Rural Tracks

Throughout France there is a network of variously named public rights of way. One of the most frequently encountered by walkers is the chemin rural (plural chemins ruraux). These are (usually) unpaved tracks owned and maintained by the local commune. They are almost always ancient laneways, winding through farms and today used by walkers, horse riders, hunters and farmers. Sometimes they are unmarked, but usually they have a small sign at either end with the letter R, C or V and an a number to identify them. They also frequently have the standardised walking trail symbols posted along them and appear on maps as part of the national hiking trail (randonnée) network. Even when they appear to be private farm tracks, the public is permitted to walk them. Walking them in all seasons is a great way to get to know the wildlife of this area, as they are usually long thin grasslands bordered by hedges, woodland or agricultural land, and sometimes even aquatic habitats such as streams, ditches, springs and ponds. You are unlikely to meet another person on most of them.

A chemin rural near Yzeures sur Creuse, October.
A chemin rural near Yzeures sur Creuse, October.
A notice issued by the local authority who has responsibility for maintaining this chemin rural, stapled to a trackside tree. It says that motorised vehicles are not permitted on this track between October and May ie the months when it is likely to be wet. The commune very sensibly does not want the track churned up and ruined by hunters' vans or farm machinery.
Bird watching in the Brenne down a track near la Maison du Parc.

Bird watching in the Brenne, near l'Etang vieux. This track had a sign temporarily banning agricultural vehicles because it was flooded, however that didn't stop anyone on foot who was prepared to take off their boots and slosh.
A track through the bocage country along the River Vienne near Chinon.
A track through arable crop land and forest. This is one of my butterfly transects.