|Eco-Gites of Lenault|
"This year we have had holidays that are short but more often as we found in the past that going away for extended periods of time was actually more tiring than relaxing. We hadn't been on holiday for October half term for a few years and were keen to remedy that so we could enjoy the autumn in all its glory. Ironically our destination was the same as the last time we went away at this time of year - to Eco-Gites of Lenault in Normandy, just a short distance away from the city of Caen in Calvados.
Despite the fact that this was our third holiday to the gite the one thing we had never really done was gone for a proper walk in the local area and now the children are older we were very keen to put that right. It was the sort of day that couldn't really make its mind up; with sunshine and cloud in equal measure, but we decided that we could still enjoy the autumn colours whether the sun was shining or not.
Rosie and Simon from next door kindly supplied the walk leaflet that was handily in English. We decided upon the one from the pack that we could start from the gite so as not to have to drive. In order to help out a bit we also took their dog with us, the first time we have ever had a canine companion on one of these blogged walks. At the back of the grounds of La Causserie (the whole building of the gite and owner's residence next door) we turned left into one of the sunken lanes that the walk is named after. These pathways I imagine have been here for centuries, allowing access between the small farms in this very rural part of Normandy. This particular lane seems rather insulated from its surroundings, such was the enclosed nature of it. There were still blackberries and rosehips fruiting in the hedgerow although the former were surely rather insipid and not worth picking. The late ones seem to have no flavour - maybe the sun helps them develop that?
Beyond the hedge we could see some maize crops that had not yet been gathered in but otherwise the countryside was ready for the winter as far as crops were concerned. More of the landscape was pasture and occasionally we saw a field with cows in them. Dairy farming is more common in Normandy and much of the fresh produce goes into making delicious creamy cheeses (Camembert originates from not far from here).
Our path crossed a road and the track kept going in almost a straight line between fields. Occasionally we got some brilliant views across the surrounding countryside and sometimes we were hemmed in by bushes and trees. Whichever it was we felt like we had the whole countryside to ourselves as we saw barely anybody about. Eventually we came to a road but even then our progress was unhindered and we continued onward through an ever narrower lane that became even more enclosed by hedgerows either side.
Eventually we came to another road and turned left to head towards the small village of Lenault. By now the sunshine had disappeared entirely and the clouds looked rather threatening for a while. Our walk along the road was interrupted only once by a car which was a relief. On the way to the village we passed by a large crucifixion - these are very common in France, especially by road junctions. This particular one looks well cared for and impressively big. I am not sure if this is a common style but the cross seemed to be made of concrete and yet was styled to look like a tree?
A little further on and we came to the village itself. Even by French standards Lenault is very small, with only a small collection of houses and yet it boasts a church and Mairie (what we might refer to as a village hall). There wasn't any sign of life in the village as we passed through but the sun put in a welcome appearance just as we passed by the church. This little 16th century church appears to have come through the World Wars unscathed - in fact I am not even sure the armies much bothered with this little corner of Calvados - there isn't really enough here to fight over. We didn't look inside the church; partly on account of the dog with us and partly because we weren't sure whether it was the done thing to do this in France?
Once through the village we headed down the most sunken lane of the whole walk - it felt like a tunnel for most of the way down to teh property of Le Hamel. Here we were greeted by a lot of barking dogs and a fairly dirty look from the owner who clearly did not want his peace disturbed. We didn't hang around though continuing quickly past this spot as we didn't want the dogs barking for any longer than was necessary.
As we wandered on views across the area opened up once again and over to our right we could see the distinctive spire of St Jean-Le-Blanc church across the tops of the bown and gold trees of the woods between our position and the village. The delights of the views didn't last long though as we plunged down into a small valley with a very wet path caused by what looked like a small stream running down the middle. As we descended down into what felt like a gully a large herd of cows came galloping across the adjacent field to check us out. When they arrived they seemed friendly enough but I couldn't help wondering what on earth they thought they would find when they arrived?
We reached the small collection of houses called La Saulnerie and took the most delightful lane southwards. Although bound by trees with little view out the path was particularly attractive and wide enough to suggest that it was once more of a main route than some we had used. It now hosts the route of the GR221; a long distance path that links Coutances on the coast of the Coentin peninsula with Pont D'Ouilly in the Suisse Normande crossing some of the finest countryside Normandy has to offer.
Eventually we reached the road that we had crossed further north in Lenault and almost double backed on ourselves to reach a small valley. From here it was back on to our original sunken track back up hill to La Causserie and a welcome cup of tea. This five mile walk was enough for the girls but by the time we got back the sun was shining quite strongly and I felt like I had only just got going so after a short break I headed out to explore some more. I think if we are to come back to this place again we may just focus on walking next time. The countryside is delightful and we were glad that we had some walks that we could take."
Thank you, Paul, for this blog post and we look forward to you coming back so you can do some more of the local routes - there really are so many. Why don't you come and have a walking holiday in Normandy too?