Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for….getting bogged!

Mud seems to be a bit of a recurring theme in our travels recently. After leaving Ferme L’Horloge, near the tiny village of Tardinghem, 20 kilometres from Calais (where we got bogged on our first night), we headed south towards Veules-les-Roses, in the Normandy region of France.

On the (icy) road to Veules-les-Roses

Although we didn’t leave the farm until midday, the ground was still covered in a beautiful thick frost which looked like someone had painted everything with a sparkling silver magic brush.

The grass was beautifully frosted in sparking silver
A brave little daisy in the frosty grass

As we left we saw a group of people in the field behind and wondered what they were up to. The previous day we had seen model airplanes being flown so thought that’s what was happening this time.

We wondered what these people were up to

Then we heard a engine leap into life and realised that one of the people was about to take off in a microlight aircraft!

And then an engine leapt into life

Up he went into the frosty air while his poor family were left shivering watching his progress. It must have been freezing up there!

It must have been freezing up there!

Leaving the enthusiasts to their devices we left for what turned out to be a three and a half hour drive (including a stop for some lunch). In places there were still patches of ice on the road so we took it very slowly and carefully.

We arrived at the “Aire” (car park that allows camper vans overnight) just outside Veules-les-Roses and found just one other van and a number of cars parked.

Hmm looks rather too muddy to me….

The surface was mainly grass and the remaining spots where we could potentially park looked extremely soft and skiddy. We were determined not to get bogged this time!

So we sat at the entrance for a few minutes waiting for some cars to leave before attempting to park. Quite soon two cars left so we started to move towards the place one of them vacated.

We back into a space successfully but our front wheels were spinning!

Suddenly our wheels started to slip and slide and Jonathan tried to ease the van out of the soggy mud. We were stuck again!

Damn! Stuck in the mud again!

Fortunately he had an idea! Find two pieces of wood and put them, crossed over each other, under the tyre that was really bogged. The top stick redistributed the weight of the van allowing us to roll off the the larger stick underneath, stopping it from sinking into nasty, muddy mess. Thank goodness Jonathan went to Boy Scouts when he was a boy!

But Jonathan’s ingenious Boy Scout idea got us out!

After another wait more cars departed and we were finally able to find a nice dry spot and relax.

Finally we could relax

The reason the car park was quite busy on a cool winter’s day was that there was a lovely walk from there to the beachfront at Veules-les-Roses.

There was a lovely walk to Veules-les-Roses.
The view in the other direction

We set off to explore and were surprised to see imposing white chalk cliffs on the shore – almost identical to the famous White Cliffs of Dover. A very grand sight.

The beachfront of Veules-les-Roses.
The chalk cliffs looked very like the White Cliffs of Dover

Having walked along the beach on the way we decided to circle through the village to get back to our camping spot. We saw some very beautiful cottages, some super elegant houses and an interesting 13th Century Church.

There were some lovely houses in the village
And a 13th Century Church

Our next destination was a lonely beach in the romantic sounding place St Martin-de-Varreville, not far from Omaha and Utah Beaches, where the D-Day landings took place.

The D-day landings took place very close to here

The beach was long and lonely, the weather was blustery and it started to rain as we walked along the sand so after a bit of a tramp we headed back to the comfort of the van.

The beach was long and lonely
The weather was blustery and it started to rain

That night our van shook and trembled as the wind howled around it. It was very cosy in our warm bed and we felt so grateful we weren’t in a boat, having to get up and check our anchor at frequent intervals!

The van shook and trembled all night

Although we had just installed a brand new (and expensive!) lithium house battery which means we can have the heater on whenever we want and not fear we will run out of power, we decided to go to a “proper site” for a day or two where we could plug in to mains electricity and boot up our laptops and other electrical equipment that need mains power.

We could also fill up with water and drain away the grey waste water there, as well as empty our chemical toilet. We found one not too far away that was still open in the winter months (and during Covid restrictions) in a village called Rothéneuf about five kilometres from St Malo.

Our route from St Martin-de-Varreville to Rothéneuf

For those of you who love to read, St Malo is the city in the wonderful book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, where one of the main protagonists, Marie-Laure, and her father flee to during World War II. (Very highly recommend this book!)

