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Self Drive Tours?


Paul Kennedy 2
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I'm hoping to visit Ypres, Armentieres and Somme next spring. But I'm unsure of which would be the best method. I'm torn between a guided tour e.g. Leger (or the like) or a self drive tour.

I want to visit the Quadrilateral site and Sucriere Military Cemetary. the trench site near Armentieres where 5th Lancs Fusiliers where in 07/15. And a visit to Ypres. my intention is to try and spend at least one day each site and 2 or 3 days in Ypres.

any advice would be very welcome.

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Considering what you want to do, my advice would be to do it yourself armed with a few guidebooks, some modern maps, copy trench maps etc. I say that as someone who works for Leger as well! There is a limit to what you can do on an organised tour, and what you want to do is very specific to you, so perhaps better to do it yourself. Plenty of local tours in Ypres (eg Trench Map Tours) if you want to do something 'on site'.

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Thanks for the input Paul.

Not too bothered about Ypres as you say guided tours around the salient etc seem to be advertised in abundance. It's the other two sites re hotels and info where I am a little aprehensive.

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There are plenty of B&Bs in the area, including a nice French one close to the Sucrerie Cemetery and others nearby in Mailly-Maillet. There are some good walks from the Sucrerie up to the front line at Serre. Armentieres you could do from Ypres, and armed with the right modern maps and trench maps, plus whatever info you already have you shouldn't have any problems.

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As Paul says, get the necessary books and maps and plan.

Why not stay at Avril's? You are within a couple of miles of the Sucrerie.

You can take in Armentieres as you head north, and then stay at Varlet Farm for the Ypres end.

Self-driving for such particular needs is the best bet, and fun, and allows you to stop for longer at any site that you really enjoy.

Bruce

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Many thanks Paul and Bruce

I don't take much convincing. Looks like its self drive then. :D

Now I need a plan ^_^

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I would encourage you to do a self drive tour . Over the past few years my dad, myself and my daughter.....a history teacher have done various self drive tours. We take our time ,have our favourite haunts and have learnt so much. I believe we may be unique in that my daughters baby is due this week and in May 2010 we intend to travel to Ypres again....four generations

Enjoy your trip

Joan

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Just spent three hours on the site just browsing. (keeping out of the wife's way).

what stands out is no matter how trivial or not so trivial the requests are they are all answered in the same polite and helpful manner, such a refreshing change in this present day.

Thanks Joan

Regards

Paul Kennedy

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Paul

With regards to accommodation, I can add the following to the list of recommendations:

Holiday Inn Express in Arras - good for the Somme, Vimy and of course the caves in Arras itself.

Novotel in Ypres - very central and close to the Menin Gate.

I have found both the above to be reasonably priced with a good standard of accommodation. Both also have under ground car parking with direct access into the hotel.

Enjoy your trip!

Alan

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Or...there's several self catering cottages in the Somme, I recently used "Clarges" in Longueval, a billet I find extremely comfortable when visiting the Somme area, the views from the lounge are clear across Longueval road cemetery to Bernafay and Trones wood. If there are three or more of you, it works out far cheaper than a hotel etc, plus as you have the benefit of making your own dinners, that alone can save loads of Euro's on not having to eat out. I've just been over for 4 days, 2 of us sharing came to £200 apiece, that includes the tunnel crossing and Diesel for the car from Northern England. And as Paul says when you have specific interests as you have like visiting Sucriere cemetery etc self drive is the only way to do the Western Front.

Happy trip planning,

Tom

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Once again many thanks to all

lots of food for thought. my biggest problem will be getting there from Guernsey. either St Malo and a long drive, or Weymouth, long drive and Channel Tunnel. But I think it will be worth it either way. As I'm sure no family member has ever mentioned my namesake never mind visiting his grave.

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Pal,

obviously I am not doing the driving but St Malo would be my choice as there is a fair bit of historic/war related stuff to do on the way should you wish!

I suppose its a sign of getting older but on my trips now I would nver be without a little portable gas stove and my trusty kettle, this allows you to brew up when ever you want and where ever (within reason) you wish. In the words of me dear old Mum 'u can ave a nice cuppa T duck' plus I take ample supplies of hot chockie/coffee/cuppa soup, the soup is great with locally purchased fromage/jambon filled baguettes!

