Last night our hosts delivered a very nice meal for us to eat in our tiny kitchen and stamped our pilgrim passports for us. This morning we enjoyed the novelty of muesli and cups of tea for breakfast, having found a kettle hidden away in a cupboard. A good cup of tea (with fresh milk) is a rare luxury in France.

As today’s walk was relatively short we made a fairly leisurely start, walking up through the village towards the hills behind. Admiring an ancient Renault tractor parked on the side of the street, we were hailed by the owner emerging from his barn store opposite.

On spotting our backpacks he asked where we were going. On telling him he insisted that we wait for a photo and disappeared into his store. Moments later he emerged grasping a cockerel which he promptly placed on his head posing for a photo.

He then proceeded to place the cockerel on Tom’s head!

It’s the gems of encounters like this which make this journey so worthwhile!

On through the village we decided against an additional steep climb up to the church, and instead wound our way through streets of well maintained houses with pretty gardens. The wash house here was as grand and well kept as the one down the road, though this one had a fountain in it.

Further up the road there was a book exchange and a very special bollard protecting an old wall. There is evidently both strong civic pride and ample public funds in Bucey to ensure that it looks attractive.

Climbing up out of the village we spotted some of the vineyards producing the merlot wine we’d been offered at our chambre d’hote in Dampierre. We also had a lovely view back across Bucey and the hills beyond which we’d crossed yesterday.

The initial climb brought us onto a low plateau with arable crops and beautiful views eastwards down another valley. There were also spectacular cloud formations today.

We were then into the cool of a short section of woodland, having passed an aggressive shepherd dog apparently left to mind an orchard. Rather strangely there was a handwritten sign telling us we could phone someone if there were any problems with the dog. Emerging out of the trees we found ourselves on a higher level plateau rolling away into the distance in all directions.

From mid morning onwards we were on good tracks through mixed woodland, which made for very pleasant walking in dappled shade.

As we began to descend into a new valley we passed a group of people setting up a camp under the trees at the end of the tarmac road. We thought nothing of it until we began to pass pairs of pink and white balloons attached to trees at intervals each side of the road.

Eventually curiosity got the better of us as we realised there were labels on the balloons, referring to Association SARAH, a charity set up locally in 2018 to support children with Angelman or Engelmann syndrome. We’d never heard of the condition but it apparently affects the nervous system. Those affected have a small head, with intellectual and developmental disabilities which may result in them being non- verbal and poorly coordinated, as well as suffering seizures. Apart from a characteristic facial appearance, children with this syndrome have a fascination for water and a sunny disposition, but they need care for their near-normal lifespan.

Not far down the hill we found a bench in the shade and, as we would soon be out of the forest, we decided to make use of it for our lunch stop. A very nice lady who was tying pairs of balloons in the trees asked whether we were walking the VF, how far we were going, and whether we needed anything. We thanked her for her interest and reassured her we had all we needed: water and lunch!

Not far down the track we entered the small village of Montboillon which had a fountain and a closed architecturally uninteresting church, but a functioning graveyard tap for water bottle refills. The houses appeared to be mostly well maintained but, as ever, there was almost no one around – just the occasional aggressive dog pursuing us along its garden fence.

From Montboillon we climbed back up to another plateau and wound our way through arable fields until the next valley came into view.

We passed through the unremarkable village of Etuz on the north side of the river, before arriving at Cussey-sur-l’Onignon on the south bank. This was technically the end of the day’s walk but there is no longer any pilgrim accommodation in Cussey, the auberge and boulangerie having closed down since our guide book was written.

As we were making good time and it was hot, we decided to rest a while sitting on the bank of the River Ognon, before continuing on to the next place with accommodation.

The River Ognon

The country road out of Cussey took us along the river valley, winding through grass pastures with a few cattle. It was very hot by this stage of the day, with little wind to give us respite from the heat, and even less shade.

As we approached the village of Geneuille there was a very long wall behind which we could see a lot of derelict buildings between us and the river. We eventually worked out that it was an old paper-mill, and this was later confirmed by Tom’s research. What a contrast with the modern buildings of the working paper-mill we’d seen outside Dampierre. It was sad to see such an extensive enterprise just left to decay. It reminded us of the extensive overgrown glasshouses we’d seen on the Island of Guernsey after the tomato growers there lost out to the large-scale growers in Holland.

The river Ognon at Geneuille

At this point we turned uphill away from the river to find our accommodation which was in a lovely chateau set in park grounds with beautiful specimen trees. We had a room in a modern annex rather than French chic in the chateau itself.

The hotel is owned by a chef and his family, so supper sounds promising! We decided that as we had indifferent meals on our birthdays we would regard this as a joint birthday meal and hang the expense!

Highlight of the day? Well, supper of course!

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