The 1917 Mining Battle of Messines Ridge on June 7th was a hell of a shock even registrated far oversea. While cycling your guide tells you how local folks as well as common soldiers eye-witnessed this unforgettable chain of explosions, that even set the sky on fire.
“This may not change history of war, but certainly it will change a landscape’s history!”
This quote of a British commander, the evening before can never been checked out better than on a bicycle. Lone Tree Crater, “beneath’ Hill 60… Names of war zones that once sounded like hell itself. But mostly a story of human tragedies.
Part 1: 9 KM Location: Croonaert Cemetery & Bayern Wald
Famous German war site (tickets to be bought in Tourist Office before leaving), incl. trenches and underground constructions.
Part 2: 11 KM Location: Dietrich Schacht
How Germans tried to discover the British undermining tunnels can be witnessed here at the edge of the woods.
Part 3: 13 KM Location: Pool of Peace & Lone Tree
Here one of the dynamite loads did NOT explode on the ‘right’ moment. With tragical consequences for the mostly Irish soldiers who were storming up that hill where once stood the Spanbroek Mill. Lone Tree Cemetery is a silent witness of that dramatic chapter in June 1917.
Part 4: + 12 à 15 KM Location: Expandable version via Kemmelberg
Interesting extention for well trained people: the Kemmelberg, highest point of Flanders, also part of the 4th Battle of Ypres (1918). A sporting challenge with still a lot of history, including some of the Cold War in the sixties (underground complex, only to be visited after reservation). And for those who like the good life: here you find a real vinyard with some great wines to taste (Monteberg)!
Part 5: 16 KM Location: Eat- & drinkstop in Wulvergem (A la Basse Ville)
Café “couleur local” with good foods & drinks in a pittoreque village.
Part 6: 20 KM Location: Plougstreet Memorial
Every 1st Friday of the Month here also a Last Post Ceremony is blown. About 10.000 names of soldiers without a known grave are inscripted on the Memorial. Surrounded by graves of the cemetery. Hyde Park Cemetery on the other side of the main road.
Part 7: 25 KM Location: The last crater that exploded (in the Fifties!)
All at once 19 of 22 undermined locations with 30-35 ton dynamite each, that’s the underground earthquake-like explosion of June ’17. Number 21 only exploded in the fifties after a summer lightning! Nobody got hurt, but what a whole in the ground (see the pictures on this location).
Part 8: 27 KM Location: The Christmas Truce of 1914 (football game)
Around Plougstreet (Ploegsteert) you will face the location & memorial of the Christmas Truce of 1914 as well as the impact of the Old Bill-cartoons made by Bruce Bairnsfaither.
Part 9: 30 KM Location: New Zealand Memorial & the Peace Tower (to the Irish)
Up to Messines where two very powerful Memorial Monuments are planted just next to each other: honouring the New Zealand troups who conquered that hill during the Battle of the Mines. Honouring also the Irish, both catholics and protestants, fighting side by side in the Great War.
Part 10: 38 KM Location: The Bluff
At the Bluff heavy fighting and undermining actions as well took place. Current ‘no man’s land’ will be used to plant about 600.000 clay statues in 2018, symbolic for the same number of people who died during the Great War in Flanders.
Part 11: 40 KM Location: Beneath Hill 60...
Final witness of the Mining Battle: we go up and down ‘Beneath Hill 60’ & have a look on another ‘pool of nowadays peace’: the Caterpillar-crater. Listen to the story of captain Woodward!
In case of the expandable version towards Kemmelberg one can order a lunch package before at the vinyard of the Monteberg. Wine tasting only with groups and when ordered before. Local café-stop in Wulvergem (A la Basse-Ville) or Wijtschate (St.-Hubertus) also recommanded.
- Self-Guided tour available
- Beer tastings
- Wine tastings
- Lunch possible