Monday 8 September.
I was awake at my usual 6am and made a cup of coffee which we had in bed. I checked through and added to my account of yesterday's walk, inserted some pictures, after Moira gave it the OK, posted it. After breakfast I wrote up today's route, it wasn't far but there was a lot of writing, the last 4km had many twists and turns. Originally I had thought about taking it easy and getting away at about 10am but we were all ready at 9am so we hit the trail. Moira paid the bill on the way out, as if €84 wasn't enough they added on €1.30 for tax.
We made our way along the main street and stopped at a bank for some cash, then at Aldi Moira bought a baguette and some sweets. Now we really got started and picked up the route along an old railway line that started at the original station in Peronne. This went all the way to Cartigny but it was in bad shape a lot of the time. There were holes full of water right across the track and in places in had been churned into mud by tractors using the route. We tried to be careful and avoid the quagmire but we weren't successful, I came down first at a particularly slippery section and landed right in the mud, banging my knee on a rock at the same time. I was in a bad state, completed covered on my feet and up my legs as well as my hands in the chalky slime. My knee was cut and blood was seeping through a covering of mud. When Moira fell she was a bit luckier and landed on her bottom and it wasn't so wet and muddy where she came down. We managed to wash some of the gunge from our hands in a puddle but our legs and clothes were filthy. My knee was also very sore but fortunately I was still able to walk.
After that the path got a bit drier and we were able to stride out and eventually reach the village of Cartigny. The guide had said it was 4.5km to here but it was much more by our estimation, the time we had been walking; also the sign on the road said, 'Peronne 7km'. We sat on a bench in the village centre and had a rest, a local came and spoke to us and was impressed that we were heading for Rome, he wished us 'bon courage!'. The guide book said to pass a post office, the Mairie and a bakery and there they were, definitely on track. The next bit was tricky we had to watch out for a little wayside chapel set back from the road then turn right, I missed it but Moira's sharp eyes found it hidden in some trees. The track to the right was a narrow tarred lane that ran diagonally through the fields to the village of Bouvincourt-en-Vermandois, where we found our exit route but not as described by Cicerone.
Next there was Vraignes-en-Vermandois and here we stopped at a house that was boarded up and made a cup of tea on the front steps. When we left the village the route description wasn't very clear and we stopped to look at the iPad map. A woman came out from her house where we stopped and asked if we were heading for Trefcon, she must have had many pilgrims in the same predicament scratching their heads outside her front door. She kept us right and with her description of the route and together with my notes we made it to an off-road section, this time dry underfoot, that led to our overnight stop. It was at Le Val d'Omignon, Gite Equestrienne. It was an equestrian centre with a gite and B&B attached. When we reached the village of Trefcon we were looking for the place when a farmer on a tractor who spoke English directed us, this was Hubert Wynands and his wife Danielle ran the accommodation side. She was very nice and gave us a warm welcome, she offered us a drink which turned out to be water then showed us to the dorm. It was all right and I was soon able to strip off and get into the shower. While I scrubbed off the mud Moira washed all out dirty clothes. The weather was now very warm and she soon got them out on the sunshine before having a shower herself.
There was a kitchen in the dorm section but we had no food, only bread and cheese which we had now for lunch. The accommodation guide said we could eat here but it was expensive. It looked like we would have to pay but when Moira asked Danielle about food she supplied us with pasta and tomatoes in a large basket with tins of vegetables tea and coffee.
Later in the afternoon we sat outside and relaxed in the warm sunshine. The clothes were drying and we were clean again. At that time the two Swiss guys that Moira met the other day at breakfast at the 'Maison' in Arras arrived; their names were Mark and Xavier and lived in Montreaux. They were staying at the Chambres d'Hote section, the expansive side but later they came over to the kitchen and dined with us. Moira found a packet of soup in the basket as well and we all shared it. We then had our pasta and tomatoes while they boiled up some potatoes they had picked from he fields on the way and had them with cheese. They were a very pleasant pair, one was retired but the other still worked which was why they didn't have time to do the whole pilgrimage at once and will finish the first part in Switzerland. They come from Montreaux and said that when we reach there on the Via Francigena to stay with them. They were interested in Scotland for walking and we offered to accommodate the in Port Glasgow when they come there. It was very enjoyable to be able to talk to other people doing the walk, find out where they had stayed and what difficulties they had encountered, and their English was very good. They are leaving early in the morning and doing a long stage to Tergnier over 30km. We are only doing 12km to Seraucourt-le-Grand , Danielle phoned and booked us so to a chalet at a campsite there.
We went to bed at 8pm and read for over an hour before getting to sleep. We were all on our own in the dorm so it was nice and quiet, nobody snoring.