Rimes and wych roadtrip 2023

The Rimes/Wych summer road trip (France and Northern Spain 2023)

If anyone does decide to follow this, keep coming back as it will be updated every few days or so. Our trip is approximately 5-6 weeks duration and incorporates two significant orienteering multi-day events.

(Part) Day#1: 04/07 Taunton to Portsmouth

With our horrendous 4.5hour trip over to Gower last Friday evening still fresh in our minds, we gave ourselves plenty of leeway leaving Fitzhead for our 11.30pm crossing at 18.00hrs after I closed up all working obligations during the day and R spent the day from hell packing up Vinnie (our trusted old VW TD5) with 6 weeks of gear and essentials. Of course, the trip up to Portsmouth was the antithesis of the previous and we were there easily by 9.00pm. An easy check-in and relatively short wait before embarkation and we were on board, not even stopping to wander around at all (aren’t all channel ferries identical anyway?) but instead straight to the cabin and bed

Day#2: 05/07 Arrivee au Le Harve

07.30 arrival (UK time on board) and quick offloading with painless immigration process and we were off into Le Harve during morning rush hour…. and all stop. Extensive road works just outside the ferry terminal, backed up traffic and going nowhere fast whilst looking desperately either side for the sighting of a boulangerie for some essential breakfast vitals- without luck. Finally cleared Le Harve and onto quieter toll French Motorway system- and how magnificent it is for a few Euros to travel easily and quickly (given a 13yr old van laden with 6 weeks’ worth of clobber) the length of the country with no holdups, roadworks etc ever in evidence. Grouchiness caused by hunger (Rimes) eventually forced us off the autoroute to a small provincial town (Bernay) in Normandy to seek a boulangerie for breakfast and lunch breadstuffs. Suitably provided we carried on to the first proper stop, Amboise on the Loire, a fine old medieval city, with an imposing Chateau overlooking it and the final home (and burial place) of Leonardo De Vinci. These two, and the lovely old provincial town, have created a tourist hotspot meaning lots of tat and tourist money grabbing, but also plenty of bars, restaurants and a great campsite on an island in the middle of the river.

Day#3: 06/07

Found the local boulangerie and reacquainted with our favourite French breakfast treat- the pain au raisin. Onto bikes for a delightful but essentially flat 50km around the beautiful Loire valley countryside away from the main river area and its very busy associated tourist riverside cycle route.

Lunch back at the campsite followed by a late afternoon walk into town to the De Vinci exhibition at his final home Coce Luce. This is an small but still imposing Renaissance chateau set in beautiful landscaped grounds- his fame obviously came with wealth. It is now a museum and gallery with some of the house, his workshops etc open to visitors along with the grounds. Models of his inventions, including among others, the tank, various bridges, pumps, the first autonomous vehivle (clockwork!) have been recreated and are placed in the grounds along with replicas of his masterpieces. Remember this was all conceived in the late 1400 to early 1500s. In all the experience is highly enjoyable and well recommended. To finish our day we enjoyed dinner at a Lebanese restaurant (mostly to appease the vegetarian half of your blog hosts) sharing an 8 dish mezze (selection) which seemed to consist (at least to the non-veggie half of your hosts) diced cucumbers and tomatoes in every dish with something added to each to partly offset the monotony

Day#4: 07/07 moving day!

Packed up and on the road after breakfast for 200km drive down to central East France for the first of our two orienteering events in the forests of the Monts de Madelaine. The usual hassle free motorway driving got us here by early afternoon to set up at a delightful (and currently empty) campsite in the forest at a nice cooler elevation than we had previously (it was in the high 20s in the Loire valley). There was time after setting up to wander through the forest down to a climging venue to ascertain its suitability for us very much now retired climbers with regards to steepness and scariness (fortunately it passes on both so will be returned to with gear on Monday after the events close)

We have three days of events here, a middle, a long, and a novelty. The first two are obvious although the French colour coding is vastly different to that used in the UK (both of us are doing the violet course- A the medium distance, R the short- this would equate to blue and short blue I guess). The last day is a complete mystery even still now- the organisation is keeping the format completely secret until we guess the day of the event although the description hints to a reduced detail map of some format? We wait and see.


