Fools Tour - Bruges/ Ypres Trip
(Heritage Articles reflect the experience we have in planning and execution of International events)
(We used a Minibus and an MPV, but would use three MPV next time)
Accommodation – Merkenvelde Scout Centre, Loppem/ Zedelgem about 7km from Bruges.
Contact: Frank Strynk
Departed Huddersfield 1:30:am, arrived Merkenvelde roughly 11:00am.
Chill out at Merkenvelde Saturday afternoon, Leaders go to local Delhaize/ Aldi for food for evening meal and breakfast.
Saturday evening, drive into Bruges and park outside the ring road and walk into t’Zand. About ½ mile. Walk down Zuidzandstraat to Market Square and the Belfry. Split party into smaller Groups, each has a map and contact number and set them off to explore.
Meet up about 10:00pm and return via Nordzanstraat, to Merkenvelde for supper.
Sunday – walk into Loppem to visit Loppem Castle – whole village was rebuilt after WW1. Route takes in road past a pair of German concrete bunkers that have survives almost 100 years!
Monday – Visit to Waldraversijde and the Atlantic Wall. Three museums in one. The first is an archaeological side and some rebuilt houses. The second is an intact section of Rommel’s Atlantic wall. Parts were used for the Film D-Day, and also Band of Brothers/ Saving Private Ryan etc..
Short visit to beach at Blankenburg ( other side of the Atlantic Wall!)
Tuesday – Hired bikes (about 10Euro per day) cycled to Sluis in Holland. Lunch from street stalls.
Wednesday – Bruges – Belfry, Chip museum, chocolate museum, boat trip, there is also a brewery trip and a beer museum, diamond museum and much, much more. (As before split into smaller Groups and given the freedom to roam.
Thursday – Uniform Day. Travel down to Passchendale and Tyn Cot Cemetery. Advise stern warning about behaviour if they are in high spirits. Scouts Own at the central memorial.
Travel to Ypres – picnic in the market square – where troops assembled before walking out the Menin Road to the front. Visit In Flanders Field Museum.
Visit the Menin Gate, chill out for an hour or so. Meal at Poppy Restaurant, then up to the Menin Gate for the Last Post Ceremony. Arrive early. We had sponsored a wreath and actually took part in the wreath laying ceremony.
Friday – Shopping Day in Bruges – chance to pick up presents, visit places they missed, and have picnic lunch. We then walked out Langstraat to the canal and walked around the windmills and back into town. We had an evening meal at the Golden Basket (Pannier d’Or) where they all managed to sample something of the local cuisine.
Saturday – clear up, clean up and head back for home.
There is a bus service that terminates at the entrance to Merkenvelde and group tickets make the travel really cheap. Any unused element of the Group ticket can be carried over to the next trip.
There are plenty of cafes in the central market place where you can arrange to have a meeting point, or simply meet below the Belfry.
Saturday morning there is a large market on the t’Zand. If you have time it is worth a visit.
Watch for festivals. Most years Bruges has some sort of festival at the beginning of August – Klinkers Music Festival sees a large stage in the Burgplatz where it is quite safe for sensible kids to be allowed to stay out till as late as you are prepared to let them. There are also other events worth taking in.
Book ahead when you can. The quoted prices for entry are often much cheaper when you book as a Scout Group or educational Group. However, we priced based on the rate card entry fee so that we were never short.
Tyn Cot – The position at Tyn Cot was swapped between the British and The Germans. At the bottom of the cemetery, either side of the entrance are two areas of plain grass. To the right are a series of headstones , most of which read, To the Memory of X , who is believed to be buried in this cemetery. Two of our Scouts found their great uncle’s marker with just such an inscription. The bare lawned areas are, as far as I am led to believe, positions of mass burials by the Germans.
Large Groups at In Flanders Fields do need to book in advance or you will cause a great deal of confusion. In and around Ypres you will be spoiled for choice for cemeteries and places to visit. If you can, take in one of the smaller ones too to give a contrast.
Sluis is in Holland and the Napoleonic supply canal runs between Bruges through Damme and on to Sluis. It is an easy cycle, even in horizontal rain! Warning, it is in Holland and you cannot avoid the rather large “adult shop”.