Saturday 6 September.
I wakened about 6am and made a cup of coffee then I wrote up what we did yesterday for my blog, intending to post it when we went downstairs for breakfast. We were all packed up ready to go and after breakfast just had to pick up our rucksacks from the room. While Moira was finishing her bread and coffee I went to the reception area and posted my blog, the internet was working well and I was finished in minutes; I also downloaded today's newspaper. Moira was late coming up from the dining room she had met a couple from Switzerland who were also doing the Via Francigena, they were heading for Bapaume today as well. They said they saw our card at the gite in Therouanne and recognised us. They intend to just make it to Switzerland for a first stage of the pilgrimage then complete it in the spring next year.
It was just after 8am when we got going and headed over towards Grand Place and picked up the way out of town towards a suburb of Arras, Beaurains. The road was busy but there was a pavement and the route was just a succession of shops. On leaving the suburb there was a military cemetery, the Beaumarais Road Cemetery, for British soldiers who had died in the First World War. We had a walk round the gravestones and looking at the ages of some of the dead brought to mind the Eric Bogle song 'Green Fields of France' about young Willie McBride. Moira made a note in the visitor's book and we continued through an area of France that must have been 'hell on earth' 100 years ago.
After moving from the busy road out of Arras we were on minor roads and lanes and also some off road sections. In this part of Le Pas-de-Calais region the farmers were busy harvesting potatoes. Lots of fields had the machinery digging and scooping up the potatoes then tractors transporting the crop along the roads. The roadsides had lots of the crop lying about where they had fallen from the vehicles and we saw some people in a field forking up the ground salvaging any that had been missed.
It was again a series of small villages about 3-4 km apart. This made a long day not so bad with places to see just short distances apart. All these villages had a war cemetery dedicated to British and Commonwealth dead. We had a look at another one, the Sunken Road Cemetery, near Boisleux-au-Mont; this had a number of dead from Scottish regiments. The rows of gravestones showed that they were all equal, irrespective of rank; there were sergeants next to privates next to lieutenants. All the cemeteries were meticulously maintained. After a while the number of cemeteries got too much and we just acknowledged their presence but couldn't face the magnitude of the destruction of human life that had taken place.
When we reached what we thought was the village of Bihucourt we intended to have a break. It was lunch time and Moira had bought a baguette before leaving Arras. Unfortunately when we reached the village the directions which I had copied out didn't make sense. We asked a woman in her garden for directions only to discover that we had made a wrong turning somewhere and were in the village of Ervillers on the D917 main road. It was 6 km from there along the busy D917 to Bapaume. We sat down for a rest in a bus shelter and thought about what to do and then noticed that a minor road opposite, the D36 went to Mory and Vauix-Vraucourt. I examined the map on the iPad and discovered that if we followed this road as far as Vauix-Vraucourt we could pick up the D20 to Beugny where our B&B was. Originally we thought that we might have to take a taxi from Bapaume to Beugny but now this was working out better. We set off along this new route.
It was only 2 km to Mory and we stopped there at a bus shelter where we had our lunch; bread and cheese with coffee. Two young lads playing football in the street became interested in us and started to ask questions using the translator on their iPhone. They were quite intrigued and amused about us walking all the way to Rome. I gave each of them one of our cards. The next section was a slog of 4 km, the day had been cool with an overcast sky but now it was clearing and the sun was warming everything, including us. At Vauix-Vraucourtwe found a general store open and got some fruit and yoghurt for dinner. Moira also got a bottle of red wine and poured it into one of the water bottles, making it easier to carry.
The last section to Beugny seemed never ending though it was only 4 km. Previously with the villages we could see them in the distance usually from the church spire sticking above the trees. With Beugny it was in a dip and we didn't see it until the last minute, what a relief. It was also a relief that it was very small and it didn't take us long to find the B&B on the main road to Bapaume. It was very nice and part of a farm. The woman showed us straight to our room where the first thing was a shower. We were sticky with sweat and after a good wash we felt brand new
After changing we went downstairs and had a nice cool refreshing apple juice. I asked the lady if there was a bus or taxi that could take us into Bapaume in the morning to pick up our route, hoping she would perhaps offer to run us there. She told me that we didn't need to go to Bapaume but to continue down the D20, that we had been on, to Rocquigny where we would be back on track there. Moira checked the Cicerone and she was right enough, it was now working out quite nicely.
Back in our room we had what food that was left in our bags and what Moira bought at the shop. So it was bread and cheese, yoghurt and an apple for dinner and a couple,of glasses of wine. With having good WiFi I tuned in on the Internet to the BBC and listened to the news. I then went into the programme achieves and found two comedies, the Navy Lark, and Just a Minute. It made a pleasant relaxing change and a good laugh.
I didn't sleep very well. The duvet was very heavy and my knees were sore after the long walk. I got out my sleeping bag which was lighter and that was better but my knees still ached.