“May Day Walk”

Patricia Curd

The invitation to join Tony Oakley for the traditional May Day walk this year said that he hoped for a record number of walkers and on this point he certainly wasn’t to be disappointed. A little after 10am, thirty four people and four dogs set off from the car park in Chênehutte, a pretty village situated half way between Saumur and Gennes on the south bank of the river Loire.

A cuckoo sang as we set off up the hill away from the riverbank. We walked past many lovely properties and gardens sporting their full spring colours and reached our first point of interest: the remains of a Gallo-Roman temple built in the 2nd century AD. It was here that travellers gave gifts to the gods to make sure they would safely cross the river Loire. We continued uphill. At every junction we hoped to have reached our summit but we just kept climbing onwards so it was with some relief that we found ourselves on level ground walking along a woodland path beneath freshly greened trees. The paths were amazingly dry for the time of year and either side there was an abundance of bluebells, buttercups, lungwort and stitchwort. The birds were singing and the weather was kind: not too warm but just perfect for walking, or for most of us, ambling along at a leisurely pace, chatting to our fellow walkers.

Inevitably small groups of two or three formed and the walkers straggled along the pathways. We came out of the woods onto a lane, the verges of which were covered in wild flowers, among them a large number of early purple orchis.

Soon we were heading back down the hill to the car park beside the river Loire where seven more members and friends were waiting to join us for a picnic overlooking the seemingly still water.

The atmosphere was jovial. Glasses were filled and the picnic tables were soon covered in a variety of interesting dishes. Everyone had a good time. There was one last surprise in store and all present raised their glasses to toast the newlyweds, François and Jane. All too soon it was time for us to go our separate ways and leave behind the camaraderie and the lovely view. Our thanks to all involved with the organisation of the day, and to all who had prepared favourite dishes for everyone to sample. In particular our thanks go to Tony for his detailed planning and for providing us with a perfect opportunity to intermingle and enjoy the countryside around us.