A Lockdown loop

This is a little photo essay for those of you still in Lockdown and unable to travel. I had this particular route in mind when I was enduring my restricted travel delights last year. It lies within my 10km as the crow flies radius, so it could have been a 2021 adventure. But I never did it.

Yesterday seemed fitting as the weather was still in that ‘I can’t believe this is July, why am I wearing cashmere?’ mode. And I had meant to take the long plod in spring.

The Ardèche is committed to cycling and walking in a way that lifts the heart. You can’t move for a marked trail, a cheery pole with the directions ‘minor village you have never heard of 7.9kms further west’. Or north, or south. Rarely east; to the east lies the Rhone valley and the flat lands. We tend to go rocky and sinuously up.

But there is one particular route that is incredibly flat. The old train line that snakes its way up the Eyrieux valley. It was abandoned for ages and now is one of the preferred delights for people on two wheels. The Dolce Via.

And as a special bonus – no navigating. No maps.

90km of delights on foot, bike or horse.

I chose foot. And as I wasn’t about to take a three day long weekend of plodding, Or borrow anyone’s horses for a trek. I worked out that I could start in St Fortunat about 10 minutes drive from the house and walk my way around to a place called le Pont de Chervil in about 20kms. And if I was still feeling frisky I could walk up to Chalencon (steeply up to the plateau) and then walk home. Another 13kms.

Big day out.

Plus I would get to walk up to the wacky art installation / bus stop at Saint Sauveur de Montagut which I only ever flash past in the car.

It was a tram stop once. It is now an acoustic art work. And I am amazed that it has been this pristine since 2015.

The entire walk was charming. And full of happy families on bikes. Some runners, no walkers. The distances between the villages en route are about 5kms apart but the last stretch to le Pont de Chervil seemed to stretch longer than the promised signage. On a bike you could whizz around. But I plodded. And did rather run out of water as the day suddenly turned warmer.

So instead of taking the luring very steep shortcut up to the top of the mountain, I went the long way round because I knew there was a cafe and a tap. It’s the old train stop for people wanting to go up to Chalencon. But you would have changed here and then taken to a horse and cart or a charabanc.

I sat for 20 minutes and refuelled. And contemplated my sore feet.

Hard-packed paths for bicycles is not as kind to walkers and their boots.

So instead of springing up off my bench and nipping home, I did 3kms of up and then the car appeared and David took me the last bit home .

Call me a wimp, but I had had a lovely long walk and a cheery day. A break in the routine of my daily 5kms around the mountain top.

Next adventure, a trot around the potager.