We all slept very well after our degustation! The nearby peacocks, though, were confused by a bright full moon and screeched waking us at intervals during the night, though Rhyd told us he slept through this. We awoke to a view from our bedroom window of the sun shining onto the vineyards, turning their daytime dull brown into a blaze of gold.

After a sumptuous breakfast including pancakes and something very tasty a bit like lardy bread, plus freshly squeezed orange juice, we got packed up and set out in full sunshine in the cool of early morning. Our hosts Henri and Juliette had offered to transport our bags to Matougues, where her parents live. We thanked them but declined on grounds that it made packing rather complicated.

Leaving Le Clos Adnet at Villers Marmery

We retraced our steps back up the hill onto our path, and resumed contouring between vineyards below and woodland above, with wonderful long distance views southwards.

It seemed rather odd not to be attending an Easter church service, but there were simply none available on our route. So we thought about Easter and Tom sang ‘There is a green hill far away’ heartily instead.

A short walk through beech trees brought us out towards the end of the escarpment we had been following, and onto a high plateau with huge fields of arable crops stretching into the distance.

We gradually descended into the village of Billy le Grand, which is home to several more champagne houses. Although it was Easter Sunday today, the church didn’t seem like it had been open or used for some time, and certainly there’d been no Easter service. We found somewhere to sit for a short rest. Just over the fence a tiny dog with a tiny bark got very agitated about our presence, and kept bouncing on his hind legs to puff up its rather pathetic impact!

Crossing the plateau towards Billy le Grand
Church at Billy le Grand

The other side of Billy le Grand we rejoined the canal de l’Aisne a la Marne, initially following it on a parallel woodland track on the south side above the tow path. As the heat of the sun was building by now, the cooling shade of the trees was welcome.

At one point we came upon a swarm of Hawthorn flies, buzzing up and down with their long dangling legs in the lee of some trees. Their Latin name is Bibio marci, on account of the fact that they usually first emerge around St Mark’s Day, 26th April. These were a full nine days early, but then we are a good deal further south, and many other aspects of spring seem to be further advanced too.

At one of a series of locks raising the level of the canal we sat on a grassy bank for lunch, before Rhyd went bounding off towards Chalons-en-Champagne alone to get a train to Paris and an onwards overnight bus to Amsterdam to meet up with his girlfriend. We felt a bit bereft! It has been lovely to have Rhyd’s company, and to share this experience with him.

We had decided that, as the planned overnight stop at Conde sur Marne was impossible due to lack of accommodation, we may as well shorten the walk by heading more directly to our hotel in Matougues. So, we too set off southwards across the fields and away from the canal though at a more sedate pace! There is no bounding to be done with a full heavy rucksack!

Crossing farmland between the canal and Marne valley

As we came down into the Marne valley we walked between villages to reach a crossing point that would take us over the canal and river Marne into Matougues on the west bank.

Walking from Vraux to Jucigny

What looked like a short walk from Jucingy turned out to be several long kilometres across the Marne river floodplain in the full heat of afternoon, crossing first the canal and then a sequence of small bridges over dry or drying side streams of the main river. As so often at this stage of the day, it seemed to go on for ever!

At last – coming into Matougues!
River Marne at Matougues

Our hotel was the other side of town on a main road, but thankfully the rooms are at the back away from the road and therefore quiet. Unfortunately the hotel restaurant, and its reception, are closed on Sundays from lunchtime onwards so we had to find our way in through the coded car park gate and then find the night entrance to the rooms.

We had eventually persuaded the hotel to leave some cold beers and food in jars in our room as we are not able to drive miles to find a restaurant, as seems to be expected of the several other guests arriving this evening. We noticed a pizza dispensing machine up the road, but as our instructions from the hotel included not trying to get into the kitchen because it is alarmed, we decided not to bother with pizzas. Not the best evening meal we have had, but at least we aren’t going to bed hungry.

Highlight of the day? That has to go to breakfast, but walking through the woods above the vineyards in dappled sunshine came a close second.

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