Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Walking the Somme - best period?


 Share

Recommended Posts

Could anyone advice what the best period(s) is/are to go fieldwalking the Somme in general?

 

What would have been my first focused trip last year was, unsurprisingly, cancelled due to the pandemic but with reported cases dropping and the vaccinations steaming on I'm hoping soon it might be possible to visit for a weekend this year. However, I would like to avoid full or sewn-in fields to avoid any chance of damage and also have an unobstructed view of the area around.

 

Anyone know when, in general, the fields are empty? Sorry but I lived my whole life in the city :)))

 

Apologies if this has come up before, a search on the forum didn't yield anything for me but I might have been looking in the wrong way.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've tended to go between January and March. You get a good idea of the place then and it's quiet and the fields are bare.

You can see the chalk outlines from shell holes and rough trench lines in the fields.

Downsides are the weather is colder and it's dark much earlier so your exploring day is shorter.

Also places such as Vimy with tours etc aren't open for guided tours of the tunnels etc. You also probably wont get into Thiepval Wood as it's locked up in winter early Spring.

 

 

If you go later in the year say from May on everything is open, poppies etc are starting to apear and there will be more of a buzz with more people, more restaurants and pubs open. But there are crops in the Fields so you won't be exploring as much off the beaten track.

 

There's not really a bad time to visit in my opinion and if you visit in Spring one year then maybe come back the following one in later Summer! It's a different experience but one isn't better than the other.

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a February field vs a June one!

1917741733_01ww1IMG_1540.jpg.691bddd42de88dd13c345c6c51a39928.jpg1691954690_2018-07-2411_20_04.jpg.7224e633c09ee7d43fae4bd0fcbc479e.jpg

 

Edited by JasonMc
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is an April field, you might spot the chalk outlines in the far field where it's been brought up and mixed with the top soil.

Photo 03-04-2019, 08 53 40.jpg

Link to comment
Share on other sites

October not a bad  time to go, Ive posted this one before. Teddy at Ulster Tower you can see the trench layout in the distance818053625_teddyandtrenches.JPG.6c00264cfb27a37351752ec364c3fd82.JPG

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Posted (edited)

Thank you for your reactions!

 

At this moment I'm leaning towards late summer-early autumn then, August - October as the weather will still be decent. When I visited the area for a few hours on my way to Normandy in late June last year some of the fields were bare and others full of crop (mostly corn, it seems). Is there a fixed period for ploughing? From the photos it seems around April?

 

For local reference I was thinking of using the NLS website on a tablet, and pre-selected areas of interest. I find the option to slide the trench maps over satellite images enormously helpful.

Edited by EarlyMB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Subject to the weather, August sees a lot of crop harvesting.... meaning the harvested fields are left with stubble, giving you a good open view of the countryside. Also the field paths/tracks will be dry. 

Seeing as you're located in NL, you can choose a weekend when the weather forecast looks good. I've often driven to the Somme from southern NL (Middelburg). It takes me about 3 hours.

Hoping to go in August myself, but waiting for clarification on Covid testing requirements for UK travellers.

NLS is a good and useful website. Personally I invested in LINESMAN software which I downloaded onto a tablet. It gives you the many, many WW1 trenchmaps on the tablet AND displays your exact current location (superimposed on the trenchmap) via GPS.....so you can see exactly where you are in relation to the German and British lines.  This really adds extra enjoyment to my battlefield walking/cycling experience. Perhaps as this is your first walking trip, you might delay this investment (available through Great War Digital) until you know you'll be returning on a regular basis. It also works in Belgium. Excellent product.

Anyway, enjoy your walking!

David

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thing that is better in the early part of the year is the ploughed fields have weathered over winter and are rain washed, in some areas where water flows the shrapnel balls, appear like gold in a sluice riffle.    

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for suggestion of the software, it will be my first time so I'll start with the NLS website but I'll have a look at it anyways. It is indeed only a few hrs drive so easy to do in a long weekend.

Plowed fields automatically means no (high) crops so that would be ideal and do increase the chance of finding some (harmless) battle debris, which would be an absolute bonus as I never found anything myself. I'm not sure when they plow though, but I guess right after the winter indeed, and probably around October?

At the moment everything depends on the constantly changing COVID rules...

Edited by EarlyMB
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 23/06/2021 at 14:42, JasonMc said:

There's not really a bad time to visit in my opinion and if you visit in Spring one year then maybe come back the following one in later Summer! It's a different experience but one isn't better than the other.

 

At the moment I can't be that picky about time, thanks to COVID :))) But life goes on, and so does the planting, harvesting and plowing. I guess for now I could see how the situation is around September; I have vacation the next 2 weeks but I don't think things will have calmed down by then.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, EarlyMB said:

Thanks for suggestion of the software, it will be my first time so I'll start with the NLS website but I'll have a look at it anyways. It is indeed only a few hrs drive so easy to do in a long weekend.

Plowed fields automatically means no (high) crops so that would be ideal and do increase the chance of finding some (harmless) battle debris, which would be an absolute bonus as I never found anything myself. I'm not sure when they plow though, but I guess right after the winter indeed, and probably around October?

At the moment everything depends on the constantly changing COVID rules...

Ploughing is going to be done right before, or just after, the coldest months (and frost). So depending on the crop, and the farmer, ploughing will be done probably in late October or maybe in February. Then before sowing the new crop they will cultivate the soil which is like a light plough again and this will probably be from March onwards. Crop are then planted from here on throughout the spring. Early crops like first potatoes will be planted first and those fields ploughed again in the summer. But for more consistent time to find the most ploughed fields with no crops in them is going to be Feb/March. You will find plenty of bare fields by late Sept/Oct of course but as mentioned by 303man that a winter of rain can really clean up a ploughed field. There isn't a bad time to go though so as soon as you can make the trip you will enjoy it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...