26th March. I stopped in a picnic area. It has a tap, which is good as l need to wash some clothes, and it has a compost toilet, l've never seen one before in a picnic area.
Robinet in pique nique area
The next morning, as l was about to leave two Gendarmes stopped and asked to see my passport. They were friendlier and l chatted to them. One of them told me it was market day in Lapleau and l got all excited, thinking of stalls laden with delicious food. When l got to Lapleau there was one lady selling crepes and a man selling vegetables, only they weren't selling them as l was the only person there. I felt obliged to buy something and help the economy, so bought some carrots for the horse. I told the man the horse liked them and he gave me some extra ones. I bought some crepes from the lady, l should have told her the horse liked them too, l missed a trick! I ate them later, delicious.
Gorge near LapleauHuge hills and wooded valleys 800 feet [240m] deep, the road winds backwards and forwards around the contours of the hills and the gradients are not bad for the horse. When l get to the bottom of the hill it takes about an hour to get up the other side. I went through Soursac . Soursac is quite a busy village, with a few shops. l met an English couple called Ron and Liz, they were very kind and invited me back to their place, they had enough grass for the horse. We had lunch in the garden and watched the first swallows arriving. I got my washing done and caught up with my emails. They have great views of the mountains, covered in snow, 30 miles east in the Auvergne. I was interested to meet them and see how they have adapted to living in France. I guess it's a success if they are happier and more content. They gave me dinner and l was glad l'd met them.
Down in the valleys the wood anenomes and ladies smock are flowering and the leaves are coming out on the birch and hazel and the grass is lush. This is a very uninhabited part of France, the few people l've met have been very friendly and l'm getting more confident speaking with them. I've seen more swallows today.
La Drodogne, 29th March
I crossed the Dordogne today at pont de Spontour. It's quite a nice looking village and when l got to the other side of the bridge there was a good place to stop. The swallows are flying up and down the river feeding. The village has enough houses for about a 1,000 people. At 6pm l walked through it, l thought l'd go to the cafe. When l got there, it said 'ferme definitive,' [ l can't do accents on this keyboard]. Cafe shut, forever. A bit further down the street there was l'hotel, judging by the faded, peeling paint and cracked windows it has been shut for some years. There is no shop. There was nobody about, birds where singing, but no sound of a radio or television, no smell of cooking, no voices, then l heard a door shutting, apart from that, nothing. The church bell chimes the hour, forlornly. It's slightly post-apocalyptic. Large parts of rural France are now inhabited only by the aged. Unemployment is high, many young French people now live in Britain. Back at the wagon I was glad to hear the sound of the horse crunching the grass and the sound of the stream.
It took me an hour to get up the hill in the morning, the sides of the hills are incredibly steep, and there are rockfalls, when l got to the top l could hear the river half a mile below. Although l'm only half a mile from where l started, l've done three miles.
I did 18km, [11miles] then stopped by a water tower in a woods. Just enough grass for the horse.
The next day l did 25km, [15miles] to Laroquebrou. Very hilly wooded countryside, nice villages, at one village l watered the horse at the fountain. A retired couple gave me a bottle of cold beer to drink and some crepes and an apple tartlette. Delicious. By the time l got to Laroquebrou the sun was going down and l was anxious to find somewhere to stop, l found some grass by the cemetary. It also has a tap. No one in the cemetary bothered me.
31st March, Having a drink