The Western Front Way 2018 Walk

The dates for the 2018 walk:

Travel 16th July
Accompanied Walk 17th – 27th July
Return 28th July

The 2018 walk will be run in conjunction with Belle France a specialist walking tour operator with many years experience of walking holidays in France.

The 2018 walk offers carefully selected sections of the Western Front Way pathway to offer a flavour of the overall route, providing both beautiful walking, and an insight into some of the most significant historical moments from the First World War.

The accompanied walk is not a battlefield tour. Our mission is not to offer a military history – instead it embodies our vision to create the ‘most beautiful road in all the world’. So whether you are interested in the countryside, in good food and wine, in history or in literature and arts inspired by the war then our accompanied walk is for you.

For all enquiries and bookings please contact Lorna Tierney, at Belle France on [email protected]

The Western Front Way, Via Sacra 2018 Southern France Walk
A short introduction for each day’s walk

17th July – DAY ONE – Verdun – Fort Vaux, Douaumont, Bras-sur-Meuse, Monument Le Mort Homme

‘Verdun was France’s soul’ as the saying goes, so it is fitting that we start the centenary walk at the scene of the largest and longest and most costly battles of the First World War. It lasted for over 300 days with estimates putting the loss of life between 740,000 and 976,000 across both sides. Our walk loops the right bank, past the remains of the major forts and the imposing Douaumont Ossuary which houses the remains of more than 100,000 soldiers. In the afternoon we will walk along the left bank finishing at Le Mort Homme (Dead Man’s Hill) with its haunting statue.

Distance approximately 13 miles. The terrain is mixed gradient and requires full walking gear with hardwearing boots, it can be muddy even in summer at the base of the gorge.

We will stay in Verdun, the beautiful medieval city with its 11th century cathedral. This tranquil town, bordered on one side by the magnificent River Meuse, offers a peaceful contrast to the battlefields that surround it.

18th July – DAY TWO – The Argonne – Romagne-sous-Montfaucon, Charpentry, Varennes, Vauquois

This year marks the centenary of the massed American offensive in the Argonne region, so it is particularly fitting that we begin today walking directly south from the US cemetery, approaching the forest from the North. Varennes, where we can see the building in which Louis XVI was captured during the French Revolution, sums up everything that the Western Front Way stands for: tranquillity, breath-taking countryside, excellent local cuisine and wine, all set against a background rich in history.

Distance approximately 12 miles. The terrain is varied, with dense tree cover in some parts. Insect repellent is a must. There are rest spots along the way and beautiful scenery as we straddle the River Meuse for most of the day.

19th July – DAY THREE – Suippes and Bubbles – Suippes, Champagne House

Suippes is our base for the morning. There is plenty to explore in the town itself, where there are French and British cemeteries, as well as the main monument. There is the museum, Marne 14-18 Centre d’interprétation de Suippes, which we highly recommend. In the afternoon we will visit a local Champagne house for a tasting and tour of the cellars and premises. Very light walking. Approximate distance 6 miles.

20th July – DAY FOUR – The Chemin Des Dames – Pontavert, Craonelle, Craonne, Chemin Des Dames, Paissy, Cuissy-et-Geny

The Chemin de Dames (Ladies’ Path) is stunning. A ridge running for over 30 kms between the valleys of the rivers Aisne and Ailette, it took its name from Louis XV two daughters, Adélaïde and Victoire, who, in the 18th century, used to travel along the route from Paris to visit Louis XV mistress, Françoise de Châlus, at her Château de Boves.
The top of the observation tower provides a magnificent panoramic view, not only of some of the most glorious French countryside, but also offers an insight into the scope of the battle here which cost the French army so dearly throughout the war. The high ground attracts a wide variety of bird species and, if we are very lucky indeed, we might see Bluethroat, Black-winged Stilt and the Red-backed Shrike.

Distance approximately 14 miles. The terrain is very mixed with steep ascents and descents throughout. We will break at midday at the museum ‘Caverne du Dragon’ and finish the walk at Cuissy-et-Geny.

21st July – DAY FIVE – The Armistice – Fontenoy, Attichy, Rethondes, Armistice Carriage

As the centenary of Armistice Day approaches, a visit to the famous site of the Armistice Carriage must. A memorial to the signing of the peace declaration that brought an end to 4 years of the bloodiest and most costly conflict Europe had ever seen. Our walk takes us along the river, keeping to the high ground, so we can look down over the forests of Compiegne. We traverse ground that was crossed and re-crossed by British, French and German troops throughout the war.

The museum at Compiegne includes a replica of the railway carriage; the original was removed by the Germans during WWII to the forest of Thuringe and burnt down in 1945.

