Many villages in rural France will have a series of signposted walks around their area described as "Randonnees". These walks are of varying lengths from say 5 to 16Km, The local "Office de Tourisme" will often, for free or a small charge, supply you with leaflets giving a map of the routes usually pointing out places of special interest. There seems to be an increasing interest in these walks as there is now a growing list of published books covering most areas of France.
On your leaflet the differing walks are colour coded and are signposted using the various colours on signs, painted on trees and posts to help you navigate your way. The colour coded signs will also by way of signs indicate where to turn off a path and by a colour coded cross indicate which way you should not go. The walks we have been on are on a mixture of minor roads and tracks. Villages will often have a local association who organise group walks once or twice a year. They take several forms: " Randonnee Nocturne" an evening or night walk, "Randonee Gourmande" a walk which ends with a meal. Our village , in the Vienne, this year has a "Multi Randonnnee" this is a route that on a certain day can be completed on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. This "Multi Randonnee" is organised more on a regional basis and seem to move around the area. How popular are these "Randonnee", certainly the group walks seem very popular but whilst doing a walk using the leaflet we have rarely seen other walkers. On one such walk, admittedly going the wrong way round (see "Advice" below) we walked on the path shown on the leaflet (as mentioned admittedly the wrong way round) through someones back garden where a family meal was taking place. We were stared and even glared at as if no one ever had walked that path. The walks can certainly take you deep into the countryside, through wooded areas along ancient pathways, past old abandoned buildings and can give you the chance to see some of the wildlife of the countryside. Advice
Make sure you start going the correct way around the route. This is often not as easy as it sounds so take time to study the route before setting out.
Follow the colour coded signs carefully, and if turns and landmarks are not where they should be as indicated by the leaflet carefully consider your route again. On a recent walk with friends we were intending to take a comfortable 7 Km stroll. The portion through the forest seemed very long and we did not come upon a turn we were expecting nor was there a "panorama" to be seen. But we kept following the red and yellow route as signed. We later discovered that we had strayed onto the red and yellow route of the next village and ended up walking in excess of 16 Km to get back to the car.
Make sure you take something to drink with you, we were mighty thirsty during the 16 Km walk.
Its useful to have a mobile with you, not only for emergencies but also with the number of a friend who can come and pick you up if you wander astray!
A compass would also be useful as whilst following wndy paths a sense of direction can easily be lost. Its good to find a randonnee that ends in a village with a bar!
Remember bars may not be open on Sunday afternoons.
Lastly if possible walk with the french version of the ordinance survey map of the area. The map on the leaflet may not be to scale or include other landmark such as farm or hamlet names. Having one would certainly have saved us the extra 9 KM.