Thursday 13 January 2011

Chemin Rurale

Chemins Rurale are the ancient roadways around rural France. Some have been made into proper roads, some, like the one along one edge of our property have been made into gravelled tracks and some are just remnants left among the trees.

We have a remnant one between us and our neighbours that is obvious in that there is an overgrown gap between their fence and the line of sizeable trees but it disappears into our woodland. According to the plan cadastre it marks the edge of our property through the wood but we have never known exactly where it is and haven't ever bothered. We have 5 acres of wood and a little bit more or less doesn't bother us or the neighbour apparently.

This week Bernard (the mayor's righthand man) has obviously been delegated by the Comite des Fetes to sort out a new route for the annual Easter Egg Hunt that doesn't use any of the proper roads and has come up with the idea of using this chemin.

He appeared at the door asking if he could cut his way through our wood to a path Him Outdoors uses with the tractor so that the local little dears wouldn't get run over on the road. Much smiling and hand shaking and admiring our house and some discussion and off he went with a 'you think about it and let me know'.

We decided that actually we didn't want the commune deciding that they had right of way through our wood having used it once (the path they want to use is within view of the house) and drew up a plan that either they could walk the other way along our drive, across the field and into the wood which would involve no work but a bit of walking on the road. Or they could sort out the chemin rurale properly which would involve much earthwork/tree felling but maintain our boundary and keep everyone well away from our house.

I was delegated to go tell Bernard. Got his wife, who is sweet, explained it all to her and she agreed that of course we didn't want everyone through our land and of course that would be alright and she would explain it to Bernard when he got back.

Bernard arrives home full of smiles and ignores completely what we have just agreed, no we have to go down the chemin rurale and across the wood and it will be fine.

Him Outdoors has a dicky fit about 'some french butcher in his wood'.

Next day Bernard's strimming in the pouring rain. We pop out to see what he is actually doing and agree that it would be much more sensible if the walkers went along the field not through the wood and we seem to have reached a compromise. I think. Possibly. Maybe.

It shows up another difficulty with not speaking the language properly. Anyone that smiles at you is a good person. Anyone that talks to you and smiles must be ok. Maybe, just maybe, they are actually full of themselves and railroad everyone into doing what they think. But you aint going to find out for a while.


  1. Can be the smile on the face of the you clearly realise.

    When you run into the maire, just tell him you think it would be a good idea to sort out the chemins rurales.....but you know the commune has better things to do with its money at the things might be left as they are, given all the costs involved, the the expense of getting a geometre in, etc...

    Unless there's something really important behind this sudden interest in your woodland that should suffice...but in any case check not only the current cadastral plan but earlier ones....ask at the local cadastre offices...I've always found the staff there to be most helpful...just in case there is something unexpected lurking in the past and check the surrounding landholdings while you're about it in case anything there chimes in with anything going round on the grapevine.

    Councils used to have a pernicious habit of selling off chemins rurales to farmers who then closed them off....when they want to start opening them up I smell rodents.

    We had our own problems when the owner of a riding stables wanted a right of way across our land to make up a new circuit.
    Not the shadow of any legal justification, but it wasn't settled until we got to the court waiting room.
    He was, no surprise, a local bigwig.

  2. When I suggested to Bernard that perhaps a geometre was required to look at the old chemin he said something about that he used to work in the building department and he had all the equipment so that would be all right wouldn't it.
    Now you've got me thinking perhaps it wouldn't.
    Him Outdoors thinks that we credit them with too much deviousness - trusting soul that he is.

  3. Rosie: I'm always suspicious of people who smile too much when they are asking you for something!

    I think you should take Fly's advice..she's always so wise isn't she?

  4. Rosie, I don't think I'd risk going along with something on Bernard's say so before you've done a bit of research.

    Occasionally the routes of the communal roads have been altered...thus taking a look at older cadastral maps...and while Bernard could be just one of these madly dedicated organisers of events, chopping his way through your woods to avoid using a bit of road seems a bit drastic.

    One thing I found out in rural France was that boundaries matter, if not to you then to someone else...and I'd rather be thought paranoid and uncooperative - both phrases used by the bigwig wanting his right of way - than have people where you don't want them and can't get rid of them.

    If there is a boundary dispute, then a geometre will get together all parties involved, come up with a solution and get everyone to sign up to his Proces Verbal.

    If this happens, get an out of area geometre yourself as the local ones will have work from the council.

    I know all this sounds over the top, so as a first step, take a look at the recent minutes of the local council to make sure no mention has been made of your road, any budget allotted for works in the adjacent areas or any changes noted in adjacent land holdings.

  5. Thank you Fly. I think a visit to the Maire is called for. Only open Tuesday afternoon so no need to decide when to go!

  6. Yes, that should sort things out. Nice not to have to make decisions about when to visit....

    Thank you for the tip on the scented ginger...I've managed to track it down here growing in a bog on the other side of the town, so I'm off to see if the owner will let me have a few bits of it.

  7. Hi Rosie,

    I saw your blog in "A taste of Garlic" and wondered if you would be interested in contributing to our new online magazine TIENS ! Le Sud-Ouest de la France. Have a look at

    For more information, please contact me. Kind regards, Perry Taylor

  8. I had a similar problem with a chemin rurale that ran between our fields and some woodland owned by someone in a nearby village. He needed to get his tractor in to get the wood out and asked if it would be OK to make a bridge over the stream that ran down alongside our field. We agreed but where horrified to find that he had built up the path so much that it cut off access to our field. Where there was once a path that ran next to the stream down into the field, there was now about a 3 foot drop. I went to see him and pointed out the problem. He Ooh la laahed and we discussed whereabouts he could reinstate access to the field. There was a spot a bit further down that he promised to make into a path into the field, wide enough to get a tractor down. Two years later, has he done anything? No, nothing, no thing! We are not living at the house any more so it's not necesarily an issue but maybe in years to come. But the cheek to just go and block our field then not even have the decency to put your mistake right.