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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Beaumont Hamel Cemetery/Sunken Lane area


Mark Hone

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I normally like to recce anywhere I haven't visited in the past before my October school tours to ensure coach access is OK, but I'm not going to get the chance here. We'll be going from the Ocean Villas tea rooms up to Beaumont Hamel Cemetery and the 'sunken lane' area (and hopefully the Hawthorn Ridge crater). What is the best place to park a normal size (49 seater) coach? What is access like up to the crater? Our destination after this will be the Ulster Tower so I don't think I'll need to turn the coach round.

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No problem to pull off the Auchonvillers-BH road at that point, but if your driver has any doubt, he can always wait for you in the village itself - five minute walk.

Jack

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We normally pull up on the road, debus at the start of the track and walk them down. If the coach needs to turn round it can do so in the village, and wait there as Jack mentions if need be. You can also walk up to one side of the crater from the New Beaumont Road.

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Thanks. For some reason on several visits to the Somme over the years I've never visited this immediate area. Is the track up to the crater clearly signposted?

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It is signposted but it is a bit of a climb, in the wet and if you have any infirm people with you be very wary.

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Thanks. No infirm people as the lads tend to be cadet/sporting/World Challenge types. I'll make a judgement based on weather/terrain conditions on the day.

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Hi Mark,

Care should be taken on the way down from the crater at the point where it dips as approach the road. In wet weather it can be very slippery and unforgiving to both young and old. I had a nasty fall there on a very wet November day which would have been very funny to watch but less amusing to experience.

Peter

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An alternative is to walk down from Auchonvillers (highlighted purple on my picture) - it wouldn't take too long, maybe 20/25 minutes, it's a very clear pathway and your pupils will then get to see across the battle ground where fighting took place towards Hawthorn Crater.

They can then cross the road and go up the Sunken Lane and look back to Hawthorn, then cross to Hawthorn itself (weather/path allowing) before going back to the road and walking back up the lane, or being picked up by the bus.

beaumonthamelroad.png

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I was more fortunate when I was there first week in May, dry sunny conditions. Path up to the mine is rough in places but not muddy on the day!

Attached photo taken on the day: A view from the Hawthorn Mine ridge -

A coach is parked on the road (D163), opposite the Sunken Lane entrance.

The lane runs from the coach lower left diagonally up to the skyline far right, passing the Argyll & Sutherland Memorial at the entrance to the sunken section. Beaumont Hamel British Cemetery can be seen centre right.

The path up to the mine is just off the photo lower right a few yards past the hawthorn bush in flower lower right, which marks the line of the road to Beaumont Hamel. To be honest there is not much to be seen at the mine it is overgrown with trees and bushes, but the view back is worth the climb.

post-7031-0-23113700-1313876705.jpg

Terry

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Mark,

No real problems parking the coach, but just tell the youngsters to beware of the barbed wire on the left hand side as they are climbing the steps up to the crater, if it's wet it can be a bit tricky.

Have a good trip..!!

Rob.

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Hi Mark,

I have done the Sunken Lane numerous times now with school parties. As others have said no problems with the bus parking and or turning there. For what it is worth I have never taken a school party up to the crater although I have been there on a number of occasions myself. MY reasons are that the pupils would have to walk along a roadside with no pavement for about two hundred yards, the return path up to the crater is steepish and slippy when wet and the crater itself is steep sided. Those who are not teachers will no doubt be saying 'so what'? Those of us who have to live with risk assessments and the blame culture in schools will know exactly what I am talking about. Hope you have a lovely trip. I myself will be at the Sunken Lane with 32 kids on the 2nd September.

Len

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The driver should be able to reverse into the entrance without to much effort. Take a look at google earth street level it comes up very well. It's a shame there is no footpath beside the road from B.Hamel.That's the direction that i came from to the sunken lane and i was suprised at how close the village is.

Changing tack and not wishing to teach people how to suck eggs but i did something at the sunken lane this year that got a reaction and it may work for you as well. It was the 1st visit for me this year and i took a couple of pictures with me of the soldiers in the sunken lane. My daughter and her partner were spellbound once they had examined the pics,trying to workout where certain soldiers were in the pics. It transformed what is a rural country lane into a historical moment.

We walked back down nearer to the road and looking towards the Hawthorn crater on the horizon i asked them to look at the trees and asked them what they would have seen at 7.20 on the 1/7/17. I then produced a pic of the mine explosion superimposed on to the tree skyline (it's on GWF forum somewhere) and holding the pic at arms length and 'looking thru it' you get a good idea of the size of the explosion.The reactions of the pair of them looking at the view were "oh my god" and "bloody hell".

We visited a lot places in France and Belgium on our four day trip. Some we'd been to before and other like the sunken lane were 1st time visits. Both daughter and partner say that the sunken lane was the highlight of this trip because of the photo's.

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The driver should be able to reverse into the entrance without to much effort.

I would offer the opinion that this is not good practice. The track to the lane is not suitable for a coach, and a 12/15+ ton vehicle will damage it. We should also think about the locals and a coach sitting there will block the approach, as well as the view. Much better to park on the road as seen in the photo above or get the coach to wait in Beaumont-Hamel.

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Thanks for all the advice. I am indeed planning to use moving images and stills from 'The Battle of the Somme' in my presentation and will attempt some 'Then and Now' comparison pictures as on previous tours. We shall be there on the afternoon of 22nd October. Unless I ahve plenty of time and favourable weather conditions I don't think I'll bother taking them up to the crater itself. We're visiting Lochnagar (and the Glory Hole) the following day.

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