Into Switzerland

The next day’s journey from Pontarlier to Jougne was rainy and another stage further into the Jura, climbing into the hills

Jura in Rain

and then walking along an abandoned railway,

Le Coni Fer

turned over to a seasonal tourist line, The Coni Fer.

Le Coni Fer Train

I crossed the Jura ski resort of Métabief before heading into the lesser known town of Jougne. After a night’s sleep, a descent into this valley and an extended farewell to the Jura mountains as I walked down through here and out onto the plain.

From Jougne

 

Jura valley, beyond Jougnes

I had spent the last six weeks updating my buddy, Mike, on what was going on in my life: ‘I am walking in France’ … ‘I am still walking in France’ … ‘I am bloody walking in bloody France, still’. Not far out of Jougne, therefore, I took great delight in phoning him: ‘I’m not walking in France anymore’! I managed to resist asking ‘where am I?’ then jumping backwards and forwards: ‘no, I’m not’ … ‘no, guess again’.

Crossing the French / Swiss border

The pleasure of reaching Switzerland was marked by a rare selfie in front of the old border stone on the path. Finally, I had walked a long way!

Wealthy Switzerland

In Switzerland, everything changed. Within yards, even the plastic which wrapped the hay was luxurious. I know I had perhaps walked through a corridor of rural depopulation (and what I had seen wasn’t ‘France’) but it had felt like endless dying villages and, yes, poverty. Here, all was business-like and prosperous.

Final Gorge beyond Jougnes

I had the pleasure of walking one final Jura gorge before heading out of the mountains into Orbe and then across the plain to Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) and Lausanne.

Heading into Orbe

It was around this time I received the following text:

Hello, I hope I am writing to the right person. My name is Fiona and I am wanting to contact the person who met my brother in law Dominique in France while walking to Rome. The person has asked for details of a solider, Francis Alexander Smith who died in the Somme in 1916. Could you confirm that it is you who requested this information and I will send you the details.

You may not recall that we met a marvellous character, Dominique, whilst in northern France. We told him about never having traced Angela’s grandfather and he offered to ask his sister in law, who worked for the Commonwealth War Graves Commision, for help. Well, he and she had turned up trumps.

It turned out not to be the right man but it prompted Ange to search under Frank rather than Francis and there he was on the Glasgow Necropolis website. Born before the invention of the motor car, he had volunteered a month into the war but, perhaps in consequence of being in his mid thirties, an ex-diamond miner in South Africa, a hard drinker and a ‘character’, he didn’t have the most obviously glowing war record. He was punished on more than one occasion for drunkenness and/or absenteeism. On one such, he married Ange’s grandmother, Lily, in Hove.

When he reached front line in France, he was promoted to Lance Corporal. The record includes the following statement: it is a matter of some surprise that he managed to retain that rank until his death 7 months later. One can imagine, perhaps, that such a man, when it came to the front line, might make an excellent NCO. He certainly wasn’t absent on the 22 May 1917. As close as possible to that date next year, Ange will visit his grave, on his personal centenary, with her family, to pay overdue respect to her grandfather’s memory.

6 thoughts on “Into Switzerland

  1. Hi Dick. Switzerland? I will look at the map in a minute, I was a bit surprised you were there. How very exciting. It is good to see a picture of you looking so well. You also look a little concerned in the selfie, as do we are all that did not grow up with phones naturally morphing from our left hand..

    Ange, lovely story about your grandfather, he sounds a bit like my Dad, always a bit close to the wind but extremely charming and talented. But certainly a man you would want on your side during those awful games that the powers that be sent the best of our best out to. Well done on finding him.

    Stephen and Emily celebrate the arrival of a delightful third niece. We are all very very happy. B X

  2. Hi again Dick, google maps have helped me out and I now quite see why you are there. Obvious, duh. It was quite funny when I went into the ‘walk’ option on maps. It said ‘Google cannot supply walk options for this distance’. Ha ha. So there.

    Good luck and stay well

    Barbara X

  3. Hi Dick
    Still following your journey with great interest and as a thoroughly enjoyable read. What an adventure?
    Well done on getting through France and enjoy Switzerland

    • Dear Lyn, Fair comment! And my apologies. Hope to rectify this over the next few days with some feeble explanation as to the delay. Best wishes, Dick

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