Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Swiss Roll - Day 1 Route

It's only 6 weeks until I, with my brother James, set off to cycle from the channel coast of France to Switzerland to raise money for Leukaemia research - 550 miles in 7 days. The route follows the Western Front of the First World War.

Training is going pretty well and I'm feeling ready - just need to book the travel and the hotels.

In the meantime, here's the route for the first day.

Bike route 385863 - powered by Bikemap 

It's 75 miles from Dunkerque (Dunkirk in English) to Arras, pretty much flat.

Of course this is an area with a lot of history. Dunkerque is obviously famous as the site where over 300,000 British and allied troops were evacuated from the beaches in May and June 1940 during World War Two, turning defeat by the German Army into an almost mythical victory.

From there we head South East to Ieper (Ypres - known as 'Wipers' to British troops) in the Belgian province of Flanders. It was the site of three major battles in the Great War, which saw the first use of gas on the Western Front.  The poppies that grew on the shattered ground inspired the poem In Flanders Fields and the poppy used to commemorate the war in Britain.

Chateau Wood, Ypres in 1917
Almost completely destroyed, the town centre has now been restored to its former glory.

Ieper ruins in 1919
Further south we will pass the striking Canadian War Memorial at Vimy Ridge, dedicated to the 60,000 Canadians killed in the Great War, including nearly 4,000 who died capturing Vimy Ridge in 1917.

We finish the day in Arras. Another beautiful medieval town reduced to ruins during the Great War, and since restored. The city was a centre of the wool trade, and it provided the name for the wall hanging behind which Polonius was killed by Hamlet.


  1. Thanks for the great blog. I'm headed to Belgium soon to tour and ride the Ronde Van Vlaanderen route. My girlfriend's grandfather fought in WW11 and she's toured the area and made many recommendations on places to cycle to. We'll be visiting many of the same sites and memorials. Thanks for the info!