Burgundy, June 2012

Hastings Rock and Fell Club go to France

During the course of last year the idea of a visit to the Burgundy region of France was proposed, and created a lot of interest. The area seemed to have much going for it, with several climbing crags, the possibility of interesting walking, and also many items of local interest including the cities of Dijon and Beaune (the capital of the Burgundy wine region), together with its associated vineyards.

A base for the activities was located by Nick in the small town of Vitteaux, using the well appointed municipal campsite. This turned out to located in the old railway station yard, but you would have needed to be a bit of a old railway anorak to spot the fact, guess who did?!

Once settled in, a preliminary recce of the town seemed to indicate that everywhere was closed, but this seems not to be unusual in rural France.

The first day out took us to the rock outcrop above the village of Saffres.

The best way of describing the crag is as a giant Harrisons but four times as high, composed of limestone, and far more vertical. It even had its own Isolated Buttress, although this was as big as a medium size block of flats.

The routes are all bolted but a few self placed bits of gear sometimes help when the bolts are a bit spaced out. It can also get quite hot, so lots of drink and sunscreen.

In addition to the rocks, the countryside is composed of rolling hills, and walking on well marked footpaths took us to many interesting towns and villages. One of these was Flavingy, which produces aniseed balls by the million and was also used for some scenes in the film Chocolat, yet seemed as if it had not changed in a hundred years.

An unexpected bonus early in the week, was the arrival, on a bicycle, of Rod Evans who was touring the French canals in his cruiser. An invitation to join him and Sue for a short voyage along the local waterway was very welcome. This involved rapid lessons in taking a large vessel through a canal lock for the press gang crew. We were put ashore after a couple of miles to walk back along the tow path as Rod and Sue carried on northwards. Thanks for the trip Rod.

Other activities during the week incuded visits to Beaunne with its famous old 15th century hospital, which was still in use up until a few years ago. It has been reconditioned both inside and out an is now a museum. One of the features of which is the glazed tile roof in multi coloured patterns. Haut Roche, approached via the ‘route dangereuse‘, provided some interesting climbing routes in a brief afternoon visit. The outcrop would provide days of climbing if one had the time. Some also visited the Roman museum not far north of our village, while the public swimming lake to the south attracted more than one visit.

Finally mention must be made of the storm. This struck on Thursday night and brought lightening, thunder, torrential rain, major gusts of wind and hail stones the size of marbles, which threatened to puncture the tent. We all survived although a branch fell from the tree next to Monty’s tent.

Thanks again to Nick for putting the trip together and all who attended for the great company.

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