Like many, I love being out on my bike. Sitting in my office is often a chore and, as any cyclist will verify, it can be hard work focussing on the PC with good weather outside.
So, with this in mind, this winter has seen me working out a way to combine my love of cycling whilst sharing my knowledge of the First World War. The combination of these two factors sees the launch of ‘Cycling the Battlefields’. If you have a read of the page about me you’ll see I know my way around the First World War battlefields of France and Flanders. This experience includes years of guiding clients plus historical consultancy for the BBC, Channel 4 and Wall to Wall Media (for Who Do You Think You Are?) as well as working on books in association with the IWM.
I may be biased but can think of no finer place to cycle than the battlefields. They may lack the lung-bursting climbs of the Alps, Pyrenees or Vosges but the gently rolling landscape is perfect for the casual cyclist as well of those with more experience. The battlefields don’t lend themselves to being explored quickly. These sites are sacred; men lived, fought and died in their fields and villages and the experience of travelling through them should be savoured, not rushed. This is where the bike lends itself so perfectly to battlefield touring.
Please have a good look around the website. To start with I have included location pages for the Ypres Salient, the Somme, Arras and the less explored 1918 battlefields. In time further pages for areas of French Flanders and Loos will be added. Included in these location pages are example routes which tend to be around 60 km long. To help you choose where you want to visit, each battlefield is graded for difficulty. N.B. For any regular cyclist reading this, none are difficult.
I asked a few clients that I have cycled with over the last couple of years to write testimonials. These are included in full on a dedicated Testimonials page. From these you should get a good idea of what those who have joined me feel about the experience.
So, whether you are a lone cyclist or have a group of friends who fancy doing something different for a weekend then please get in touch and join me in ‘Cycling the Battlefields’. I look forward to showing you the old front line by bike.
Jeremy Banning, Bristol