Day 5 – Bray et Lu to Gisors

by Stephen

I started the day refreshed and in high spirits after the hospitality and excellent food at Les Jardins D Epicure. (As a side point I had a plate of wonderful local cheeses from the Normandie region with one of my favourites Comte)

It was a bright crisp morning, just the temperature I’d been hoping for since beginning this challenge. Cool enough to make for comfortable walking and also to chill you when stopping which encourages forward momentum.

Today’s route followed L’Epte river along the path of an old rail line converted to a cycle path. Clearly popular in the summer as snack bars have sprung up in converted railway buildings along the way. All closed today!

Initially I made good progress in the morning sun through the open countryside with only local beef cattle in the fields for company. I assume they are the breed blonde d’aquataine but will happily be corrected.

As this was a single track it allowed me, for the first time, to focus on walking and switch my mind off from frustrating distractions.

Of the few people I did meet later on we exchanged little more than a recognition that’s half nod and half raising of eyebrows.

By midday I began to find the cycle track disorientating. With few reference points and, as a relatively straight line, it felt like someone had started to change the scale of my map and extend the path.

I felt every gram of weight in my pack, each stone in the wet leather soles of my boots and every one of the hobnails.

Slowly both my kit and I fell apart. The strap on the bag that carries my water and rain cape broke. My hat lost it’s buttons (not important but demoralising). My left boot heel plate loosened and now makes a high pitched tap with each step. I reached that unfocused point in a walk where your legs stagger left and right with each step forward. I walked on the carpet of fallen leaves whenever I could as such a small change in surface makes a big difference to comfort and morale.


I think this afternoon, given half the chance, I would have tried to find a way out of this walk. Perhaps I should have stuck two pencils up my nose and put a pair of pants in my head like they did in the Sudan?!

I finally reached my destination town of Gisors through the never ending light in an avenue of trees.

Gisors is much like any town with a high street, mixture of new and old buildings and a Lidl being constructed on the outskirts (the Mayor is free to comment and sell Gisors below). This is the first large town I have reached since Paris. I prefer the countryside and feel conspicuous and vulnerable wearing a little recognised uniform when entering populated areas.

But then I need to meet people. I undertook this walk not to experience or recreate the past but to see how the First World War is viewed now from Paris to London.

I was glad to reach the hotel which is simple but welcoming. A guest in reception read the details of my journey and said ‘ bravo’; just the encouragement I needed after today.

Tomorrow I plan to follow the main road and hope the verges keep me away from the traffic. A noisy route no doubt but I hope it will shorten my hop to the next town.