How to spend a lovely day walking around Virelles with this 30k route. Unfortunately when I was there it was raining heavily, but I did have an unexpected and delightful nature observation.
After all the “excitement” of the previous evening, my second day of my walking weekend in the Ardennes started out well, with a copious and tasty breakfast at B&B Les Gabelous. Ben, the owner, then kindly gave me a lift into Nismes to pick up my abandoned car. I had already selected an interesting 30 km walk, heading up to the village of Lompret, going into Bois Robert, and circling the Lake of Virelles.
The map shows the route I took. You can download it as a PDF. And you can get the GPX route from my RouteYou page. I was travelling by car so parked on the south side of the Lac de Virelles. However, you could also start from Virelles town centre. This is accessible by bus from Chimay. Unfortunately there is no railway station nearby. In the current heatwave (August 2020) a cool and shady option is to start in Virelles, go clockwise around to my starting point by the lake, and then walk back into Virelles. In other words, missing out the south-eastern leg to Lompret, which is more out in the open (and the heat).
It’s a delightfully varied walk, but when I did it there was one problem …
RAIN, WITH THE FORECAST OF MORE!
As I drove to my starting point, the rain gradually increased in intensity from a light drizzle to a steady downpour. I parked and switched off the windscreen wipers, and soon I couldn’t see anything out of the window.
What to do? I wasn’t sure I really fancied walking 30 km in this weather. But I had come here to do some walking around Virelles, and I wasn’t going to let a downpour get in the way! So I got my waterproofs out and put them on in the car. This meant doing more gymnastics in ten minutes than I’ve done in my whole life. I zipped and buttoned everything up that could possibly be zipped and buttoned up, stepped out of the car into the deluge. And set off.
If you’ve come here expecting some beautiful photos of the Virelles landscape, you’re going to be disappointed. Generally I kept my camera hidden away in a dry pocket, but I did get it out a few times to give you a sense of the joy I was experiencing.
I DID SEE SOMETHING SPECTACULAR!
While deep in Bois Robert, I came across a clearing in the forest where the grass looked like it had been churned up by a tractor and plough.
Going closer, I could see little piggy footprints and little piggy snout marks.
I concluded I was looking at the tracks of wild boar, which I have never seen before in the wild. I know that during the day they generally hide up in the undergrowth and avoid people. However, I wondered, on a day like today, when the whole of Bois Forest is totally human-free (apart from me), would they feel it was safe to come out and have a little forage?
In the photo you can probably make out a bench. As it was lunchtime I sat down on it and quietly ate my packed (and very quickly soggy) lunch, while keeping an eye open for any boar who could have been attracted by the smell of my cheese and tomato sandwiches.
No such luck, but about half an hour later, when I was back on the trail, I had a super surprise. An adult wild boar and two juveniles suddenly appeared from the bracken to my left. The adult saw me, gave a grunt and disappeared back into the bracken, quickly followed by the two little boarlets. I edged along the path, stopped where they had disappeared, and stared into the thick bracken, camera at the ready.
From the depths of the undergrowth, a very loud and low grunt resounded!
I became very aware of three things:
- Wild boar are generally harmless unless they feel their young are threatened, when they can charge. Yikes!
- I had just seen an adult with two young. Double yikes!
- I was very alone in the middle of a deserted forest, and the only thing between me and a potentially charging wild boar was a Panasonic compact camera.
A bit later, I came up with a haiku to explain “what happened next”:
For the rest of the day, the rain continued to fall, and the sun never appeared once. But the sight of those three wild boar meant that my day walking around Virelles was unforgettable.
OVERNIGHT IN AN “ECO CABIN”
Some of you might be looking at this and thinking that your garden shed is bigger. It probably is. This was the eco-cabin that I had booked for the night. It has electricity, but no WiFi. A a dry toilet. No running cold or hot water, but a tap a few meters away for drinking water. It has no sink or washbasin, but around the back is a “shower” which involves filling up a watering can from the (cold) tap, standing on a step, and lodging the watering can on a frame above your head, from whence the water apparently trickles down to give you a shower. (Having spent all day getting wet, this contraption didn’t really appeal to me).
I had chosen this overnight accommodation because I wanted to see the stars. I wanted to be out in the countryside, far from city lights and streetlights for once, and to gaze up at the myriads of stars on a clear summer’s night! Unfortunately … although the rain stopped, the clouds remained. No single star was visible.
Hostess Michèle was friendly and hospitable. She provided a warm evening meal, with the promise of a breakfast and packed lunch for the next day, which surely can’t be as wet as today. Can it? Find out here.
If you’re spending a few days in the area with the children, they might like to visit the Virelles Aquascope,