From :

Wagon. A cranky contary female / an ugly female. She\'s some wagon eh?

wagon. wagon - an awful woman. than one is such a wagon!

wagon. a woman thats a bitch. dat ones a right wagon.

Wagon. A cantankerous old woman.. Yer wan's some wagon, I asked her could I feed the seagulls and she lifted me out of it!

wagon. car or other mode of transport. i'll drive my waggon.

Wanderly Wagon. A much loved Irish children's TV program which ran from 1968 to 1982

Le Big Trek

(Also known as The Crazy Scheme)

It all started because I was looking for information on routes we could plan on riding in the Lubéron region. 

France is extremely well served with walking routes, known as Grande Randonnées, or GRs for short. Many, if not all, of these are open to horses as well. I did the obvious thing, and googled “grande randonnée map”

What came up was something like this, although I've left out quite a few GR routes. (I can’t reproduce the one that actually came up because of copyright issues)

I sat and looked at this and went “Ooh look!  You could go from here…. to there… and there…. ohhhhh… I wonder could we ride all the wa…. no, that would be daft….” and carried on searching for routes in the Lubéron.

Over the next few days, though, I kept thinking about the map.  I revisited it several times and plotted possible routes across France.  I trawled through some google searches and came up with loads of long distance riders, many of whom had covered immense distances on horseback.

Even though I knew it was mad, I decided to talk to Anne about it.  The conversation went like this :

Me:            I know this is a really crazy idea, but do you think there’s any way we could ride part of the way back home across France?
Anne:         Martine.  I have dreamed of doing that my entire life.
Me:            Well.  Let’s do it so. 

There followed some discussion revolving around dogs, husband and when exactly we’d do it.  Initially we thought we might do it in 2013, but GiGi’s age is a little against her – she is thirteen now – and Anne’s age is.... no impediment whatsoever, so the long and the short of it is, we’re doing it in Spring next year.

We feel we need a support driver, who will tow the trailer from point to point and be there to rescue us should one of the horses have a problem.  George, the dear Long Suffering Husband, was our Number One choice.  He managed to rearrange a few things in work and freed up the last three weeks of April.  He will spend the days roaming around the French countryside with his camera while Anne, myself, and our trusty horses slog up hill and down dale.

What about the five dogs who are accompanying us to France?  We’ve worked out a plan of course!  Roxy is due to go into training the first week of April – in fact, Anne has promised to have her on the first Brittany Ferries sailing of the season, from Roscoff into Cork.  Anne will also take her own Fionn and my Molly back – she’ll have her hands full on that trip, but at least it’s a relatively short journey, and all three dogs are pretty well behaved.  Fionn and Molly will be cared for by our wonderful daughters at home, and Cookie and Cinnamon will accompany George while he’s following us across France.

Because we are limited to three weeks, our aim is to cover 500km, with a rest day each week.  This gives us a target of nearly 30km (18.5miles) per day, which should be quite doable, so long as we stick to fairly easy ground.   This also makes some allowance for GiGi’s age – she has not had a hard life by any means, but we both feel that the horses’ welfare must take priority throughout the trip, and, at fourteen, she will be just barely on the wrong side of “the Prime of Life.”

We’ve had a look at prospective routes, and our number one choice at the moment is the GR 36, which runs from Caen in Normandy all the way down to the Spanish border near Perpignan.  I've marked the possible beginning and end of our journey.

View GR 36 in a larger map

Here are a couple of more detailed maps from  You can see how much it winds around.
We'd be starting at Cahors and travelling to Périgueux (231 km approx)

Then from Périgueux to Niort (approx 300 km)
and from there to Sarthe, near Le Mans (approx 200 km), via Saumur, with it's tremendous equestrian history
EveryTrail - Find hiking trails in California and beyond

Astute mathematicians will have spotted that this adds up to nearly 700km.  We've noticed this too, and we intend to whittle it down.

By happy coincidence, the GR 36 brings us through some really good wine growing regions and perilously close to Cognac.  I wonder what is the law about drinking and riding in France?

We’re still researching routes and aren’t fully committed to the GR36 yet – we’re also looking at the GR 3, which runs from the Massif Central through Tours all the way to Nantes. It may be tougher than we'd like, though, with its mountainous start.

The final thing we both agreed on is that we want to do this with a purpose.  Regular blog followers will know that Anne has been puppy-walking for Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind for nearly four years now. 
Dash is a Guide Dog,
Dash as a wee lad
Abe is a companion dog for an elderly lady
Abe as a young man
and Reece is an Assistance dog for an autistic boy and his family.
The handsome Reece

We have both been particularly touched by the way in which the Assistance Dog program improves the quality of life of not only the child who receives a dog, but also of their entire family.

With this in mind, we plan to use our trek across France to raise money towards the Assistance Dog Program run by Irish Guide Dogs for the Blind.  We’ll provide a “donate here” button on the blog closer to our departure date, but at the moment, if you want to help this worthy cause, the IGDB donations page is here :

1 comment:

  1. I've been following your blog with great interest and only just checked your route! As I live around 15km from Cahors, can I give you any help or moral support? If nothing else I could wave you off!!