This year 2020, My first trek was done in the Limousin, roughly in the middle of France. It wasn’t my first choice but because of the Covid-19 this was the easiest for me as I could drive to the starting point and as it’s a loop, this meant that I would finish at the starting point.
My starting point was the village of Treignac, the GR440 is about 185kms long, I had found literally nothing about anywhere magazines or the web, for instance, just a GPX trace
Out of the 185 kms planned I did 160 kms and then gave up not doing for me the last leg. This for a couple of reasons
The track starts off quite nicely from Treignac mostly paths between fields or in woods, just what I like. but sadly was about the only leg that was really nice.
I had mapped out the GPX trace on my brand new Garmin 66i, luckily because the signposts showing which way when at a crossing or a fork, for instance, are INEXISTENT, you cannot do this walk without either a GPX trace or a map, where you have marked the route.
I also knew that sleeping was going to be a problem on this trail, but was hoping to bivouac / wild camping, now I still really new at that and not very relaxed about it, so ended up most days asking at farms or houses if I could camp on the grass/field outside, all said yes. There are literally NO campings (two in all), Hotels, Gites on this trail
There are also no water stops, or shops either, I found one shop, and three cafés and one fountain that I would not have seen if the guy who lived next to it showed me. This was at the end almost a problem and as there was a heatwave while doing the last couple of days and I went from one or two bottles of water to six or more, also there are very, very few people who live on this trail (The Limousin is one if not the most unpopulated area in France) it was quite difficult finding and asking for water. The heat and the ‘tarmac’ (more on that) made me choose to stop at the 160 kms mark and not do the very last stage.
I spoke about tarmac, what I didn’t like about this trail was that a lot, an awful lot of it is on very small roads, or large gravel tracks, now there is no traffic on them so that’s not the problem it’s just so so boring walking for miles on a road rather than a track or a path in the forest for instance, also with the heatwave, 30° everyday walking was not fun at all. So, in the end, I said to myself sod it, time to go home.
Now I did the trail quite quickly, walking the 160 kms in only six days, I had set myself two different timings, either 20 kms pers day so about 10 days total or 25 kms per day so about eight days in all, what I hadn’t thought about was the length of daylight (it’s the middle of June) and the sun not setting until 22h30, (try and sleep in a tent when it’s still quite sunny and not dark, so I ended up walking a little longer than I had originally previewed and some days topping the 30 km per day.
On the sixth day I was at the village where I had planned to stay, very hot, getting a little tired and it was only 15h. So I thought to myself, in 30 minutes my tent will be set up, as there was actually a camping site there (the second from the start) (but because of the COVID, no water, no showers) and I wouldn’t be able to sleep until 22h30 at the earliest, or I could grab a taxi back to Treignac, only 24 kms, grab my car and drive home, which I did, and I arrived at home 22h45, if I’d stayed I would only just be trying to sleep in my tent.
So sadly this GR440 especially in comparison with my last’s year trek, the Gr107, was not very good. Far too many tarmac/roads. The red and white painted stripes to show you the way for the GR were in many places existent, you could walk miles without seeing one, there were quite a few signs for mountain bike riding, but for walking ….. for a GR that’s meant to be known and walked, there just weren’t any, for instance for the 160 kms that I walked I saw maybe 5 signposts showing GR440
Luckily I had my brand new Garmin 66i with the track on the screen, otherwise, I couldn’t have done it. (I’ll try and do a write up on this, as it’s a good ‘gadget’ to have.
So in all, a shame I love the Limousin, it’s a region of France that I really do like, but this GR, no. It’s obvious that the regional/local government don’t care about the GR440, no signposts, very, very few Red & White ‘balisage’ to indicate the correct paths to take. When I did the GR107 Le Chemin des Bonhomme, last year, about 110 kms, I could have done it without a GPX trace, but no this GR440
Unlike the GR107, there are no fountains on the trail, (I found one, thanks to a guy who showed me as it’s hidden away and told me it was drinkable), last year’s there were sometimes three or more per day, here, also no commerces, (I found one after 15 kms walking but that was it) I came across three cafés, where I could drink a coffée or a beer and quickly charge my phone. few inhabitants in the Limousin, you can walk quite a while before seeing a house or houses with people in.
In comparison with the GR107, the GR440 is a waste of time, such a shame.
I have the original GPX trace and my GPX trace as well if anyone wants it
Some Details, all sleeping was done with the kind permission of owners letting me set up my tent
Day1_Treignac – Pradoux : 28kms
Day2_Pradoux – Faux la Montagne : 20kms (camping but was closed)
Day3_Faux la Montagne – St Setiers : 28kms
Day4_St Setiers – Chavanac 27kms
Day5_Chavanac – La Sagne : 24kms
Day6_La Sagne – St Yrieix – le Déjalat : 25kms
Over 3100 m ‘dénivilé’ which isn’t bad, there’s no real big hills here, but a lot of up and down 🙂
Food was all Lypholisé, (dried food), breakfast, lunch & dinner
Rucksack was an Osprey Exos 48
I carried the following equipment, about 14 kilos with seven days of food.