Well done for getting away! They even stopped the protests for you in France
Roger & Judy

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Day#5: 08/07 3 Jours de Forez day#1

To allow people time to travel, today’s event was a late afternoon start so a nice lazy morning for us as our campsite is only 6km from the event centre, a ski centre further up the mountain. To save the hassle of packing up the van to travel up there we have elected to cycle up each day (a fine idea during the planning phase, not so great in reality with the sun beating down and a mostly uphill cycle to the event.) The organisation seemed relaxed and more akin to a local club event than a national one but everything seemed well sorted with registration, download, a café and bar all provided. The start was a gentle uphill 15minute walk and again all seemed relaxed and well organised. As we have found previously with French events, the start kite is enormous (about 1m square) so cannot be missed. The map we knew in advance, from previous versions on display, was covered in crags, boulders and outcrops and I have to say was excellent in its detail and accuracy at 10000- just as well as my medium violet course for its modest 4.4km 190m was exceedingly tough physically and technically with rock features naturally enough being used for the majority of the 18 controls. Coupled with a lot of contours and thick pine vegetation in places the running was gruelling in the afternoon heat so I was pleased to finish well in the top half of the results with only a couple of minor errors made in the excessively rocky detail in the far south of the map. Winning time was just over 50 mins, age unknown- I did 84! R also enjoyed her short violet course on an easier to read 7500 scale but admits to making about 10mins of mistakes which cost her several places in the results. One thing we have noticed is that there are no age classes and no ages mentioned in the results so the positions we came are somewhat arbitrary knowing that others of any age/sex are also competing in the same course as yourself.

Tomorrow’s event is a long one- my course is 7km and uses the north side of the mapped area with loads more rocky details to look forward to. R has about 5km. We are therefore currently enjoying the post-race/pre-race evening sunshine with a rehydrating beer or two before a relatively early night ready for early starts tomorrow.



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Day#6: 09/07 3 Jours En Forez day#2 – long event
The day dawned bright and sunny and turned into our hottest of the trip so far- into the high 20s. Our starts were earlier today so a quick breakfast and tidy up before the cycle up to the event while it was still relatively cooler. A was off first at 11.48 with R on her course starting about 30 minutes later. As expected, today’s event used the Western part of the mapped area with a manned (with drinks thankfully) road crossing for the senior courses about ¾ way through. I started well navigating the technical terrain accurately. As yesterday the mapping detail is excellent and ticking off the well mapped vegetation changes avoided the need to use line features so straight-line navigation was mostly reasonably the best and fastest option. The ground was very rocky in places so footwork had to be careful and a fast trot the best I could achieve in the rapidly heating day. By 2/3 the way round the course, the temperature and relentless long climbs began to take their toll and mistakes started happening costing cumulative minutes here and there. On one particular leg after a steep rocky ascent over a spur and down the other side I was looking for a well mapped track to run off as my attack point to my control on a crag but never found it and blundered around in a hapless fashion in an increasingly panicky state, eventually stumbling onto a control at random. Due to the time lost I resigned to do something I NEVER do, to hang around the control until someone rocks up to punch it and desperately ask them to show me where the hell I was… only to discover it was my control! I have no idea how I got there but there obviously is a God up there somewhere for me and he wanted me to complete this course. I continued to the next easy control and began the next climb up but although the mind was willing me on…. Etc etc, and I had to sit on a rock for several seconds half way up to get my breathing back. Getting to the road crossing and in desperate need of the water available I was fortified enough to continue across the road for the last few controls and the welcome arrival at the finish- very tiring day and on reflection would probably have been better prepared with better pre-event hydration and carrying a drink with me (like a lot of other competitors seemed to do)
Final position reflected the poor performance- 46 of 78 (again no age classes in the results so maybe not too bad in the H60 category? R had a similarly trying day but did ok and again finished about half way in her short class. An excellent overall event on a brilliantly mapped area…. But maybe we should have had less beer the night before and driven rather than cycled up there?


