 1 pair of hands), he finally got the machine going again and all the software reloaded. It’s amazing what you can do when you are walking along.
Uneventful walking along green lanes paralleling the main line into Laval, until I was startled (Tim) by the TGV to Laval that crept up behind me, I thought I was being run over.
At one point the pathway did a detour of ½ mile or so to get over the A81 autoroute. Why? The path was there first! Why wasn’t there a suitable bridge over the motorway similar to the superb bridge that takes the Pennine Way over the M62 in Yorkshire?
We walked through Laval and down the River Mayenne which is navigable with quite large locks and weirs and a superb chateau close to the river.
Our first choice campsite had closed - taken over by a Macdonalds and a van sales yard - such is progress. We also chose to sit in a bus shelter like 2 vagrants for 15 minutes or so when the rain got particularly heavy while waiting for the rain to ease. Why does the 2 km you don’t feel you should have to do feel the worst?
Link to where we are on Google Maps