Day Walking and Accommodation
Bill Orme - from Striders 114
While day walking might seem inappropriate for a long distance walkers’ magazine, Strider includes material on many different modes of walking other than long distance walks: weekend jaunts, challenges, 100s and peakbagging are just some.
Also we have to encourage those who are currently not walkers, and day walking is a good start. This can lead to more adventurous walks and opens the horizons of how to explore the world around us on foot.
In the next Practical 12, I propose to suggest explorations into the unknown in your own neighbourhood and the serendipity that comes from the nearby places that you thought you knew inside out.
While day walking is of interest to everyone, families, friends, groups and many others, I recommend it particularly to those who have retired, or are contemplating retiring and those looking for a new, healthy and interesting dimension to their previously hectic life. Now 74, Nedra and I see it as another step along life’s path.
With the flexibility that comes with retirement, excellent cheaper accommodation is readily available and places are less crowded. Spring is delightful with emerging life and autumn with its colours and stable weather are best for walking and avoid peak holiday periods.
Britain has a great variety of routes and is probably best-known to the great majority of LDWA members. Wainwright set an almost impossibly standard for others to follow in his guides, though there are now many credible followers in the ‘Wainwright’ style. Prolific publishers include Cicerone Press, National Trail Guides and many others exist.
While there is a heavy emphasis in Britain on countryside walks, peaks, forest and views, nearby France is less well known to many Britons and has more emphasis on the exploration of the history and culture of each region.
Why does an anglophile Australian rabbit on about France? Probably because walking there is relatively unknown in Britain and is so different and interesting. We are regularly told France does not have good mapping like Britain’s Ordnance Survey, but their maps are at least as good. I am not denigrating the many other countries have equally excellent day walks, but space here is limited.
Almost all the routes in France have been selected by the one volunteer group, the Fédération Française de la Randonnée Pédestre (FFRP) www.ffrandonnee.fr. With over 300,000 members they have developed an incredible 180,000 kms inter-connected network of long and short walks uniformly marked and maintained by the volunteers. These are backed by 280 guidebooks (Topo guides) with detailed maps, planning data and background on the history, geology, trees, flora and fauna, sights etc. The profits from Topos support their work, as like the LDWA, they remain independent of advertising.
Almost all routes are circular, so you can drive to any point and walk back to the car. They are virtually never out and back walks, where you have to rewalk the same section, or find a way back to your car. Here are some examples.
Brittany in northwest France is so close in distance and in name. Last year we decided to day walk the Granit Rose coast so loved by Hillwalkers Register Recorder, Alan Castle. Based in Lannion, we found three Topos that gave us a great variety of walks. Topo 346 covered the section of the Grande Randonnée GR34 coast path which goes from le Mont St-Michel to beyond Vannes and mirrors the Cornish South West Coast path. It included the GR34A to B variants which made interesting circles. Topo D022 (Les 'tes-d’Armor) gave us 40 day walks (or Petit Randonnées) and Topo P298 (Le pays de Morlaix) another 38 to choose from. There were many more.
The Dordogne (Périgord Noir)
The once British Dordogne lies between the Loire valley and Pyrenees in southwest France. Whilst the GR6 passes through the Dordogne on its way to Switzerland, the 29 circle (boucle) walks produced by the Sarlat Tourist office each with its own leaflet and map makes for a great smorgasbord - or an introduction to duck (canard) and pinot noir country. Lunch at an inn watching the farmers market an added attraction. Adjoining areas can be explored with the comprehensive large leaflets covering for example Bugue, Buisson, Cadouin, Belvãs and St Cyprien. The variety is endless.
Accommodation for Day Walkers
Practical 10 dealt with accommodation of longer walks, but many of the suggestions such as gites are also available for day walking. Throughout the world there are a great variety of self-catering possibilities, readily Googled. These can be very inexpensive, particularly if the peak periods are avoided. Now, during the recession, there are many specials and packages available by contacting the owner direct or through the web.
In France we have found the comprehensive www.gites-de-france.com excellent. Sometimes they separate self catering from B&Bs (Chambres et Tables d’Hotes), both of which are options.
This is just a flavour of the possibilities. We thought when we retired that we only had a few more years of good walking ahead of us. But like so many others, we find that by walking regularly, we just don’t have enough years to walk all the walks on our shortlist, and there must be many more we are not yet aware of. Our only regret is we didn’t start walking earlier, and we hope many others won’t make the same mistake!
This article was written by Bill Orme, Walking Volunteers, and first appeared in Strider.
Anyone is free to copy it with this acknowledgement.