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Day#7: 10/07 3 Jours en Forez day#3

The final day of the three, a Monday, so many people had gone home after the weekend and the event was a much quieter and less well attended one. The mysterious format of the course was finally explained to us in good English when we enquired at the Acqueil (= office/registration) The event was not a ranking one in the French National Ranking System, but more a training /fun type event. We both had opted for the Violet course (only three courses were offered) which consisted: A few controls typically of a long-distance event (i.e., a long way apart) followed by some short distance ones (akin to a medium event format) then straight into a ‘relief only’ section of the map with just contour features shown and all other details (paths, vegetation, streams etc removed). Several controls had to be found in this area by careful use of compass and contour interpretation skills. From there it was straight back into a mix of ‘normal’ type controls- short and long distance leading into a ‘couloir’ section (couloir = corridor). This was a thin section of detail in an otherwise completely blank area of the map with multiple direction changes and ‘just’ enough detail shown to navigate feature to feature to follow the couloir- We were told to punch any controls we found along the way in the couloir- in fact there was only one. Having successfully negotiated the couloir section (or not), you emerged to a normal control and several more after that to finish the course. I completed the whole thing (5.3km, 200m) in about 90 mins and came 29th out of about 70 on the course- R took about 30 mins longer. It was certainly a great format for a low-key type event but would have taken a lot of planning and careful map manipulation to produce. A large number of participants were disqualified for missing out the bonus unmarked control within the couloir section- they had simply gone from the couloir entry control direct to the exit one, both marked controls, missing out the unmarked bonus one and therefore mis punching.

All in all, a great 3-day event in a stunning area, delightfully clean runnable woods with minimal undergrowth, excellent mapping and a friendly relaxed organisation. This was the 7th edition of the event which moves around the vast forested area in central France each year but always hosted by the same club- which consists only about 80 members. We will certainly look out for it again in future years.

We had broken camp from the site we had stayed at for the three days of the event and elected to park up open picnic area of the forest where wild camping seemed to be tolerated. The grassy parking area was a stone’s throw from a well bolted climbing venue with lots of routes of an ‘easier’ nature for us old (and previously very much retired) climbers to have a go at. We managed several routes before the heat got the better of us so retired for a lovely peaceful evening and night under the wonderfully starry skies.

Day#8: 11/07 ‘on the road again…’

After a great night’s sleep (about 9.5hours!) we woke to unbroken sunshine and horrendous heat already at 8.00am- the start of our hottest day yet. After a quick breakfast, we slipped back down to the climbing crag to hopefully get some more routes in before the sun hit the crag- a good plan in theory, but in practice our chosen area was already in part or whole sun and even getting down to the base of the cliff with all the gear left us soaked in sweat. Both climbing and belaying required determination as the heat and sweat got to us. Again, we managed a few routes then retired back to the van and shade for a quick lunch and pack up before moving out of the forest to continue South East.

A drive of about 2 hours got us to Montbuison, a largish town with a good (and cheap) Camping Municipal (= council owned and run) site…. with a pool. Our arrival coincided with the first of several short thundery cloudbursts which had looked imminent all afternoon. We had noticed a temperature display in a village on the way over here indicating a current temperature of 39degC (probably not too accurate, but it was well into the 30s and very humid). After setting up the van, and awaiting the re-opening of the pool (closed during thunderstorms sir!) the water temperature in the pool was really (really) warm, but still a mighty relief to get into for half an hour. As I write at about 20.30hrs, the temperature and humidity have barely reduced and sleep may not come too easily tonight.

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R very happy to get over and off the very wobbly bridge- Via Ferrara de Planfoy (AD/D)


After some discussion with my travelling companion we are in agreement that this blog could become more than a little self-indulgent. This is, after all, an orienteering chat site so the emphasis would be preferably related somehow to the sport. Our next big event is down in the Pyrenees in two weeks time- this is the O France competition featuring 6 days of events plus additional training/practice sessions. The blog will return in earnest to report on progress at the event but for now will mostly remain dormant. I’ll put up the odd photo/comment on occasion but for now hope all the readership are enjoying your summers and are getting the training in ready for the Autumn beginning of the home O season
Fin….(for now)


I wondered whether you had melted away in the heat! Pity that your blog is reduced to orienteering only. I think the style and content of your diary was interesting! Somerset pulled off a splendid win in the T20 finals last night. Great team effort -pity they have lost ROTEC sponsor!
Roger & Judy

Had to add this picture- gracing the homepage on the host club’s website for last week’s event along with their report of the event- note the shambling old duffer in the left foreground- the building for info was ground zero for the three days


I vote to keep the diary. There’s not a lot else to read now there’s a lull in O activities and this fills the gap and keeps folks coming back to the chat site during off season. Would echo Roger on covering non-O subjects.

