The Western Front Way is a new long-distance walking and cycling route for peace, wellbeing and remembrance. Along with European partners and supporters, we are connecting and marking a 1000km walking and cycling route that echoes the line of No-Man’s Land along the Western Front. The route is the biggest single commemorative project underway on the globe and represents a forward- looking approach to cooperation, collaboration and education to safeguard peace for the future.
The Belgian section is complete, with over 450 plaques in place on 100km of the walking route, and 35 larger plaques on local points of interest. Another 60km is being added this year as an eastern branch off the main route taking in the Commonwealth War Graves Tyne Cot Cemetery and The Langermark German War Cemetery.
In France, by Summer 2021, 3000 8cm diameter markers will have been sent to France to be erected along the route in sections including Vimy, Auchy-Les-Mines, Loos, Pfetterhouse, Pinon, all of the Pays Du Coquelicot and Badonviller with 45 other communes south of Verdun. Once the pathway is complete, it will attract thousands of visitors, all needing to stay in hotels, eat in restaurants, use the tourist offices and all local amenities in a shared spirit of commemoration.
The Western Front Way travels through the most beautiful, historical and varied countryside shaped by millions of compelling human stories and experiences. Walkers and cyclists use the paths for free as they travel from our logo markers erected along the length, creating their own adventures and memories. Our logo is made up of four national flowers of remembrance and we believe we should build paths to unite lives, not walls to divide them.
The sacrifices of millions in a time gone should not be forgotten. It is up to us to ensure we leave a legacy for all.
OUR JOURNEY SO FAR…
1915 – 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Douglas Gillespie of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders writes home from the front line to tell of his vision of ‘a via sacra’ (a sacred road), a route for peace between the lines;
“when peace comes, our government might combine with the French government to make one long avenue between the lines from the Vosges to the sea….I would make a fine broad road in the ‘No-Mans Land’ between the lines, with paths for pilgrims on foot and plant trees for shade and fruit trees, so that the soil should not altogether be waste. Then I would like to send every man, woman and child in Western Europe on a pilgrimage along that Via Sacra so that they might think and learn what war means from the silent witnesses on either side.”
1915 – Gillespie killed in action on the 25th September 1915, days after writing the above letter home about a route for peace.
2015 – This letter is rediscovered by Sir Anthony Seldon, one of our trustees, who has the idea of this grand and unifying vision as the future of commemoration.
2016 – The idea catches the attention of enthusiasts who walk sections of the route in 2016 and 2017 to gauge interest, viability and support.
2017 – The Western Front Way charity is formed to ensure that this vision is brought to the attention of key stakeholders in time for the end of the centenary.
2018 – The Western Front Way makes giant strides, seeing the idea begin to grow across Europe and gain support from key sites along the route.
2018 – Funding secured by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport in the United Kingdom to further the vision.
2018 – We become the voice of future commemoration heard globally, and seen as the way to ensure the First World War becomes an eternal memory, as well as a route for peace for all conflict.
2019 – Thanks to generous private donation, we continue onwards with plaque production.
2019 – May – The Western Front Way sees the first plaques go up on points of note along the route.
2019 – June – The route is mapped, marked and made available to all for free, just as was intended with walkers, cyclists and others making their own journeys along the path for peace first written about in 1915.
2019 – Summer and Autumn – Walkers begin their own journeys, sharing their experiences and stories online as the message spreads.
2019 – Autumn – Communities continue to put up Plaques along the route and host a series of local launches.
2020 – March – Belgium is fully plaqued, mapped and marked with over 25 in place on major town halls and tourist offices, and waymarked with over 450 in place on wooden posts.
2020 – September – massive surge in interest internationally, with PTSD charities becoming a focus. Momentum in France moving at local and Department level.
2020 – October – Official inauguration of the pathway in Belgium. Event held in Ypres with international press and WFW team in conjunction with Ypres tourist office.
2020 – Q3 – Plaques send to France with discussions on waymarkers underway.
2020 – On Tuesday 13th October 2020 in Paris, the UK based Western Front Way charity was awarded the European Award for Citizenship, Security and Defence by the ESDA/CiDAN Jury in the category Remembrance and Reconciliation.
2021 – British Embassy in Paris working on the ground to further our cause.
2021 – Detailed maps published online for walkers and cyclists to plan their journeys.
2021 – Régis Chomel, Michael Morpurgo, Levison Wood and Peter Fiennes added as Ambassadors
2021 – Confirmation that over 120 communes are now engaged in France.
2021 – Waymarkers go into production, 3000 to be sent to France.
2021 – September – An annual walk organised by the Flemish Walking Federation is being organised with over 1,500 participants.
2021 – September – Tom Heap, trustee and relation of Alexander Douglas Gillespie sets off on a 1920’s bicycle from south to north, tackling the 1000km to raise awareness, pay homage, and fundraise.
2021 – The Not Forgotten Association – https://thenotforgotten.org/ ride The Western Front Way. More details and link to follow.
2021 – The Western Front Way Representatives in France, Belgium and Germany for further advances of our mission and further plaque deliveries.
2021 – London Memorial Walk.
2021 – AV3F begin to plot the final cycling route.
2021 – Maps updated with more detail provided by having one per Department.
Our logo contains the four flowers of remembrance Poppy, Cornflower, Daisy and Forget Me Not. You will find these logos all along the route.