We had difficulty getting to sleep last night because our room was over the communal ablutions and recorded ‘musack’ started up every time someone went in there – we mainly got the benefit of the bass beat, which was especially irritating after the soothing choral music we’d heard in the church earlier! Unfortunately the owners were not about before we left this morning to suggest that they turn off the musack in the evenings – or preferably do without it. We did like their little electric Citroen though!

This morning was overcast but dry. We walked the 100 metres to the boulangerie early to collect croissant and fresh bread for breakfast, and treated ourselves to our first cups of tea with breakfast for over a month. Our experience is that it is never a good idea to ask for tea in France. We also had a very interesting fruit juice we’d bought in the epicerie last night, comprising juices of orange, carrot and lemon – excellent for giving you energy, according to the shop owner. It was actually very good.

Leaving Le Columbier

On the outskirts of Dienville there is a large flour mill and enormous chicken rearing sheds, bounded by prairie fields of arable crops. We also noticed a well established encampment of caravans and tin shacks discretely tucked behind a hedge beyond the flour mill, and wondered whether the inhabitants might be migrant workers, but we didn’t think it appropriate to go over and ask!

Moulins de Dienville
Encampment behind the flour mill at Dienville
Looking back at flour mill, chicken sheds and vast arable fields at Dienville

Our track took us across flat arable land initially before we joined a minor road to cross the River Aube near the village of Unienville. The river looked very attractive with riffles and pools, clear water and flowing well, but there we couldn’t see any fish.

The Aube at Unienville

We then had to make a decision on our route. Should we take the official VF path up onto the ridge to the west and the Foret d’Aube, or a more direct route using farm tracks in the valley and go up onto the ridge later? We opted for the latter and turned left to walk through the hamlet of L’Autre Monde which is in the commune of Unienville – is that a tautology?

Tom on another planet

Further on the road crossed over a canal, part of the flood relief scheme for the Seine valley, connecting Lac d’Amance to the Aube river. In effect these Foret D’Orient lakes are used to hold water high up in the catchment during periods of high rainfall, to be released at at a steady rate. We were saddened to see that the water was constrained into a concrete channel, completely at odds with and disconnected from its surrounding environment. Wouldn’t it have been so easy to build it in a more sympathetic way?

Just over the canal we took a dirt road off to the right, and followed it for several kilometres between fields and, at times, between hedgerows with mature trees. Wherever there were trees there was lots of birdsong, but out in the fields only the larks sang for us. It was good, easy walking.

However, all good things come to an end eventually and so we began the short uphill climb onto a farmland plateau, passing numerous large stacks of chopped and split wood, presumably being weathered before being sold for kindling. We’d already noticed that many houses in this area have their own quite large stacks of logs in the garden.

Just before the top of our climb we passed a delightful small cabin with wonderful views out over the valley, and wondered who lives or holidays in such a special location.

Once at the top there were more very large stacks of chopped and split wood. As there was no other obvious place to sit for as far ahead as we could see – the track was just running across level ground – we decided to stop for an early lunch at the wood pile. In fact, as we were going to be too early arriving at tonight’s lodgings, we lingered for a siesta in the sun. Beats working every time!

Our onward track took us across a plateau of arable land with occasional far distant glimpses of other areas of high ground, but a lot of the time we could see only the vast field we were in. The larks were singing their little hearts out for us!

Checking we’re on the right track across the plateau

After passing an isolated farm and crossing more vast fields, we suddenly descended into a wooded valley and then came upon the main road into Dolancourt.

Descending off the plateau

Dolancourt is known for its theme park, Nigloland, which is owned by two Romanians. We could hear the screams of pleasure, or was it fear, from some distance! It is, apparently, very popular and attracts many visitors every year.

Approaching Nigloland theme park at Dolancourt

We first had to negotiate the fast main road, but fortunately there was space for us to walk on the field margin and avoid dicing with speeding traffic on the road. Once off the main road we passed through a couple of small vineyards, and got a closer look at Nigloland across the vineyards.

We don’t know what it’s called, but the tower is used to take people up sitting on a sort of doughnut with legs dangling outwards. After they’ve admired the view, and built anticipation, the doughnut drops with gravity before screeching to a halt before it hits the ground – and there was a lot of screeching as it descended too! Not our idea of fun. For Tom it is too reminiscent of descending too fast in a mine cage when the automatic braking kicks in.

Eglise Saint Leger at Dolancourt

As we were still too early to get into our hotel we attempted, without success, to have a look at the church. Its nave is apparently 12th century and the rest of the building is gothic, but significant changes were made during the 19th century. It is probably very nice inside!

Highlights of the day: siesta by the woodpile.

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