Monday, December 11, 2023

Advent postcards, Bellevue, Pays Mellois, Deux-Sèvres

French Village Diaries cycling adventures Advent postcard Prailles Bellevue Pays Mellois Deux-Sèvres
Advent postcard, Bellevue, Deux-Sèvres


Advent day eleven

Today’s cycling advent-ures postcard is from the abandoned village of Bellevue, a surprise find in the middle of some woods in the Lambon valley. 


We were out for the day, on our bikes, ticking off the Terra Aventura circuits in Celle-sur-Belle and Prailles, near Lac du Lambon in the Deux-Sèvres. The theme of the Prailles course was Resistance but it had nothing to do with The Occupation during World War Two. This area of the Pays Mellois was an important stronghold for the Protestants during the religious wars in France five hundred years ago. Forced to meet in secret, they were adept at hiding their faith from the authorities and there are many signs still visible today that show how they resisted against the Catholics. There is also a local museum dedicated to their story, that is on my list of places to visit next year.


What began as a cycle ride along quiet rural lanes lined with fields and vineyards, changed abruptly as we turned onto a narrow track at the edge of a field, and descended into a wood. We followed the map and clues, and soon ended up deep in a forested valley with no other signs of life aside from the birdsong. It was a real adventure, although rather tricky manoeuvring the bikes over the stones, roots and logs in the pathway. As we reached the river Lambon, it was one surprise after another. First the ruined stone walls of houses from the abandoned village of Bellevue came into view, now mostly consumed by the foliage of the forest, and then a medieval stone bridge appeared (and I do love an ancient cobbled bridge). If it hadn’t been for the handy information panels explaining the plight of the Protestants and illustrating rural life over the ages, it would have felt like we’d become lost in a forgotten world.


You can find more information on this 5.5km walk on the tourist office website here. I’d definitely recommend it, but it’s probably better to do it on foot, in dry weather, rather than attempt it on bikes.


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