The added addition is the pound/euro situation is starting to make in roads into the old savings and although stopping in local bars is wonderful, a round of coffee's at £2.50+ each cup soon mounts up to a few bob.

Anyway, have a great trip, if you get the chance seek out a copy of Paul Reed's (who has replied to your thread above) book Walking The Somme as he features a lovely walk starting at the Sucrerie that i have done several times.

Keep us posted on your plans and how you get on,

Regards and best wishes,

Scottie.

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'Before Endeavours Fade' by Rose Coombs is still widely regarded as the classic book for people who are organising their own visits to the area. I used it when I first went in 1988 and I believe it has since been updated.

As Scottie suggests, if you have time, the route along the Normandy coast would enable you to see some of the D-Day sites as well.

Gwyn

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I don't know about anyone else but planning a self drive trip is one of my favourite parts of the trip.

Driving in France is far more enjoyable than having to get in the car in Manchester and driving down to the ferry ports down south. A someone said stop off along the way at another site, plenty of interesting second world war stuff around Caen.

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Taking all this on board thanks.

Steve if flights were an option I would do it. :)

Must admit St Malo looks the favourite. once spent a day in St Mare Eglise when stuck overnight was well worth it,

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'Manche Isles express' ferry as a 'Foot Passenger' to either Barnville Carteret or Granville where you can pick up a Hire car and then about a five hour drive

Good Luck

Gill

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'Manche Isles express' ferry as a 'Foot Passenger' to either Barnville Carteret or Granville where you can pick up a Hire car and then about a five hour drive

Good Luck

Gill

Nah but thanks Gill

Condor Ro-Ro St Peter Port to St Malo then drive, It's easier for the Mrs to put her shopping in the cavernous boot :(

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I don't know about anyone else but planning a self drive trip is one of my favourite parts of the trip.

Driving in France is far more enjoyable than having to get in the car in Manchester and driving down to the ferry ports down south. A someone said stop off along the way at another site, plenty of interesting second world war stuff around Caen.

You lucky lucky people. My eyes are green with envey as I troll through the battlefield touring threads. I would give my first born - sorry too late, my right arm to be there.

One day !!!!

Tony

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You lucky lucky people. My eyes are green with envey as I troll through the battlefield touring threads. I would give my first born - sorry too late, my right arm to be there.

One day !!!!

Tony

You've got the Alps....

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You've got the Alps....

Very true they are a great tourist trap - more ways than one as there are quite a few overseas climbers who never return or appear years later in the glaciers - after looking at them almost everyday one tends to take them for granted. I doubt if I could feel that way about all the different old battlefields - cemeteries in France etc

Tony

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I did the Serre trip early September - my great uncle lies at Sucrerie. I was a little apprehensive about doing it myself, but glad I did. If you decide first of all where you want to go you can work out a schedule. I found Google earth was very helpful as you can get to street level and actually 'drive' the roads you want to go down! I found that handy on more than one occasion as I recognised landmarks on the way.

Sat Nav is VERY handy. And reminds you to drive on the right!!!

It's quite easy to drive past Sucrerie so look for the large farm opposite, the small track down to it is before you reach the farm if travelling from Mailly. The small rugged track leading to the cemetery is a bit rough, if your vehicle has a low sump be careful when you return to the road the edge of the road is like a step! And despite what the maps appear to suggest the 'road' that runs alongside the cemetery is not a through road to Colincamps.

We stayed at Chavasse Farm at Hardcourt aux bois about 20 mile from Sucrerie - excellent self catering accomm and close to Suzanne (a village not a person) where you can picnic along side a beautiful part of the Somme river. Auchionvillers pays host to Avril Williams' well established B&B I didn't go there but it has many fans in this forum.

Look out for the book Serre: Somme (Battleground Europe) by Jack Horsfall and Nigel Cave a really good paperback which you can get on Amazon for about £8.50 - assuming the postman will deliver it! (Nigel Cave is a member of this forum).

One further point about the Serre battlefield, go early or late in the year because they grow a lot of maize which grows to 6 - 8ft tall, we went early September and they were still harvesting it, fortunatley most of the fields were cleared but I would have felt a little cheated if I got there and could only see maize! - not very A-maizing :lol:

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You could allow yourself a couple of days to explore just a couple of miles around the Sucrerie.

