2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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WINTER NEWSLETTER 2015/16

WINTER NEWSLETTER 2015/16
LOCAL WALKS AND FUNDRAISING FOR CHC
1) Litter-picking walk on 1st January 2016
We will be walking the Lanner section of the Gwennap Pilgrimage on New Year’s Day Morning leaving the Coppice inn around 11am. We will be active along Tresavean and Carn Marth as far as Pennance Consols Mine; and on descent along Pennance Lane as we return to the Coppice where we plan to indulge in some New Year refreshment.
2) Lanner Strollers
Starting from Thursday 10th December at noon and most Sunday Mornings from 10am I will be available as a guide to lead walkers keen to explore and enjoy many of our well-kept foot paths and mineral trails. Starting at the Coppice we will walk a number of circular routes between 3-5 miles. Literature, books and guides relevant to the region, plus a few titles covering my overseas challenge walks will be on sale at the inn. Lunch menu is available throughout the week with carvery served until 3pm on Sunday.
OVERVIEW
The Coppice Inn at Lanner is proving to be a popular meeting place for walkers wishing to follow the old tramways/mineral trails and the Cornwall Pilgrimage Route along the Gwennap Region which is as rich in ancient history as it is in mining traditions.
Working with Lanner Council and the Coppice I hope to achieve a greater interest in local walks; it is a project which will also help build a good social forum within the community as well as a healthier lifestyle. In addition to the Lanner walks will be hosting theme walks for each Bank Holiday Sunday in aid of Cornwall Hospice Care; these will involve walking the Gwennap Section of The Cornish Pilgrimage (10 miles) finishing with entertainment/live music and raffle draw at the Coppice afterwards. Also, I will be walking the complete Cornish Pilgrimage from Morwenstow to St Michael’s Mount during Spring and Summer months stopping at regional checkpoints each day; those who wish to indulge in a day plus of endurance walking can join me at any stage of the walk when we will also be promoting the Pilgrimage and CHC. During the course of the year we hope to hold cheque presentations to the charity with funds raised from our walks. These are usually four-figure sums; so far this year the Cornish Pilgrimage has raised around £500; all being well the next presentation could be after the Easter Gwennap Walk.
Other presentations to be held in the New Year include:
The Oundle Pilgrimage Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall – venue:
The Angel Inn, Oundle, Peterborough
Funds raised for Prostate Cancer and Cancer Research UK
will be presented at The Rose & Crown, Islip and The Angel Inn, Oundle.

OVERSEAS EXPEDITIONS
My walk in South Africa has been cancelled owing to my mother’s failing health. Although I am still walking around Europe any expeditions in the immediate future will be minimised to just one week as it is all I can do to arrange overnight nursing care. Routes normally include: Camino de Santiago Trails, Mountain passes. cycle routes and riverside paths. Passport for proof of passage is required and I keep a video diary and blog, which is later published as a book. One of the pleasures is to take numerous photos of landmarks along the way; some of which I paint/sketch or use as book covers. The average walking day is about 50km (often done for charity), sometimes camping rough if the situation demands it. Any one is welcome to join me as long as they are prepared to obtain their own sponsorship – but be warned these expeditions are not for the faint-hearted!! (my companions in South Africa and UK will vouch for this!!)

NEW BOOK TITLES
Robin Moore’s West Coast Walk of New Zealand
Lanner Walks (volumes 1 to 6)
Hopefully the New Year will start positively with a few local booklets/guides followed by an account of my 2013 expedition on the South Island of New Zealand.

RESOURCES
For further information and videos/books about walking please visit:
Robin Moore on YouTube
Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity On FaceBook
http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
Also check out the new Lanner Website available in the New Year and the Coppice Inn Facebook page.

