Wednesday 6 June Foret du Gavre, Loire Atlantique, France 130km. Total 330 km.
An early start before breakfast, stopping 30km later to eat for the first time at St. Anne d’Auray, a sort of minor Lourdes where the first thing you see is a long road leading to a splendid church. The town is considered to be the spiritual capital of Brittany and famous for its sanctuary and for its pilgrimages, or ‘pardons’, in honour of St. Anne, to whom the people of Brittany, in very early times, on becoming Christian, had dedicated a chapel.
This first chapel was destroyed about the end of the seventh century, but the memory of it was kept alive by tradition, and the village was still called “Keranna”, i.e. “Village of Anne”. When you get there the streets are lined with stalls selling pious relics and souvenirs. Coachloads of old people fill every available nook. Sitting in a small bar, the proprietress is reading her paper standing in the sun, and the TV tells of the weather and the 40th anniversary of the landing at Dunkirk.
Started to feel that we are definitely leaving Brittany now. The land is changing and becoming flatter, more grey, more undulating. We pass through Questembert, and Redon, finding it large and noisy, and then traverse long straight roads, over ridges of fields eventually into the forest. We glimpse a picnic table as we pass and think it would be good to stay there for the night, so set out our feast on the wooden table. The green tent and cycles are barely noticeable from the road.
We are wild-camping in the middle of the Foret du Gavre, which is part of the mythical Paimpont forest, sometimes said to be the arthurian Brocéliande. This forest had a reputation in the Medieval imagination as a place of magic and mystery. It is the setting of a number of adventures in Arthurian legend, notably Chrétien de Troyes’s Yvain, the Knight of the Lion, and locals claim the tree in which the Lady of the Lake supposedly imprisoned Merlin can still be seen today.
The sun is still shining when we go to bed for a long wakeful night, filled with strange sounds. Some of them are right underneath my ear on the pillow, as if I have trapped a frog under the groundsheet.