Distance is around 10.5 miles. Terrain is mixed and there is some cross-country walking involved we would advise long trousers.

22nd July – DAY SIX – The Somme South – Albert, Fricourt, Mametz, Longueval, Courcelette, Pozieres, Contalmaison

No walk along the Western Front would be complete without some time spent in the Somme region. For many people the Battlefields of the Somme epitomise the First World War: scenes of huge casualties with so many lives lost. However, as our WFW route is about so much more than battles and conflict, we will visit the key sites, but also have a chance to take in the natural beauty of countryside – now peaceful and still. This day perhaps most evokes what we are trying to achieve by creating our long distance walking route. It will be a permanent living memorial but also a walk for peace, a route for remembrance. This is an opportunity to reflect on the cost of all conflicts across the world.

Distance 14 miles. The terrain is mostly flat but it can be hard going.

The Western Front Way, Via Sacra 2018 Northern France & Belgium Walk
A short introduction for each day’s walk

23rd July DAY One – The Somme North – Albert, Auchonvilliers, Serre, Beaumont Hamel, Thiepval, Ovillers

We begin the WFW Via Sacra Northern France walk in the Somme as no walk along the Western Front would be complete without some time spent in the Somme region. For many people the Battlefields of the Somme epitomise the First World War: scenes of huge casualties with so many lives lost. However, as our WFW route is about so much more than battles and conflict, we will visit the key sites, but also have a chance to take in the natural beauty of countryside – now peaceful and still. This day perhaps most evokes what we are trying to achieve by creating our long distance walking route. It will be a permanent living memorial but also a walk for peace, a route for remembrance. This is an opportunity to reflect on the cost of all conflicts across the world.

Distance 14 miles. The terrain is mostly flat but it can be hard going.

24th July -DAY TWO – Arras and Loos – Arras centre, Dud Corner, Auchy Les Mines

Arras provides a break from the intensity of the Somme and is a beautiful town, highlighting as it does how life moves on, and communities rebuild and repair themselves overtime. Arras offers a chance to visit the Napoleonic barracks and the peaceful town squares before we move to the cemetery where A D Gilliespie, the inspiration for the WFW Via Sacra is commemorated. His name is inscribed on the wall with many thousands of others whose bodies were never found. Readings from his letters and a Scottish Piper will help us to remember him before we walk on to the village of Auchy Les Mines and a reception hosted in our honour by the Mayor.

Distance about 8 miles with beautiful scenery and easy terrain

25th JULY – DAY THREE – Vimy – Maroeuil, Neuville Saint-Vaast, Vimy Ridge

We will follow the route the troops took, straight up the ridge line passing the reserve lines until we reach the summit of the ridge, the front line. Vimy is quite simply an astounding place – now preserved and protected as a national monument by the Canadian government. The sheer size and scale are unforgettable.The excellent visitor centre is staffed by Canadian interns who are not only helpful but whose enthusiasm is infectious. There is also time to walk to the Lichfield Crater.

A slow ascent for 7 miles, so we recommend strong footwear with ankle support

26th July – DAY FOUR – The Ypres Loop – Ypres Centre, Sanctuary Wood, Zonnebeke, Passchendaele, Langemarck

The Ypres loop will see us start from the iconic Menin Gate, walking to Hill 62, with time for a break then on to Tyne Cott where we will stop for some words at lunch. We will finish at the Langemarck German cemetery, which must be seen to be believed – so different from the British or American & Canadian cemetries. We are deep in the Belgian countryside now with immaculate farmhouses and rolling fields ahead, once mud and tree stumps, now restored.

Distance 14 miles. The terrain is mixed with some quiet country road walking as well as paths and cross country.

27th July – DAY FIVE – Dixmuide to Nieuport

We set off from the Belgian National Monument of remembrance at Dixmuide, which towers over the town, then walk due north alongside the area that was flooded by the Belgian army in an attempt to stop the German advance. The path runs along a raised track for ten miles straight, a long, relatively easy walk with markers to show our approach to the sea. At the end we see the famous peace statue with Germany, Britain, France and Belgium all represented. This forms a fitting end to what will be our long distance path -the ‘Via Sacra’.

Distance 11 miles with relatively easy walking

28th July – DAY SIX – Dunkirk

For us at the WFW this is a fitting way to end on the site of an extraordinary rearguard action of the Second World War – just 20 years after the end of 1914-18 war. A long beach walk, with chance for a swim, followed by lunch on the seafront.

Easy walking, if sandy. Approximate distance 6 miles.

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We would be delighted to see you on the 2018 Walk.
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The most beautiful road
in all the world