You are of course within just a few minutes of Newfoundland Memorial Park, the Ulster Tower (and one of teddy's tours of the wood) and Thiepval.

However, when you come out of the Sucrerie (and mind that step up to the raod!) turn left and down the hill. Stop off at Serre Road 2 and re-read the story of Mr. Leech, the Braithwaite memorial next to it, and then down to the French chapel (open just twice a year) over to the British-created French cemetery over the road, and park in front of Serre Road 1.

Walk in the direction you were driving and up the track to the left towards the Sheffield Memorial Park. Stop at the first cemetery your reach on the left, turn with your back to it, and you are looking at where Matthew Copse was, and the ground over which the Bradford Pals attacked. Many of them are just behind you.

Continue along the track to the Sheffield Park, going in through the gate and turning left. If you stand in the ditch at the front, you are in the jump-off trench of the Accrington pals, whose memorial wall is to your right. In front of you is a cemetery showing where many of them got to. Behind you, through the shell holes, is Railway Hollow Cemetery. You can follow the line of the railway, and also have a read of the inscription on Goodlad's headstone.

As you come out of Sheffield Park, if you go left, you can get to Luke Copse Cemetery, along the back wall of which are two twins, buried four graves apart, with consecutive numbers, and killed on the same day. I often stand there and try to imagine the telegram boy at their home.

Retrace your steps back to the car, turn round, and take the first road on the left and then go along Redan Ridge ridge, with more small cemeteries, all of which are well worth a visit.

Within just a couple of miles, you could spend a whole day.

Enjoy!

Bruce

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You could allow yourself a couple of days to explore just a couple of miles around the Sucrerie.

You are of course within just a few minutes of Newfoundland Memorial Park, the Ulster Tower (and one of teddy's tours of the wood) and Thiepval.

However, when you come out of the Sucrerie (and mind that step up to the raod!) turn left and down the hill. Stop off at Serre Road 2 and re-read the story of Mr. Leech, the Braithwaite memorial next to it, and then down to the French chapel (open just twice a year) over to the British-created French cemetery over the road, and park in front of Serre Road 1.

Walk in the direction you were driving and up the track to the left towards the Sheffield Memorial Park. Stop at the first cemetery your reach on the left, turn with your back to it, and you are looking at where Matthew Copse was, and the ground over which the Bradford Pals attacked. Many of them are just behind you.

Continue along the track to the Sheffield Park, going in through the gate and turning left. If you stand in the ditch at the front, you are in the jump-off trench of the Accrington pals, whose memorial wall is to your right. In front of you is a cemetery showing where many of them got to. Behind you, through the shell holes, is Railway Hollow Cemetery. You can follow the line of the railway, and also have a read of the inscription on Goodlad's headstone.

As you come out of Sheffield Park, if you go left, you can get to Luke Copse Cemetery, along the back wall of which are two twins, buried four graves apart, with consecutive numbers, and killed on the same day. I often stand there and try to imagine the telegram boy at their home.

Retrace your steps back to the car, turn round, and take the first road on the left and then go along Redan Ridge ridge, with more small cemeteries, all of which are well worth a visit.

Within just a couple of miles, you could spend a whole day.

Enjoy!

Bruce

Amen to that Brother, I can sit in Munich Trench Cemetery with a book and not be bothered by a soul all day.

Bliss.

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Can I do a little thread hijack directly related to the title.

I have done quite a number of personal visits on foot and car when I lived in the UK and I have also brought some groups over from the US - where we have a used large coach. I have become increasingly frustrated with these trips (the last straw came when the bus driver refused to let us stay a few minutes extra so my students could experience the Menin Gate ceremony.) So I am looking to reduce the size of the groups I bring and drive a transit type van with perhaps 8-10 people for added flexibility and the ability to make more specialised excursions. Does anyone have any suggestions regarding hiring these in France (chances are we will be flying into Paris) or Belgium. I have used several of the big car hire people in the past for cars but browsing their websites I don't see minivans anywhere. The largest vehicle seem to be people transporters which seat a maximum of 6. Any suggestions appreciated.

Chris

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