Day 8: Ussel to Liginiac

Walking in France: A wonderful gift from Patrick
An unexpected pleasure

Saturday, 22 June 2019
Distance 22 km
Duration 4 hours 55 minutes
Ascent 211 m, descent 290 m

It was strange to wake up in the loft of the communal house, with the dawn light creeping in through tiny windows under the eaves.

We had slept very comfortably on the floorboards, with the drumming rain as a lullaby, but fortunately the rain had stopped by morning.

Walking in France: Cheers to Patrick!
Thank you Patrick!

Having descended the great wooden ladder, we found our tent nicely dry and we had just begun packing up when Patrick, our benefactor from last night, appeared at the door with a tray of coffee and chocolate biscuits.

We were amazed that he was even awake at 6:15 am, and very touched by his kindness.

The warmth and sweetness of this very welcome trayful were eclipsed by the human warmth and sweetness of Patrick himself.

Walking in France: Goodbye to our wonderful benefactor
Goodbye to our wonderful benefactor

We left after fond farewells with him and Nathalie. They even kissed us, which was a great honour for foreign people like us.

The road back to Ussel seemed much shorter than it had the day before (it was downhill all the way, for one thing) and half an hour later we were at the radiantly bright boulangerie near the bridge.

Walking in France: The boulangerie near the bridge
The boulangerie near the bridge

We got a big bag of pastries and two rounds of black coffee from a machine (embarrassingly, the serving girl had to help us with the machine both times) and took them to a tall table outside, where we added powdered milk from our supplies to make them into cafés au lait.

Walking in France: Breakfast
Second breakfast
Walking in France: Not our sort of walking track!
Not our sort of walking track!

It was a beautiful start to the day, with two lovely breakfasts in quick succession. Thanks to this boulangerie, there was no need for us to go up to the centre of Ussel.

We wove our way through the lower streets and arrived at the main south road (the D982) without trouble. It was not the sort of road that we would normally walk on, with its white lines, power poles and kilometre posts, but there was no choice.

Half an hour after joining this formidable highway, it crossed the river and an autoroute, and continued on, relentlessly uphill, slicing through the dense summer forest. At the first opportunity we turned off on a small road signposted to Mestes, which would also get us to the top of the ridge.

This had looked like a good idea on the map, but we had not paid attention to the contours, and soon discovered that it plunged down discouragingly before starting to climb, so we turned off again, this time onto a little winding road, perhaps the precursor to the modern highway, that wandered up past clusters of houses and eventually rejoined the highway, not far from the crest of the ridge.

Walking in France: At last, off the main road
At last, off the main road

At the crossroads at the top, we were very pleased to see a bar, but less pleased when we found that it was closed on Saturdays.

However we had hopes of another one further along the road, and we passed various lively looking shops before coming to the bar, which to our chagrin was completely defunct.

Reminding ourselves that we had only been walking a couple of hours and had no need of refreshments, we walked on to the edge of the village, where four roads forked off at odd angles.

Walking in France: The abandoned Chirac railway station
The abandoned Chirac railway station

We took the D168, which descended very gradually through verdant fields, and came to the abandoned railway station of Chirac, newly painted and surrounded by lawns and picnic tables, which looked much cleaner and sprucer than any working station.

About three kilometres later we arrived at the village of Chirac-Bellevue, with its beautiful old grey stone church and bell-tower. We hoped to find a bar here, and took the side road (the D108) in search of it.

Walking in France: Grey stone church, Chirac-Bellevue
Grey stone church, Chirac-Bellevue

Passing a few houses, we came out into open country and wondered whether it was worth continuing, but then we noticed a newish building beside the road, with a couple of men drinking coffee outside, and it turned out to be the bar. In fact one of the men was the manager.

As the air was cool, we sat inside for our coffee, with the sun pouring through the window in stripes between the heavy wooden posts.

It was about 11 am and we were the only customers, but tables had been laid for lunch and the place looked prosperous which was reassuring. We do not like the idea that country bars might be struggling and closing their doors.

