Explorer Belt Day 8 – Donzère to La Coucourde

Andy tending to feet in La Concourde
In 1984 as a 15 year old Venture Scout I embarked on a 10 day Explorer Belt hike around the alpine region of South France. In this series of blog posts I revisit my diaries and retrace those footsteps…
My diary entry

Monday 20th August 1984

Left Donzère after a wash in warm water and no food. By sheer fluke we met up with Shaun Ince and James Outram who were also doing their Explorer Belt. They were also going to Montelimar. We walked the 13km to Montelimar and got information on police and town plan from Tourist Info centre. Bought crisps and wrote more on projects.

Left and walked north. Stopped by cops who wanted to see passports to check we weren’t crooks! Completed the 10.5km to La Concourde and found house to stay at. Pitched tent and only ate 3 peaches and 1½ melons provided by family. Mischievous cat kept going under the tent. Wrote log, drew maps and I revised route. Got to bed at 10:19.

PS: Visited nougat factory

On this day:

  • The miners strike: A single miner is escorted to work by 1000 police at Gascoigne Wood
  • Donkey Kong 3 released on Nintendo
  • The class 47 diesel/electric locomotive number 47264 was renumbered to 47619

Everyone remembers where they were when that class 47 loco was re-numbered! Heady days…

Looking back…

Our northerly route closely followed the river Rhône for much of the way. This meant easy level walking at the cost of much of the dramatic scenery we had encountered so far. If I remember correctly we came across Shaun and James walking ahead of us. Did we then walk together to Montelimar?

Why I took this street photo in Montelimar is unclear as it’s rather featureless. I have unsurprisingly been unable to find a Google street view match.

Street in Montelimar
Street in Montelimar

I had heard of Montelimar due to its nougat associations. The long road into the town was lined with hoardings advertising the sugary treat and there were many kiosks selling nougat nearer the town centre.

The nougat factory visit mentioned in my diary is beyond my recall. Was this in association with our project work? It could well have been opportunistic.

Modern re-creation in street view

In my diaries I keep referring to the completion of project work. This was investigative activity that was to be completed as the cultural aspect of the Explorer Belt challenge. I don’t recall the precise subject matter but believe it involved finding out about towns, schools and churches. It’s a surprise to learn that we were doing this en-route as I had assumed we did pretty much nothing on this until the last day or so. Either way it’s likely that Andy took on the bulk of the work (sorry Andy!)

A kind lady let us camp in her field and we were delighted when she offered us her freshly harvested fruit. The melon tasted like nectar after our long hot trek and was mightily appreciated. In the photo Andy is attending to serious blisters while the pesty cat looks on.

Andy tending to feet in La Coucourde
Andy tending to feet in La Coucourde

After we had pitched the tent the damn thing kept burrowing its way under the ground sheet while we were inside. The moving bump was amusing for a while but it wouldn’t stop and in the end I had to peg down every part of the inner tent to prevent access.

The comment about the revised route is interesting. Maybe I was plotting a new shorter route in light of time lost to blisters.

Map
In the absence of our original maps I have deduced the following route…

Distance walked: 16.3 miles (26.0 km)

 Key:
Start Donzère
Via Montélimar
End La Coucourde
Location Street view of typical Nougat shop

 

Explorer Belt Day 7 – Valréas to Donzère

Photo 1 - Chateau de Grignan
In 1984 as a 15 year old Venture Scout I embarked on a 10 day Explorer Belt hike around the alpine region of South France. In this series of blog posts I revisit my diaries and retrace those footsteps…
My diary entry

Sunday 19th August 1984

Up at 7:30. Tent full of ants more than ever before. Killed them all. Rushed, had ryvita and paste, then left by 8:30. Passed through Grillon and stopped in Grignan, Took photo of castle, bought almond slices, coke and postcard. Continued for a long way stopping only at Valaurie for drink. Odd place. A great load of houses massed on a small hill but none on the surrounding plains. Looks weird from the distance.

Somehow made it to Donzere with feet worse for the mileage. Found rotten campsite (stony ground). Saw the Rhone. Had savoury risotto, mousse and orange. Wrote project work and sellotaped tent like Fort Knox for ant security. Got to bed at 10:01.

PS: Got photo of a hen pecking round site. Beautiful sunset over river Rhone.

On this day:

  • Serving president Ronald Reagan was re-nominated by the Republicans
  • Actor Simon Bird (Will from the Inbetweeners) born on this day

You can’t talk about Reagan without thinking of Spitting Image…

The president’s brain is missing

Looking back…

I seem to remember that we hitched the 5 miles from Valreas to Grignan because I recall hauling my rucksack out of the back seat of a Peugeot 305 in the shadow of the castle only to discover a wet patch on the car rear seat where my aluminium water bottle had leaked. I was mortified by this given the kindness of our driver.

Here is my 1984 photo of the castle…

Photo 1 - Chateau de Grignan
Photo 1 – Chateau de Grignan
Grignan was spectacular and worthy of much more focus. One day…
Modern re-creation in Google street view

It would be nice to think that our route passed through the fairy-tale castle town of Grignan by design but it is more likely that we struck lucky. Regardless I seemed to be too busy stuffing almond slices into my face to appreciate the architecture. However, I wasn’t the only glutton…

All members of our expedition unit left home with emergency rations, to be opened in the event of some unthinkable misfortune on a mountain path, stuck down a pothole or beached on some remote river bank. Such forward thinking was rewarded when, struck down by terrible munchies on the cross-channel ferry, most scouts devoured their emergency rations in order to stave off inevitable starvation. This before we had even made it to the French coast.

We were both suffering from blisters but Andy was most affected and we were gaining confidence in hitching rides. That said I think we did complete the 11 mile walk from Grignan to Donzere, which would have at least burnt off the calories from our diet of junk.

Here’s a photo I took on the approaches to Valaurie “Odd” and “weird” were clumsy descriptions to say the least.

Photo 2 - approach to Valaurie
Photo 2 – approach to Valaurie
I can’t be 100% certain about this modern view but if you imagine that the road has been widened resulting in the loss of the telegraph poles then it looks like a good match.
Modern re-creation in Google street view

How differently I saw the world as a 15 year old. It was all about food and mundane events involving hens (I’ll spare you that picture) and ants. I was genuinely taken with the landscape and people but at the end of the day these rarely made my diary, while my camera was usually pointing at the wrong things.

One day I would like to retrace the trek (by car?) to fully appreciate stop-offs like Valaurie that were poorly served my diary or camera the first time around.

Map
In the absence of our original maps I have deduced the following route…

Distance walked: 17.3 miles (27.7 km)

 Key:
Start Valréas
Via Grillon
Via Grignan
Via Valaurie
End Donzère
Photo 1 Street view of Photo 1 – Chateau de Grignan
Photo 2 Street view of Photo 2 – Approach to Valaurie