Walking the Haxagon of France

Our speaker in July was Terry Cudbird who has combined his interest in French history with his passion for walking by spending two years of his retirement making a circular walk around France. Introducing his talk, Terry explained that the "Hexagon" of his title is derived from the rough shape of mainland France and is often used as a shorthand for the country by weather forecasters; it even appears on the back of some Euro coins!

His walk started in the south of the France at Lourdes and then continued along the Pyrenees to Provence, the Alps, the Vosges, Alsace and Lorraine to Normandy; then, skipping Brittany, south along the Atlantic coast. The whole anti-clockwise walk, which was spread over two years, covered about 4,000 miles and was generally planned to use the way-marked National Trails (GRs) linked when necessary by other footpaths.

This was more than just a walk; Terry's interests spanned local culture, building styles, politics, religion and regional languages. Surprisingly although some local communities still speak Breton, Occitan or Provencal these languages have no official status in the country and French is the only official language in France. The regional languages are however sometimes taught in schools.

The variety of the French countryside provided some negatives: Terry told us that the Vosges has the heaviest rainfall and that biting flies are a problem in the Pyrenees. Perhaps it is not surprising that many of the people he met thought he was a typical English eccentric!

Since returning home Terry has written a book about his travels - which he admits was harder work than the walk itself. Several members of Lichfield Civic Society were able to buy a copy after the meeting.

Lorna Bushell
July 2013