Walking in France: Relaxing in the bar, Chirac-Bellevue
Relaxing in the bar, Chirac-Bellevue

Leaving the village, we walked the short distance to our destination, the slightly bigger village of Liginiac, our goal for the day. As we strolled along the little road, we found ourselves the subject of great interest from a herd of brown cows, who rushed towards us and milled about as if expecting a bale of hay or other treat to be thrown over the fence, but we had to disappoint them. Nevertheless they continued to pursue us until we were past their field.

Walking in France: Curious cows
Curious cows

At the edge of the Liginiac we came to some factory buildings, including a sawmill, and according to our map, there was a shortcut from there to the camping ground, along a forest path.

We searched and eventually found it, but the path was completely choked with branches and debris, so we stayed on the bitumen and took the long way around.

Just before we came to the camping ground, we saw a sign for our old friend, the Méridienne Verte (the Green Meridian), a line of trees marking the longitude of Paris, all the way through France. We had met this line before several times on previous walks, and were always pleased to see it.

Walking in France: Liginiac's church and château
Liginiac’s church and château

There was none of the usual forest of flags fluttering outside the gates of the camping, just a modest sign.

Walking in, we saw no tents or caravans, only a reception building which was locked. It was a bit worrying, but there was a bell beside the door, which we pressed.

Soon a burly man burst out of the bushes at the run and shook our hands. This was Johann, the Dutch owner of the place, and he escorted us up through a tunnel of trees to the lawns, where a crowd of people were camping.

It was so heavily planted and subdivided that it was like a huge roofless building with leafy walls. The shower block was in a charming old stone cottage and everything was pristine and perfect, in the manner of the Dutch.

Walking in France: Liginiac camping
Camping at Liginiac

There were many campers here and all of them were elderly and Dutch except us (we were just elderly). Most had campervans but a few were in large tents.

We met Carla, Johann’s wife, a slender, wispy blonde, who showed us the outdoor bar and a sort of reading verandah nearby. Somewhere through the vegetation there was a swimming pool, but we never saw it.

We had forgotten to buy any food, so we made do with a morsel of muesli for lunch, and then had a little sleep. Meanwhile Johann telephoned the local restaurant and booked us in for dinner.

Before going there we walked up the main street of the village. It was almost deserted, probably because everyone was down at the sports fields below, it being Saturday afternoon.

Walking in France: On the terrace of the Dreamcatcher House
On the terrace of the Dreamcatcher House

There was a boulangerie and a Vival supermarket, both closed for congé (annual leave) plus another restaurant, a sort of communal project which we found out later had failed the year before. The only functioning shop was a florist.

The restaurant was called Dreamcatcher House and it was also a chambres d’hôte. A terrace at the side was set up with tables, chairs and a barbecue and there was not a soul there when we arrived.

Our hosts soon appeared, an English couple called Justine and Alan. Justine was plump and loquacious and Alan, also chatty, was the cook, in his black-and-white checked pants.

Apparently, there had been twenty guests at lunchtime, including quite a few from the camping ground, but this evening we were the only ones, except for a couple of locals who came in for take-aways.

Walking in France: Dinner

Consequently our hosts had time to converse with us while we ate the splendid platefuls cooked by Alan – steak, chips and a multitude of other vegetables (no basket of bread, however, an omission that would never occur in a real French restaurant).

The evening was cold and we had our warm tops on, but Justine said that the weather forecast was for temperatures of over forty degrees in five days’ time. It sounded unbelievable, so we did not believe it.

Altogether it was a most enjoyable evening and afterwards Alan took us for a stroll to the top of their large block of land to admire the view.

After arranging to return for breakfast in the morning, we wandered back to the camping ground, where a happy throng had gathered around the outdoor bar near us, laughing and chattering in Dutch, and Carla was dispensing drinks. It was a pleasantly sociable sound for us as we fell asleep.

Previous day: Merlines to Ussel

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