On reflection, I suppose what made this walk unique was that it forged a path through terrain with which we were very familiar. Even when we walked The Staffordshire Way, nine years beforehand, most of the miles that we walked in our home county had actually been new to us. For me, I missed the frisson of walking new paths and coming across towns and villages for the first time. But Julia said that she enjoyed the familiarity, and that she was amazed by how often she had noted new features in a landscape with which she was accustomed. Indeed she felt that our six day meander down the Vézère valley, with its medley of memories and fresh perspectives, inspired her to walk more from our home in The Potteries. Urban walks, along well-trodden streets nearly always producing the unexpected and startling, and inspiring new stories.
The other feature that we discussed after we had thrown away our leaking, worn out boots was the fact that rambling feels very different in France compared to back in Britain. By and large, this is because paths rarely cross through farmland; when they do they are well-defined. Hence, you do not see stiles, or even kissing gates. And you are never confronted by a semi-circle of curious heifers and bullocks! Again, we agreed to differ in our views: Julia prefers les randonnées, I hanker for the meadows.
We were lucky with the weather – all the rain was squeezed into one day (day 4). Not bad for these parts – one day out of six; the Dordogne is verdant for a very good reason! And in May, one avoids the humidity of the summer months. Another seasonal bonus was the profusion of wild flowers!
Without a doubt, the walk can be recommended for those who want to use their feet as a means of introduction to the area. We sauntered along for six days, and in retrospect, the distance could have been comfortably covered in four. Days one and two could be combined, particularly if one sets out from Terrasson soon after nine o’clock. There would be plenty of time to study the flowers, stop for lunch, explore the wonderful church at St. Amand, and still reach Montignac well before supper. And similarly with days five and six – a gentle meander from Les Eyzies to Limeuil could easily be accomplished within six to seven hours.
You can obtain the booklet about this walk, published by the department of the Dordogne, at the tourist information centres in Montignac or Le Bugue. It’s free, and comes in French and English editions. Or you can follow this link, and read the English edition online!