Thank you for joining me for the final episode of my travelogue!
As our adventures are now several weeks behind us I had to have a sneaky peak in my journal for some of the details, and I'm particularly glad of all the photographs I've taken, each and every one having its own story to tell.
Take this one for instance, snapped near the end of Friday's walk. There's nothing special about what I'm wearing, as you've seen it all before. The glorious floral wide-legged trousers, which I'd only worn two days before, combined with the same flower-embroidered vintage denim jacket. The only difference a short-sleeved green sailor-style jumper, originally from Belgian label Who's That Girl. Charity shopped back in 2016, it has been worn quite a lot over the years, and what's more, it has accompanied me to our west country retreat many times before.
The story this picture tells, however, is written in my tousled hair and smile, one of those smiles which effortlessly reaches the eyes. Taken near the end of yet another gorgeous walk on an equally gorgeous day, it speaks of happiness and contentment in the face of adversity, the blush on my cheeks not just due to that morning's application of make-up, but kissed by fresh air and the rays of the late Summer sun.
As our walk took us firmly outside the reserve, benches were few and far between. We were starting to get seriously peckish by now, so these two garden chairs couldn't have appeared at a better time. They stood next to the entrance to an exclusive domain with a vineyard and a luxury holiday home, so it is doubtful they were meant for mere passers-by like us!
Thus fortified, we continued until we reached Westouter, which we strolled through, briefly visiting the St Eligius church and halting in front of the little chapel honouring the Black Madonna of Czestochowa (bottom right), commemorating the liberation of Westouter by the Polish 1st Armoured Division in September 1944.
We left the village, walking back in the direction of the wood via the Schomminkelstraat, a small but seriously steep country lane, where a challenge is set up for any would-be cyclists.
Our route thankfully went off-road here, so that our climb to the top was gradual and more gentle.
Before we did so, however, we paused at another little chapel, with Mary and baby Jesus brightly lit by the afternoon sun.
At one point, the lane was lined with blackberry bushes, their juicy fruits ready for the picking. Alas, we didn't have a suitable container with us, so that we had to limit ourselves to the handful we could safely carry home inside our sandwich wrappers.
Upon reaching the wood, we still had a serious climb ahead of us, so about half-way we took a breather on a conveniently placed bench. Ah, doesn't it feel good to breathe in that typical end-of-summer woodland air and savour its sensory delights!
A chilly wind heralding a drop in temperature and the imminence of rain on Saturday made me re-wear Monday's green trousers and dotty Phase Eight raincoat, the latter a Shropshire charity shop find.
It looked set to remain dry in the morning, so we wasted no time in going for the final walk of our holiday, opting for another nature reserve, Helleketelbos. This being only a ten minute drive or so from the cottage, we were there really early.
After parking our car and having a look at our walking map, we set off, soon coming across a wooden shelter and adjoining picnic table with built in sun lounger.
We were intrigued by this tree stump with the words breathe, feel, see, hear and smell carved into its surface, accompanied by small pebbles bearing the corresponding words. The one on the bottom left says adem which means breathe. And that's exactly what we did: breathe in whole lungfuls of soul-restoring, fragrant woodland air.
Bearing yesterday's experience in mind, we'd come prepared this time and were carrying a plastic tub, which was soon filled to the brim when our walk took us past some well-laden blackberry bushes.
Emerging from the woods, we briefly walked off-map to the Fazantheuvel (Pheasant hill), with its 62 meters the highest point of Poperinge. No sniggering, please! Flanders is, after all, a relatively flat part of the world.
The bump on the horizon on the top left in the below collage is the delightful French town of Cassel, which we visited back in 2017.
It is said that on a clear day you can even catch a glimpse of the sea but in spite of having binoculars with us we never did.
Having made an early start, the afternoon was still young when we finished our walk. On this final day of our getaway, this was the perfect opportunity to visit another chapel.