Walking enthusiast Janice Barnett welcomes a healthy new year with a blog on best walking treks in Burgundy.
It was bitingly cold, minus 14 degree Celsius last night, but we’ve eaten so much over Christmas and New Year and spent way too much time slumped in armchairs in front of the log fire, that we decided it was time to get the circulation going with a bracing circular walk around the summit of Mont St Cyr.
Our house sits across the valley from Mont St Cyr, the highest point in Southern Burgundy (771 metres) and it is the first thing I see when I draw the bedroom curtains each morning.
Wanting to ease ourselves back gently into physical exercise we opted for the car to rather than walked from home. Having filled a flask with steaming coffee and convinced our house guests to join us, we bundled into the car and set off.
The mist swirled between the Douglas firs and thick snow lay on the ground. As we stepped out of the car, I wondered whether three jumpers, a quilted jacket, thermal underwear and two scarves would be enough but it was too late now. The cold air assaulted our lungs as we stomped off towards the way marker, fingers tingled and noses turned red. Yet within a few moments I felt more exhilarated than I had for days.
The walk is only a couple of kilometres and has almost unperceivable rises and drops until the final climb to St Cyr’s summit and subsequent downhill trek back to the car park and picnic area.
The first part of the walk leads away from the parked car into the forest of firs whose pole straight trunks tower above us. The needles underfoot provided some respite from the ruts in the track that had become frozen solid.
Not just for walkers
These paths aren’t just for walkers. During the autumn months they are used by loggers to drag their fallen trees back to the main road.
While we heard birds calling to each other and I spotted a robin, most of the wild life seemed to have gone to ground. In summer, through gaps in the overhead canopy, you often see buzzards, ten a penny over here, circling high above. We saw remnants of ant hills that throng with activity in the warm but nothing much seems to be happening now.
After 10 minutes we reached a rocky outcrop. The foresters have cleared the trees below this point and, as I view it from my home, have created a deep scar down the side of the mountain. The up side of this was that we had a superb view out across the valley and beyond. We stopped to take a couple of photos before continuing slightly upwards along a ridge punctuated with large prehistoric looking boulders before the track turns left and up into the trees once more.
We climbed quite steeply up to the top of Mont St Cyr. Those in our party, who began to feel the full effects of an over indulgent Christmas, were glad of the young saplings that have rooted themselves along the way providing hand rails as a result.
Taken by surprise
The clearing at the top of St Cyr always takes me by surprise. Perhaps it’s because I climb the path with my head down but all of a sudden the trees open up and you’re standing in an open space with a notice board describing the area and two lookout points with half moon orientation panels detailing the sites to be seen.
As many of the sites and villages that were worth pointing out are now hidden from view by trees, my neighbour and I had considered painting a sea of trees over the observation plaques. On a clear day, like today, it was still possible to view the Alpine peaks, the Forez of Autun, the Morvan and Beaujolais.
The cold was beginning to take hold so time to challenge the group to a downhill race (slide) to the car. The gravelled track down is steep and, if you do feel the urge to run, you may find it hard to stop as momentum takes control. We reached the car with faces glowing from the exertion of it all and thoughts of hot chocolate and the remaining mince pies.
Length: 2.5 km
Time: about 45 minutes
Difficulty level: quite easy
GPS start and finish: 46.19’35.11 N 4.25’38.82 E
Highlight: amazing views