Oh, right then……
back by popular ( well in truth Jeff’s) demand……
So to catch up, we moved from the very stormy ( excellent lightning shows all night) Montbuison further South East down to Planfoy and then the Gorges D’evrieux region in the Monts D’Ardeche- everyone’s heard of the Ardeche river gorges and indeed we have been there on a previous visit- it is incredibly popular, most visitors hiring canoes to paddle down the absolutely stunning gorges on one way trips ( paddling upstream against the flow of the river and, worse, the tide of ineptly steered hired canoes is a definite no no) with an uplift after a mile or more back to one’s start point by jeep. Unfortunately its popularity can detract so we had read about the almost unheard of Evrieux river valley in the Times travel section and opted to look it up. We stayed in a beautiful little village right on the river for 3 nights, doing longish cycle rides in the small mountains surrounding the Main and associated smaller side gorges- we have to say it is spectacular- stunning views, virtually empty roads of French surfacing perfection, and an excellent campsite with pool ( vital as the daily temps are now averaging 30 to 35c)
Today, Sunday, we checked out and after a short walk visited the village ‘beach’- an area of the river that has been naturally dammed by build up of pebbles to create a large natural swimming pool. The village has provided picnic tables and tap water down to the site- the water in the river was of a temperature hotter than I keep my tropical fish at in their aquarium- a far cry from the crummy so called wild swimming in the UK
We have now moved further South again to Avignon, moving out of the Rhone region to that of the Drome- we are in village in the shadow of the mighty Mt Ventoux- well known to any fan of road cycling- fortunately we’ve done this mighty climb (28km from Bedoin- all upwards) before and my travelling buddy is quite adamant we won’t be doing it again this trip
We’re actually here to do some climbing- revisiting some of the magnificent crags we climbed on the last time we were here- in 2007 we think
Climbing reports to follow……


About to take the waters French wild swimming style

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Les Monts D’evrieux cycling- typical views

Some notes about heat…
In the UK and particularly the SW we are lucky to experience a year round mild average temperature- global warming ( yes it is there, we cannot ignore it) has created a warmer wetter climate with temperatures occasionally reaching the high 20s and low 30s on occasion but these are exceptional conditions currently and are likely to get worse.
Here in Southern Europe they experience Summer temperatures regularly in the mid 30s for continuous days and basically anyone living here accepts that and gets on with their life- obviously air-con is widely used ( and of course ironically does it’s part to accelerate global warming) but if you don’t have it, daily living can be challenging
We have air con in the van ( but really never use it- just open the window for Heaven’s sake) but this of course needs a running engine- at night here the temperature only falls a couple of degrees below daytime averages so one soon realises the limitations of living in a metal box ( campervan) which absorbs and stores heat during the day and slowly radiates it back at night- much to the discomfort of the occupants.Sleeping is uncomfortable at best, very difficult to do at worst- the obvious solution is to throw open doors and widows during the night to provide a little air flow- this however provides an open invitation to every breed of biting Mediterranean bug that fancies to dine on recumbent human flesh- we have woken covered in bites of varying degrees of nastiness and itchiness
Lack of sleep also reduces the willingness to engage in the wonderful variety of activities available to us- today after a very uncomfortable night we arose early and drove to a climbing crag ( arriving before 8.00am) in an attempt to get to the crag and complete some routes before the sun hit the face- the walk up to the crag was about 20 mins. Even without the walk being in direct sun, the temperature would have already been in the high 20s at that early hour- this combined with lack of sleep and the ascent required carrying the climbing equipment resulted in both of us being soaked in sweat before we had even begun the first climb
We managed 5 routes each, all being around 24m length by which time we had exhausted our water, energy and mostly enthusiasm for any more time under the by now full sun
After a deliciously refreshing ice cold coke at a local bar we drove back to the campsite and took solace once again in the sheer bliss that is the municipal pool ( we have daily unlimited access as part of our camping fees)
Are we looking for sympathy? No- just trying to paint a realistic impression of what it’s really like here in the summertime for visiting N Europeans
It just serves to remind that days are not ‘full on’ here- activities are tempered by a lot of shady rest of necessity.
Tomorrow morning, again an early start, we are intending to undertake the via Ferrata de Roche St Julienne which traverses the huge faces of the mountaintop crag shown below- should be fun!

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