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Croonaert Wood - Access


kerry
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I visited the Croonaert Wood/Bayernwald cleaned up site. Looking through the fence I saw that it was nothing like the natural state trenches that were there when I last entered the site in March 1997. I note also that the old house is now a pile of rubble, having clearly and obviously been demolished and left.

I am sure that many, many folk have worked hard at revamping this site and I applaud them for their hard work and for the local/regional funding they secured to provide the wooden shelter and entrance area.

However, this new site excludes a good two thirds of the original trenches, which appear, at first glance, as to be clean, sanitized versions, similar to that at Yorkshire trench, their cleanliness being so far removed from the original it is hard to imagine what they must really have been like.

I was also disappointed that once having arrived, you then have to travel somewhere else to get the key, then journey back again. Not being familiar with the area I had no idea how long it would take to go to Heuvelland to get the keys, from whom, or even if the place to get the keys, would be open.

All in all this puts me in a quandary as to where to take my Army Cadets. I refuse on principle to go to Sanctuary Wood owing to the cosmetics that have taken place there and which we have previosly discussed in these pages, and because of the unacceptably high prices for everything, including entrance. For example, 3 postcards there cost me 5 Euros, whereas 3 bought in Ypres cost 1 Euro 50 cents. Enogh said.

The new 'dugout' within the Chateau at Zonnebeke is well constructed but lacks the realism impact because one is conscious all the way around it that actually you are still in a rebuilt chateau.

Apart from the rather clean show trench at Yorkshire Trench, is there any other place on the Salient where the uninitiated can get a grasp of external trench systems that are not overly sanitized and all vegetation cleared?

Kerry

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Kerry:

You're going to get a lot of responses about the Salient; however, if you want to take them someplace to show them as near to untouched as you can...take them to Verdun or the Argonne. Some of the only places you'll find that are truly evocative of what it must have been like.

Do a search on Verdun on the forum for more location details.

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Unfortunately the Vosges and the Meuse-Argonne are rather a long way to go for a short battlefields tour with army cadets! I think you've identified all the Salient runners and riders. Remember the difficulty with say Yorkshire Trench is having restored or reconstructed a system, how to maintain it in an authentic manner with limited resources. Compromises have to be made. YT is the best you're going to get, certainly better than the concrete sandbags at Vimy Ridge. Bremen Redoubt was fantastically atmospheric but rather dangerous and has now collapsed of course! I haven't been to the Somme for a few years but there are now a couple of reconstructed trench systems there, I believe. Don't know how atmospheric they are.

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I visited the Croonaert Wood/Bayernwald cleaned up site.  Looking through the fence I saw that it was nothing like the natural state trenches that were there when I last entered the site in March 1997.  I note also that the old house is now a pile of rubble, having clearly and obviously been demolished and left.

I am sure that many, many folk have worked hard at revamping this site and I applaud them for their hard work and for the local/regional funding they secured to provide the wooden shelter and entrance area.

However, this new site excludes a good two thirds of the original trenches, which appear, at first glance, as to be clean, sanitized versions, similar to that at Yorkshire trench, their cleanliness being so far removed from the original it is hard to imagine what they must really have been like.

I was also disappointed that once having arrived, you then have to travel somewhere else to get the key, then journey back again.  Not being familiar with the area I had no idea how long it would take to go to Heuvelland to get the keys, from whom, or even if the place to get the keys, would be open.

Hi Kerry,

i agree and disagree with you:

- The trenches NOW at bayernwald are the real original restored trenches. The old ones you were talking about were only a little bit original. So now it is 90% archeological correct, you were wrong to think it was more original in 1997...

- You're right on the key thing. But now it is a hang locker (is that correct) with a nummeral code. Much easier!

- you should see it now, there is already some vegetations, if you like that.

But as conclusion: how can we ever show folks what a trench was?

there were so many differences (1914 in comparing 1917 or 1918)...

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Guest Bert Hoornaert

Kerry,

In 1997 most of the trenches you could see were dug by 'Meester' Becquaert, so they were not historically correct. 'Meester' Becquaert had a museum wit lots of WWI relics in the now demolished villa. The two shelters, made of concrete stones, were placed there by 'Meester' Becquaert. So what you could see in 1997 was not at all "original". Now the site is mostly restored in it's original shape. And when the vegetation will have grown back, you will be able to feel the same atmosphere again.

I don't know what you mean by "how long it would take to go to Heuvelland to get the keys" for sure, because you were in Heuvelland all the time. Croonaert Wood/Bayernwald is situated in Wijtschate, witch is one of the eight villages of the community of Heuvelland. So I suppose you had to go to Kemmel, to the VVV-center (the tourists office). I don't know this for sure because I have not had the time yet to go visit the site since it has been restored.

You are certainly right about one thing: €5 is way too much for three postcards.

Bert

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I know it doesn't help with trenches nearer home, but if you take a look at the threads started in the wake of the Pals battlefield trip to verdun you will see some pictures and comments relating to trenches survivng there. It was unbelievable to be able to follow the lines on the ground from contemporary maps in places such as the front line near Bois de Caures and see the trench lines, increasing collapsed with time, but otherwise unchanged since they were dug.