Such a wonderful book

Rotheneuf is just over five kilometres from the centre of St Malo and is famous for being the birthplace of Jacques Cartier, the first European to map the Gulf of St Lawrence and the shores of the St Lawrence River which he named “the country of Canadas”.

Arriving at the campsite in Rothéneuf
This was where Jacques Cartier prayed before setting out on his expeditions
It’s no longer a chapel but at least the building is mostly intact

Sadly, because of Covid, we were unable to go round the museum or see the famous “rochers sculptés” (rock sculptures carved in the cliffs of Rothéneuf by a hermit in the late 19th century/early 20th century). In the course of 49 years the hermit carved over 300 grotesque and bizarre faces and figures into the rock.

The beach at Rothéneuf
The strange little building on the beach

The first evening there we were contented with a stroll round the town but the following day we decided to do a more significant walk to St Malo.

Wind blown cedar trees on the headland
More mud!

It was an interesting route that first took us along the road for a while but then we were soon on the massively long and wide beach leading to St Malo.

On our way to St Malo we passed the Church at Rothéneuf
And some lovely cottages
Then we were able to get on the beach

The tide was out which left hundreds of metres of firm sand to walk on. We had forgotten how massive the tidal races were in this part of the world – apparently St Malo experiences some of the biggest tides in Europe.

It was very long and very wide!

The tidal range can vary between low tide and the open sea by over 40 feet (about 12 metres). We didn’t witness it but the intensity of the incoming waves are apparently a wonder to behold, a sight much beloved by photographers and artists.

Stock photo of the waves when the tide is high

To cope with the onslaught of the waves, Saint-Malo equipped itself with breakwater defenses that have become emblems of the city. These are more than 3,000 wooden piles, roughly 10 feet high, installed originally at the end of the 17th century (and replaced over time) to absorb the impact of the waves and protect part of the citadel.

These breakwaters had a strange atmosphere
They were stark but rather beautiful
I loved the patterns that the wild ocean had carved into them
The wooden piles were first installed at the end of the seventeenth century

It was great to see that even on a cool winter’s day, the beach was being really well utilised with scores of people out walking their dogs, dozens of kite and wind surfers and even land yachts skimming over the golden sand. It still felt gloriously uncrowded!

Approaching St Malo, the beach looks empty but there were many people utilising it
The kite surfers were having a great time
A kite surfer on his way down to the surf
The walled city of St Malo

Of course there were no cafes open in St Malo so we came prepared! After a walk on the glorious 17th Century ramparts we found a seat and cracked open our thermos and made a nice strong cup of tea!

One of the gates into the old city
The city ramparts
We enjoyed walking on the ramparts
These stairs lead up to one of the bastions
Lovely views
Statue of Robert Surcouf, the privateer (pirate!)
Enjoying my cuppa within the city walls

On the walk back we kept mostly to the promenade which again was well patronised but we felt safe as everyone wore masks and were careful to keep their distance.

Hotel France et Chateaubriand – one of the many elegant hotels in St be Malo
The entrance to Hotel France et Chateaubriand
A square rigger in the port
Loved seeing these children playing in the rock pools with their fishing nets

Published by

Salty tales from Bali Hai

In 2015, after a break from cruising of almost 30 years, my husband and I sailed off into the sunset - this time to the wonderful Islands of Indonesia and beyond. Three years passed and we swapped sails for wheels driving through Scandinavia and Europe in a motor home. Now we are on the brink of another adventure - buying a Lagoon 420 Catamaran in Athens. This is our story.

5 thoughts on “Mud, mud, glorious mud, nothing quite like it for….getting bogged!”

  1. You seem to be doing and seeing an amazing amount considering the lockdown! But that mud does all sound like a bit of an occupational hazard. Hope you don’t get stuck again – we really envy you being in that lovely part of France. As you say, the cliffs make it seem surprisingly like Britain but somehow different! Keep safe.


    1. 1982 wow you two that’s almost forty years ago – congratulations lovebirds! Sadly no restaurants gourmet or otherwise open at the moment so I’m cooking up a storm on our three burner stove top every night! Love and hugs xxxx


    2. 1982 wow you two that’s almost forty years ago – congratulations lovebirds! Sadly no restaurants gourmet or otherwise open at the moment so I’m cooking up a storm on our three burner stove top every night! Love and hugs xxxx


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s