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AUTUMN NEWSLETTER 2015

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AUTUMN NEWSLETTER 2015
WALKING EUROPE AND FUNDRAISING
Hospice Care
The Cornish Pilgrimage – raising awareness for Cornwall Hospice Care
This event was originally founded as a discovery trail of Cornwall to be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike though I wanted it to be associated with the local charity which I have supported since the Millennium. This year’s pilgrimage took place over August/September and there is a collection jar at the Coppice Lanner for locals to support my walk. I have been building a support network along the way from Morwenstow to Land’s End so we hope for bigger things to come from this in the future. Meanwhile the Coppice wish to give me support in fundraising and we hope to have a Harvest Auction there as part of my fundraising for the charity. For more about Cornwall Hospice Care visit: http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
Walking for Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall
This year The oundle Pilgrimage took place on 9th/10th August and we will be holding a fundraising presentation evening at The Angel Inn, Oundle at the end of the month and will launch the MOVEMBER campaign at the same time. Please support my walk by donating to the Sue Ryder Jars at all the regions inns and local businesses associated with the Oundle Pilgrimage. For more information about the Oundle Pilgrimage visit: oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
Walking For Prostate Cancer
The Angel Inn collect money from my walks and have a jar in the pub please make a donation when you are next there; The Rose and Crown at Islip support all my walks and have Cancer Research and Prostate Cancer jars also. I have put some serious hard work into the last week which was at times life threatening – so please help all of these worthy causes where possible!
Please read about the expedition below:
Walk 2015 – Arnhem to Luxembourgh starting- Tuesday 22nd September 2015

war cemetery at Arnhem
Day 1 Arnhem Nijmegen – 20km
After a sleepless night at the airport I arrive at Eindovhen, catch a bus to the train station and manage to get the two connections I need for Arnhem. Then walking away from the station I find a cenotaph which commerorates that great battle of September 17th 1944 – ‘The Bridge to Freedom’. After recording my visit I cross a bridge to the Arnhem War Centre where I chat to the tour guide who is a fantastic host, making me a coffee and discussing my present journey through war-torn Europe which had been decimated by two horrific World Wars. On leaving the centre I continue across the bridge and follow a cycle route over an 18-km course to Nijmegen. As the route winds its way in and out of the course of the motorway cyclists becomes the main hazard; they fly past in all forms; motorcyclists without helmets. canoe-shaped and plain old-fashioned with baskets. As I encounter the siege of cyclists bad weather too became an issue, After stopping for fruit at a local grocer, I cape up for a heavy bout of rain and make my way towards the city of Nijmegen. Crossing a 2 km bridge the trail overlooks the city railway network and a couple of extensive barges plying the waterway below. Later stopping at a cafe I meet a guy who runs a cleaning business called DE UITBLINKER which specialises in window cleaning. After enquiring about a campsite he offers to put me up thus sparing me the ordeal of pitching a tent on the outskirts of town and later we go into town to clean some windows!

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Day 2 – Nijmegen to Verden – 65km
After a good night’s rest and great hospitality from my kind host who spoke excellent English I am off to a flyer at 7am! The morning is dull and damp but I make the most of a gun barrel straight cycle trail as fas as Gennep. Here I am apprehended by “InterPlod” who are not keen on me walking their highway. It is all very amicable and once they direct me onto a cycle route beyond the nearby embankment we shake hands and I continue to Heijen where I purchase my first coffee of the day. The sun is now shining as I set off on my quest to reach Venlo which lies another 40km from here and yet I have walked already 25km this morning!
Another 10 km encounters the communities of Afferden, Bergen where I purchase a salad and bottle of water for lunch and near Well I have anther coffee around 3pm.
Drifting on through many small communities the day passes by as I cover nearly 60km and as dusk approaches bringing rain I camp in a woodland by the road – 5km short of Venlo.
Day 3 Verden to Heinsberg (Germany) 55km
Amazingly I wake to a dry morning and tent; with all these positive elements to spur me on I make ground to Venlo where I enjoy a good breakfast at Prins Hendrik Cafe; from here I try to locate the Tourist Office for assistance with my route. It is a vibrant town and the main centre is presently undergoing a bit of TLC. Continuing along the cycle route I manage to find my way out of the town and the sign posts now register Roemond which lies 23 km from here. The day passes quickly though for most of it I am under siege from the constant flow of cyclists along this flat open countryside. People are kind and helpful and the sublime architecture of the older places break up the journey and help to relax my mind. My walk to Roemond went quickly having enjoyed Telegen and all the riverside views as and when they appear. Away from the water I reach Pumerholt where I stop for coffee and a rest from the back-breaking pack which has dug its way into my shoulder blades. Leaving after 6pm I encounter a shower and the overcast condition bring about an early dusk. As I march against clock with darkness iminent I find myself approaching Heinsberg and with it comes my first border crossing which sees me on German soil; feeling tired I check into the first hotel I can lay my hands on and call it a day!!

