As the afternoon wears on, we pile back into the camping-car and hustle briefly down the road to the town of Monthermé at the confluence of the Semois and the Meuse. We locate a campsite and post up, manoeuvring complexly to orient the van levelly across the gradual slope down to the riverside. Our co-campers look on from their manicured campsites: diesel estate car by a camping trailer on blocks; a van with awning extended over a table and Craftsman stove; two camping chairs occupied by readers on the shoreline, spotless mountain bikes casually laid by.

We wander up the street to the local Carrefour Contact, which is sort of like a Tesco Express or a Sainsbury's Local except for it's full of powerful Belgian beer, local cheese, and fresh-baked bread. I sit outside with Ghyll and listen to the far-off clanging of the power hammer at the Forgex plant up the road.

Well-stocked for bread and beer, we head back to the campsite. I decide to go for a run up over the plateau while Sam and Ghyll chill out in the goldening light.

A gentle climb takes me up to rocky crag poking above the trees. I climb out on the crag and am treated to a panorama of the Meuse and the hills above it. As I return to the path I'm nearly obliterated by a mountain biker going hell-for-leather down the slope. As I continue it's clear that the route Strava has chosen for me follows numerous mountain bike trails. A video of a couple climbing a bike trail in the Rockies returns to me; it does not end well for anyone. I perk my ears and continue cautiously.

The route leads me round the back of the hill, along some little-used trails to a descent above the town of Tournevaux, and back down to the road on the left back of the Semois. Along the way I pass a compound of derelict concrete buildings that have been integrated into a downhill mountain bike course. The silence of the forest and the slowly setting sun lend it a creepy vibe. A little further on I meet a singletrack road, where a dark blue Citroën rolls past me at low speed, making almost no noise, somehow. I can't see the driver's face from where I am, but I offer a wimpy wave as they pass. Then I hightail it without looking back.

The route passes out of the shadow of the hill and back into the warmth of the setting sun. I pass a big placard for the nearby abandoned village of Phade and then follow the Trans-Semoysienne walking trail back out to Monthermé, winding my way through more than my fair share of nettle along the way. I return to the campsite with stinging legs to find a beer waiting for me.

France '24 Running


Revin & Maison Espagnole

Midday in Revin on the banks of the Meuse, featuring a smooth veterinarian and an ancient house full of cast iron stoves.



A day spent in the quiet Ardennais village of Bohan-sur-Semois, where I suspect someone could have a really lovely retirement.