Doing A Boucle.

Every day we  did one. The extraordinary ordinary Jim called it. It was low-key and lovely.

First we drove out to the starting point in Le Wally. A little grey Renault. Single track roads. Almost no traffic. ‘It could not get more French’, said Jim. A very new driver, I gritted my teeth, gripped Wally’s wheel, and preyed I would meet nothing coming the other way. We drove slowly through villages, looking for the boucle noticeboard and the sunshine yellow way markers. And then we set off. A few kilometres. Not more than ten. Except for the nine kilometre walk that turned out to be fourteen. Merde!

County lanes. A handful of houses. Isolated farms. Barking dogs. A pack of five ran out into the road, and one, bolder and more aggressive than the rest, nipped Jim’s trousers. There were wildflowers – whites, blues, pinks and lilacs. Cow parsley, cowslips, big fat clovers, dandelions, buttercups, and daisies. And seemingly a thousand shades of green. Fields of young wheat rippling like a land wave. Barley begging to be touched. Fallow stone-ridden fields. Ploughed fields, lines curving gracefully up and down slopes, merging and widening, natural works of modern art. It was sensual, sensational, stunning. Lone trees stood amongst the brown earth, their branches as yet unclad. Evocative markers of time and history. We skirted rivers, ponds and woodland. Passed fishermen, and social gatherings of the hunt, and deciphered warning notices forbidding the picking of mushrooms and fruit and the stealing of wood and snails. Once a hare ran towards us along the middle of the road. At first we thought it was a cat. And then we saw it’s ears. It caught our scent before it reached us and veered off at a tangent. Pity.

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DSCN3275 (2).JPG There were glimpses of chateaux, and ornamental rusty iron gates. Sightings of broken down buildings, rooves open to the  air: old stones and old stories. Deep in a wood, two old abandoned cars – chassis only, anything of any use, gone. Jim thought of Nazis and the Second World War, and I conjured up stories of love gone wrong, murder and concealment. I’ve seen too many episodes of Midsummer Murders. Once we came across an illegal still; rotting fruit littered the ground, the smell of alcohol hung in the air.


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We saw hardly anyone. An ancient man driving a Citroen, beret on head, barely visible hunched over the wheel. His mouth turned down – concentration, or moroseness? He did not acknowledge us. Occasionally someone called out ‘bonjour’, but this more often than not, was when we’d accidentally strayed from the path and they did not mean bonjour, they meant, ‘what are you doing here’? They were not unfriendly, just surprised. We seemed to be the only people who ever did a boucle.

On Victory Day we watched a ceremony at a local war memorial. Old men bearing medals, saluted and stood to attention as tinny music played through a loudspeaker and wreaths were laid. Their faces blank, their hearts undoubtedly full.


Every time we walked we found something wonderful. Seemingly empty hamlets and landscapes – yet filled with traces of peoples past and present; of the effect of man on his landscape, and the beauty of simplicity. All of this from simply taking a step, putting one foot in front of the other and discovering the boucle.



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