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Day 4 Heinsberg (Germany) to Nr Eupen 53km
It’s a brighter day as I prepare to set off along the B221 for Aachen near the border of Belgium; this I find on the outskirts of the city. Soon I am walking the trail and for once I am not nipple-high in Dutch cyclists! The morning unfolds nicely amid windmills and sunshine reaching Geilenkrichen around 11am. After coffee I head off in blissful isolation taking in many villages and towns where I find it difficult to link up with the correct route out of each place. At last Aachen is within my grasp – 10km and on this find I treat myself to a MacDonald’s Happy meal before heading off to visit the last big town in Germany then a crossing into Belgium.
The trek through the city lingers on and I have to get help from a young Asian lad who guides me to the Eupen Road. After some interesting side roads and city bustle I manage to leave Aarcen behind and head out towards the Belgium Border. By dusk I am entering a new Frontier and walk to the next town where I purchase groceries; a few km from here I set up camp in a field by the road.
Day 5 Eupen Region to St Vith – 56km
After a damp mirky start I reach the town of Eupen and locate the route to St Vith. There are no cycle routes today and for most part I walk a steep incline as the road takes in forest landscape associated with the national park Hautes Feignes. The region harbours no communities and I do not get any refreshment until reaching the restaurant at Baroque Michel – a lonesome landmark that stands out on this busy highway. After coffee and water I leave in search of a better route to St Vith via Robertville where along the way I see many other walkers at at the local tourist office it transpires that this is the highest point in Belgium – much loved by walkers, cyclists and all that frequent this beautiful area that retains a distinct German influence. On descent the temperature increases and I remove some layers and it is heart-warming too to see many restaurants and along the way. On reaching the beautiful lakes of Robertville I am still 23km from St Vith plus some extra to reach the Luxembourgh Border. After a coffee at the Aubergue de Lac I continue towards the town of Waimes.
At Waimes I locate the cycle route to St Vith which runs for 17km with no places en route though I saw a group enjoying a party midway through the journey. The scenery is amazing viaducts spanning tiny communities fed by the N676 and green pastures dominated by woodlands. The journey drags on into the darkness and on reaching St Vith I am greeted by noisy engines at a rally drive which the town is hosting. No chance of staying here and after grabbing some provisions I leave on the Luxembourg road and camp up near a wood where I am kept company by a braying deer!
Day 5 St Vith to Hosingen Region – 47km
Setting off in the early morning mist I am fortunate to find a hotel open to obtain a breakfast and coffee. The road is a harsh master and the journey is one of toil against constant traffic including Sunday joyriders. The day lingers and 20 km on I finally cross the border in to Luxembourg where I enter the town of Whimperaarct and promptly go for coffee at a nearby super store. After refreshment, wash and change, I am on my way again using the E421 as my route into the city.
My feet are very stiff now and my incapacity to walk properly has caused my left knee some trouble so I strap it up for the remainder of the day. The scenery is a blend of forest and farmland broken by high power windmills which are a popular source of energy. By teatime I stop for a coffee at a shopping mall and with light still good on this sunny day I head off with my quest to walk until dusk. It remains light until after 8pm by which time I can barely walk any further and after purchasing groceries at a garage I set up camp in a wood nearby.
Hosingen Region to Luxembourg – 70km
Traffic continues through the night making me uneasy about the journey ahead. Rising at 6am I take to the road which at first is pleasant enough. I use the tracks beside the highway as my passage occasionally losing my way but always ending up back at the highway. At Ettelbruck I visit a WW2 Site and take photos before heading off in search of the cycle route. I pass through tunnels, busy sections of main road but on joining the cycle route I find peace and tranquility beside the railway line. Reaching Luxembourg around 6pm I still have 10 plus km to reach the main railway station in the city centre-tough hike! I get there at 8pm and manage to book my journey home via Paris starting at 5.42 am the next day. Looking back on my achievement I have walked over 330 km in just over 6 days starting and finishing at a railway station. Like Michael Portillo I have a passion for railways but am not sure he would stretch his legs quite as far as I have to visit one – or even two!
Please visit Robin Moore on YouTube
‘Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity On Facebook’
http://www.robin-moore.co.uk
http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
If you can’t help these charities please could you share this post.