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I know it doesn't help with trenches nearer home, but if you take a look at the threads started in the wake of the Pals battlefield trip to verdun you will see some pictures and comments relating to trenches survivng there. It was unbelievable to be able to follow the lines on the ground from contemporary maps in places such as the front line near Bois de Caures and see the trench lines, increasing collapsed with time, but otherwise unchanged since they were dug.

Have to give resounding backing to Martin's comments................even if one of the 'trench photo's' shows a certain Mr O'Brien :ph34r:

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Hi,

As a regular visitor to Croonaert Wood, can I just explain that there is a code lock on the gate, this is to enable Zonnebeke to be able monitor the number of visitors and nationalities, they request people to phone a contact number them for the lock code. There is a sign on the fence that does explain this in English also, well there was the last time I looked!

The trenches that were originally there were not the real ones and were not running along in the same place as they were in the war. The trenches that are there now are placed in exactly the same place as they were during the war, the A-frames are in exactly the same place as they were during the war and the trenches have been constructed in the same way as the Germans had constructed them. So an extremely hard effort has been made to replicate them.

Maybe, the next time you are on the Salient you should go and see Cryer's Farm, which can also be organised through the Zonnebeke Museum.

I am sure also that if you contact Franky Bostyn, Conservator/Curator at the Memorial Museum Passchendaele 1917 he will also fill you in on a lot of information about Croonaert Wood.

Genevra.

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If you can add more time to your trip, or are prepared to drive further for the same time, I can show you more places in the Argonne, Verdun and St. Mihiel Salient than you could take in. Those are the places to see trench systems today.

Christina

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Hello,

Cryer Farm is a bunker in Geluveld that was discovered while I was writing my book about the village. It is on private property and can only be visited after contacting the tourist office in Zonnebeke.

Jan

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Hello,

can someone explain to me how this lock on croonaert works? I do have to phone a number, but the problem is I dont own a mobile phone; next thursday I want to visit Ypres, more special the surroundings of Mesen; is there no other possibility to obtain the code? Via e mail or something?

thanks,

pascal bastiaens

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Call +32 57 450455 to get the code.

You also can call to Zonnebeke: tel +32 (0)51 77 04 41, fax +32 (0)51 78 07 50

The lock is like the hang lock for a bicycle, a 4 digit code...

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Hello,

You can also visit the tourist office of Heuvelland in Kemmel and get the code there if you are in that area.

Jan

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The two shelters, made of concrete stones, were placed there by 'Meester' Becquaert. So what you could see in 1997 was not at all "original".

Whatever Andre did with the trenches, he did not construct the unterstands, this work is way outside his capacity. If you examine them you will see that they are engineered and reinforced blockwork, with a solid in-situ roof....made with teutonic methods....here is a copy of the design which was used in this sector. Peter.

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Oops, sorry forgot to add the drawing.

PS the blocks were made in Wervik and transported on light railway, you will see them around the salient but used in different construction designs. Andre didn't construct them either!

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What was meant earlier in the thread was that the two small concrete bunkers (in poured concrete) at the entrance were not there originally. The concrete bunkers in the wood made out of bricks were of course original and are still there...

Jan

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AOK4,

thanks for the tip of visiting Heuvelland office; but someone send me a personal message with the phonenumber, and I am going to call on wednesday for the locknumber.

pascal bastiaens

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What was meant earlier in the thread was that the two small concrete bunkers (in poured concrete) at the entrance were not there originally. The concrete bunkers in the wood made out of bricks were of course original and are still there...

Jan

The 2 concrete bunker you are talking about AOK4 are now at the Chateua park entrance at Zonnebeke, as promotion for the museum there.

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What was meant earlier in the thread was that the two small concrete bunkers (in poured concrete) at the entrance were not there originally. The concrete bunkers in the wood made out of bricks were of course original and are still there...

I certainly agree that the two "OP"s which stood on the edge of the wood for some time are not original, obviously dragged in from somewhere....Andre and his lads must have sweated a bit moving those! Much easier nowadays with a Poclain or JCB! Peter.

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The small lookout "bunkers" were brought from KNOKKE. I remember Borry, the potato merchant from Wieltje bringing them over with a lorry. However can't remember the year this happened.I'ts quite awhile back.

Lawry

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Guest Bert Hoornaert

Mebu, I was wrong indeed, I mixed some things up. I really have to reread my books and vistit the site when my exams are done.

Bert

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I know that the Meuse is a long way from the Salient, but, just to pick up some of the earlier comments in this thread, I have recently returned from a visit to that region, and, on the advice of Christina Holstein, visited the south side of the St Mihiel Salient where recent work has been going on the make accessible French and German trenches, near St Mihiel.

I have to say the visit was amazing. There seems to be miles of French and German trenches running through the woods. The German ones are especially well preserved given that in many areas they used concrete to strengthn the front lines. In between the old trenches, there is still in places belts of barbed wire; even seen sitting on supports and "chevals de Frise" here and there.

It is a long way to go from the Channel Ports, but if you want an idea of what an original WWI system looked like, it is highly recomended.

Ian

PS - With a bit more time, the Vosges can also be reached. We made the Linge and Hartmannswillerskopf which were both quite amazing again. And the views!!!!

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