Nutz - Ardennes Trip
(Heritage Articles reflect the experience we have in planning and execution of International events)
We picked a large Gite because finding Scout accommodation was difficult, we tried the Regional Commissioner but despite a letter in their newsletter we got no response at all.
Use Gites d’Ardennes to find a suitable place to stay. We were at Tenneville about 16km from Bastogne. And about the same from La Roche.
Departed Huddersfield at 11:30pm on Thursday, drove through the night, crossed by ferry so that we had a short break, and then down to Dinant, where we stopped for lunch on Friday. Then on to Tenneville. Whilst we settled in three Leaders went off to get food for Saturday and Sunday.
Sunday, we intended going to Le Barrage du Nisramont, but the Sat Nav got screwed by all the local roads not on the map (the same problem that the Allies had in 1944). So we ended up chilling in La Roche.
Monday – Euro Space Centre, Well worth a visit. It gets off to a slow start but gets very interesting as you go through the centre. Then on to the Grottes du Hotton an amazing guided tour through one of Belgium’s deepest and longest cave systems. Visit to Hotton War Cemetery. Look for headstones of complete bomber crews side by side.
Tuesday – Kayak Bleu Lesse. Hired Mountain Bikes and got a guided tour that ended at the start of the descent of the Lesse. Cycle ride is hard work, especially if you are not overly fit. Most of the kids struggled at some points. The kayaking is sheer madness. Forget any idea of a controlled descent. There were roughly 5000 boats on the water during our descent! But an excellent day out. Finished with a visit to the Citadelle at Dinant.
Wednesday – Luxembourg. Drive down to Luxembourg and use the Park and Ride. Market in the square, and a visit to the defences, a walk around the city walls, and just generally mooching about and seeing what Luxembourg is like. Worth a second visit actually.
Thursday – Bastogne, and a visit to La Mardasson, Le Chouffe Brewery ( I think you can find a better tour), and then a couple of hours at the Game park at La Roche en Ardennes. Shopping in La Roche.
Friday - Pack up and head north. Visit to Waterloo and Le Butte du Lion etc.. Arrive in Bruges about 4.30pm, and stay at the Youth Hostel just south of the Ring Road (22 Euro per night). Walk into Bruges and give groups the freedom of the town, arrange to meet at 6:30pm for a meal at Pannier d’Or. And then freedom to roam and visit Klinkers Music Festival.
Curfew at 11:00pm and then back to the Hostel.
Saturday drive home.
The Mountain biking is essentially on roads and tracks, not actually needing any authorisation. The kayaking ... if you have a kayak instructor with you, no real worries, but 5000 Belgians jump in these boats every day in the summer and float down this lazy river without so much as a minute’s training!
The Grottes du Hotton are cold.
La Mardasson is more of a tourist attraction than a cemetery, although there is an ossary below the monument. We asked our people to show respect and keep quiet but many others, even Americans were noisy and larking around.
There are loads of tanks around the Ardennes. Mostly British and American but there are some German examples too. Again, lots of people play on them but it is worth recalling that in almost every case the occupants did not survive. The Sherman on the corner of McAuliffe Square in Bastogne has two 88mm shell holes in it. It’s demise is actually shown in the movie “The Battle of the Bulge) The first shell pierced the rear armour of the engine compartment and killed the engine ( you can actually see the damage), the second punched a hole in the side of the body killing all five crew. Worth explaining to your Scouts/ Explorers before they start playing machine gunners with the 50 calibre mounted on the turret.
As you drive around the countryside on “B” roads you may see brown signs at the side of the road. They sometimes read “Site du Massacre par Les Allemands”