We woke to bright sunshine and crisp temperature – perfect weather for walking. Last night’s billet was very comfortable, and we enjoyed supper adjacent to the millstream, within sight of several chub feeding in the backwash. Tom particularly liked the way the table napkins had been folded!

Dolancourt millstream

It was with mixed feelings that we set off this morning for the last day of this tranche of our pilgrimage. We are quite tired, that’s true, and we’re looking forward to getting home for some rest and respite, and maybe a bit of fishing. However we’ve got ourselves into a routine which we shall miss, and there’s the beautiful countryside we’ve been travelling through. We also know that our state of fitness will diminish over the next few weeks at home before we return for the next stage.

We started the day with a steep climb up through the woods behind Nigloland, emerging out of the trees onto high ground above Dolancourt which was a mix of meadows with cowslips and arable crops.

Steep climb out of Dolancourt

On the way up through the woods we spotted several wild orchids, as well as other more common wild flowers.

Leaving the woods for the farmland above

In fact, the walk this morning took us in and out of woodland for several kilometres, before coming out onto high ground and an isolated farm. It was one of the prettiest stretches so far.

From the farm we had a steep descent, mostly on a winding country road, down into the pretty village of Fravaux nestled into the bottom of the valley.

Coming down into Fravaux

On the way down we saw another type of orchid growing on the roadside, and the oak trees were just coming into leaf.

Fravaux had the usual array of aggressive guard dogs, but no one seemed to be around to control them! Outside the village we climbed back up another hill through a large vineyard. Most of the vineyards we’ve walked through have been on south facing slopes, but this one faced west.

Back into more lovely mixed woodland for a couple of kilometres of easy and pleasant walking in dappled shade.

In the woods we passed a number of derelict houses in a row, now overgrown with trees. Interestingly, they’d all been dismantled to a similar level about a metre above the ground. We wondered what they had been; who had lived in them?

Soon we were back onto the plateau, with huge fields of winter wheat spread before us. Needless to say there was the big spraying machine at work. Awful stuff. You can smell it from miles away. We hurriedly curtailed a rest stop as the tractor approached and scuttled back into the shelter of the woods.

Finally coming out of the woods we descended steeply into the Aube valley, with stunning views of Bar-sur-Aube and the countryside well beyond to the south opening in front of us.

There are extensive vineyards on the slopes around Bar-sur-Aube and a thriving champagne industry which gives the area a prosperous feel, despite the rather bleak look of acres of vineyards only just coming into leaf, especially when all other vegetation has been killed off by spraying. Interestingly, part of the vineyard above Fravaux had what looked like winter wheat sown between every other row, which made that section of the vineyard look more lush and green.

Vineyards north of Bar-sur-Aube

On the way down to the river at the bottom of the hill we passed through the satellite village of Proverville, on the north bank of the river, before crossing the bridge into the centre of Bar-sur-Aube.

Bar-sur-Aube centre ville

Unusually the Mairie was not flying a Ukrainian flag, as we’ve seen in almost every town and village we’ve passed through so far, but it was proudly announcing that the Tour du France will be coming through in late July with some rather naff publicity and advertising of sponsors. The Mairie building itself is a former Ursuline convent built in 1643, part of which was burnt down in 1814 by prisoners locked in the chapel. It seems to have been well restored!

Having found the Collegiate church closed for a couple of years for major renovations we went to have a look at the other main church, Eglise Saint-Pierre, which was open. It has a wooden porch on the west end reminiscent of the wooden village churches we saw a couple of days ago with Matt. The main building is in simple romanesque style dating from the 12th century and, unusually, you go down several large semicircular stone steps on entering at the west end.

Inside, the church is simple and lacks the gilding and ornamentation of other churches of similar size. There was a statue of the Virgin Mary given in 2019 by a congregation in Portugal, and a notice alongside sternly asking whoever had taken pieces from it to return them as the donors were distraught about their loss.

Our last task was to find someone with a ‘tampon’ to stamp our pilgrim passports, particularly important as this is the last day of this section of our walk. With conflicting instructions from signs for the tourist office and google maps we opted to return to the Mairie nearby and found a helpful receptionist who was only too pleased to oblige with her stamp and wished us ‘bon courage!’

Made it!

Little did she know that within the hour we would be whisked off by car by our nephew Matt and his fiancee Emily to an auberge we have stayed at several times on our whizzing drives southwards or northwards on the motorway. It is about 20 kilometes away at Mesnil Saint Pere adjacent to Lac d’Orient – the largest of the three lakes in the Aube valley – and would have taken us a day of walking but we were there within half an hour! The auberge happens to have a very good restaurant suitable for a double celebration, of Matt and Emily’s recent engagement and the completion of the second stage of our pilgrimage from Salisbury to Rome.

We have walked 922 kilometres from Salisbury and 658 kilometres from Canterbury. We are now two thirds of the way through France, and two fifths of the way to Rome! Curiously, for many weeks it has felt like we weren’t really getting far, but just by plodding along each day we have in fact covered a significant distance. As Polar Preet said, the key thing is just to keep going, focused in the moment, and not think about what you have or haven’t achieved that day.

It is slightly depressing to think that for every week’s walking Matt will drive an hour up the motorway to take us home, but we have got far more out of our stately progress through the countryside than we ever had by dashing through it in a car. Once rested and restored, we will be keen to get going on the next stage of the walk from Bar-sur-Aube on through France, into Switzerland around Lake Lausanne and over the Grand Saint Bernard pass, into northern Italy and the Aosta valley.

Finally, we would like to thank all our supporters and encouragers. It has really helped us to keep going, knowing that there are friends and family looking out for us and cheering us on, especially during those late afternoon slogs to get to our billet which is further away than we really wanted! It has also been a real pleasure to share some of the walking and to chew the cud with Julie’s cousins, Rhyd and Matt. We would be very pleased to have company again when we resume in June, whether to walk or share meals. For anyone interested, we will get on with putting together an outline itinerary just as soon as we’ve done the laundry and cleaned the boots!

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  1. Love reading your blog and seeing the photos. Hope you’re enjoying a well earned rest and I look forward to hearing more of your adventures in June when you resume.
    I guess I won’t be bumping into you in Fowey this year when I am down there.
    Christine x