A path through the woods
As 2021 begins, I am no nearer to understanding the French system of rights of way. Three things are certain: what appears to be a right of way on the map, or at least a clear means of passing on foot, guarantees no such thing; secondly, the French have a methodical system of ‘grands randonnées’ all marked and numbered on most maps; but, finally and in general (at least around here), many less people than in England walk for pleasure. What is cause and what effect? I don’t know. Modern IGN maps – the equivalent of our Ordnance Survey – do not show familiar walkers’ aids as compared with older French maps (eg field boundaries and lot numbering of parcels of forest land) As far as I know French maps have never indicated their bars and restaurants as the English and Welsh do their pubs (PH, as was, and now the little blue beer mug sign) or post offices (no PTT in France where England/Wales has its POs).
And yet, so much of the French countryside is magnificent. I have written a little before about local foot paths. I am trying to find a way to introduce my local mayor to stiles, not because the English do it better, but because local French communes do not seem to have stiles at all. The path alongside our land (Chemin de Pont Romain) goes into what was a near impenetrable wood, which was clearly once a right of way (see the map here). The photo here shows its clearance by arrangement of the mayor over a couple of hundred yards (200 metres). It does not show that on the dog-leg shown on the map the wood is still barely passable; that there is still a stream down the path way; and that, just out of sight, a scramble of barbed wire makes the path passable only to a person with very long legs and scant regard for their safety and comfort.
A challenge for me for 2021 is to ensure – by one means or another – that that path is passable over two barbed wire fences and down to a stream (which the mayor says is to be bridged). After that stream the path, probably involving two more stiles, then passes on to the Roma Track (voie romaine), beyond. Then, when they can finally come here, my grandchildren can go down to the stream by themselves with a picnic; and, second, when I choose I can walk from here to Savigny-le-Jeune and on to Curgy without setting foot on a roadway.