Getting started

A blessing on my vocation as pilgrim from my sister the vicar was the way my journey began, that, and the above photo.

The day was so so windy. I almost set off and then went back inside to fetch my woolly hat and gloves. The wind was a more or less constant companion as I walked, except for in blessed sheltered spots. It was pretty trying in some places, testing and fatiguing in others. At the same time, the way it animated the young cereal crops in the fields was worthy of watching. In some places the crops danced, in others they jostled; in some they were whispering secrets to each other and in others it was more like discontented sighing. One field looked like a gorgeous, big green fluffy featherdown duvet that was being fluffed up by enormous invisible arms that just wanted to eternally shake it down until it was totally perfect.

The wind (apparently due to a lot of low pressure over the Massif Central) also caused one obstacle early on my way, and even ended up totally changing my plans later in the morning.

The first problem was a downed cable by the side of a small rural road leading, well, nowhere really, except to a couple of gorgeous houses and the entrance of the path proper, the GR11 which has a little spur not indicated on the wiki that leads from my local train station to join the real route between Senlis and Crépy en Valois. There’d clearly been quite a bit of wind and storm damage along there after this weekend, and the cable was marked as dangerous. The path I wanted to follow had stripy plastic cordon and several barriers which presumably had been set up, but by this morning were lying on the floor…. I nearly abandoned the whole enterprise at this point. But on careful examination, the cables were on the floor and there were two of them which I could step over. This being France, I reckoned that a) the danger had been exaggerated and b) could not still be a massive risk if noone was around fixing it! Perhaps you think I was a little reckless… so be it, but I have anyway lived to tell the tale!

passing through the rustling featherlight dancing crop….

I walked through Droizelles, a little hamlet that I find rather charming and that has a very chic looking château set in impressive gardens and with its own moat. There’s also a cute church with an old looking Calvaire, or calvary cross:

Entrance to Saint Déodat, the Parish church in Droizelles

Then I had a long exposed walk towards the forest, heading to a large farm marked on the map as Lessart. This is when the wind really got tiresome, requiring hood and woolly hat together… eventually on reaching the farm, there’s a moment of calm next to an enormously tall evergreen hedge, calm which was welcome apart from the rancid odour emanating from the barns on the other side of it. The wind would have been nice then to remove said offending smell!

Finally reaching the forest I was so glad to finally have quite a long stretch of shelter. Gladness was almost immediately shattered by what sounded like gunshots, several in quick succession (“surely the hunting season isn’t under way? well, I’m sure noone will shoot me, I’m quite visible.”) Then, a cracking, whooshing, swishing sound of the top of a tree about 100 metres away toppling down in a splintering mess. I turned right back round and decided to walk right back home and away from possible impalement-by-branch. It really has been THAT windy today.

It worked out fine in the end as it meant I got back home in time for lunch having already done around 13 km with my 8-9ish kg rucksack on my back, the lion’s share of what I’d hoped to achieve. I finished the day off by doing a familiar circuit around my town, out into the fields by way of the ‘Grange aux moines’, walking along the ‘Bois Fournier’ and then back along the Route d’Ognes, around the outskirts and then down via the cobbled path that doesn’t really lead anywhere near the source of the river Nonette, the river that I’d crossed at the ‘Grand Moulin’ just after stepping ill-advisedly over barrier and stripy red cordon tape at the start of my day. A nice circularity. In the sheltered valley where the town is built and in the sun of the afternoon, the last couple of kilometres were actually pretty pleasant, contrary to what often happens in my recollections of previous pilgrimages.

I’d call this an auspicious start.

For some reason, my day was accompanied by a medieval German song tune, just a fragment of tune repeated to the rhythm of my feet… I thought I might as well share.

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