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I'm currently staying in Suisse-Normand near Falaise. It is beautiful countryside, and just at the lower end of the Normandy bocage.

I recently read a book on the Battle for Normandy which talks a lot about the sunken lanes and huge hedges of the bocage which really piqued my interest. There are sunken lanes and hedges here, but not on the frequency or scale mentioned in the book.

I'm assuming (as in the South of England) that most of the sunken lanes have been tarmaced and widened out of existence, I've driven through the area West of Caen without finding much more than the occasional track, so I'm wondering if there are any particular areas where a good concentration of these lanes are still in existence and accessible? Or is it just a scattering of a few isolated lanes and tracks left?

Notes

  • there is a heat map here that is interesting but nowhere near detailed enough to answer my question.
  • IGN publish paper and digital maps, but they are pretty weak when it comes to footpaths (except long distance paths). They seem to ignore a lot of the local paths and tracks.
  • Which maps are you looking at? The IGN TOP25 series? I haven't noticed any weakness in those... – Relaxed Feb 20 '18 at 19:52
  • @Relaxed I have the IGN Maps for Viewranger which are 1:25K. I've not been impressed so far. Only show really prominent official GR paths, and not even newer / more localised official paths. Found lots and lots of footpaths that aren't mapped at all. – Undistraction Feb 20 '18 at 21:39
  • You can check on Geoportail but this does indeed sound like the TOP25 maps. Are you sure you're reading them correctly? Only GR routes are red but those maps definitely show much more. Personally, I have always found them very detailed and accurate. Maybe this region hasn't been surveyed in a while or sunken lanes are a particular challenge (whether they are passable depends a lot on people keeping the vegetation at bay and IGN uses aerial photography a lot where they might be difficult to discern). In any case, the notion that they only show GR paths makes no sense to me. – Relaxed Feb 20 '18 at 21:50
  • Incidentally, in France, many sunken lanes would have either overgrown or be integrated into fields through “land consolidation“ (the main reason this landscape disappeared), only a few would have been turned into a wider path of some sort. – Relaxed Feb 20 '18 at 21:53
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You should use e.g. google maps (satellite view). Such things are usually not near (linking) roads, so it is difficult to spot them from a car. E.g. check south west of Falaise.

You should ask to tourism offices about where to find the best "chemin creux" (you can google it, maybe with "carte normandie": you find some circular paths which pass also on the sunken lanes).

  • I've asked at a couple of places, but they aren't very knowledgable to be honest. It's a huge area, so it's conceivable that one area has lots while another has none at all. The maps that are available are pretty bad when it comes to footpaths. I'm used to UK OS maps which are brilliant for footpaths, but the french equivalent IGN are very pathy apart from long-distance routes and really well defined paths like old train-lines. I'm actually staying in a house in the countryside SW of Falaise, but it does not have much in the way of sunken lanes. – Undistraction Feb 20 '18 at 17:02
  • I think you should search for "touristic" maps (local maps which show some historical features). Googles it. I found some in Normandy. It is not IGN, so not "complete", But when you get in one place, probably you could see others. Unfortunately I think you should wait 10 to 20 years, before France will appreciate it, as historical heritage. – Giacomo Catenazzi Feb 20 '18 at 17:15
  • I imagine in 20 years it will all be gone. – Undistraction Feb 20 '18 at 17:15

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