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SUMMER NEWSLETTER 2015 – Featuring Gwennap Pilgrimage and live entertainment at The Coppice Inn on Sunday 30th August

The 10-mile walk forms the Gwennap Section of The Cornwall Pilgrimage Discovery Trail which locals walk each year in support of Cornwall Hospice Care.

The 10-mile walk forms the Gwennap Section of The Cornwall Pilgrimage Discovery Trail which locals walk each year in support of Cornwall Hospice Care.


PURCHASE THE MAIN GUIDE AND VIEW THE FULL CORNWALL PILGRIMAGE EVENT.
A 200-mile discovery trail running from Morwenstow to St Michael's Mount

A 200-mile discovery trail running from Morwenstow to St Michael’s Mount

ROBIN MOORE’S CORNISH PILGRIMAGE WALK – A Discovery Trail of Cornwall

Robin Moore gives up time and money each year in an effort to support Cornwall Hospice Care and has walked nearly 50,000km for charity in the last 20 years. He invites you to make a personal Pilgrimage of Cornwall in honour of local hospices.
The full end-to-end version of his Cornwall Pilgrimage Walk originates from Morwenstow and finishes at St Michael’s Mount (160 miles+ marked with yellow/black tape); this includes a 10-mile section known as The Gwennap Pilgrimage which makes up a circular walk. It takes in Bude and Launceston; follows old railway lines, ancient tracks across Bodmin Moor and part of the North coast to Padstow and the Saints Way. This famous pilgrim trail runs coast-to-coast joining the South at either St Austell or Fowey; from here the journey connects Mount Edgcumbe Hospice to St Julia’s via coast and mineral trails; it then culminates with a visit to St. Ives and a walk along the St. Michael’s Way. To find out how to walk/cycle the Cornish Pilgrimage visit: http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
FUNDRAISING
Robin will be walking the complete Cornish Pilgrimage route in July/ August and invites the public to make a donation to Cornwall Hospice Care; this can be done via the justgiving fundraising page on the Cornish Pilgrimage website. In addition, The Gwennap Pilgrimage Walk will take place at 10.30am on Sunday August 30th at the Coppice Inn, Lanner. Participants can purchase passports/guides (£5) at the Coppice Inn; all participants will be entitled to a Cornish Pilgrimage certificate (£5). We have entertainment arranged for all our the fundraising days. The Lanner Walks Project also starts at the Coppice on a weekly basis from July with books/ information about local area; our websites will update the public about fundraising walks/activities over the course of this year.
For updates about all charity events and publications please visit:
http://www.robin-moore.co.uk

LITERATURE
This year’s 4 new book releases along with past titles will be available for sale after the Gwennap Pilgrimage at The Coppice Inn on 30th August.
All booklets/guides are available at The Coppice Inn and new releases at The Star Inn, Vogue; the Gwennap Pilgrimage guide and main Cornish Pilgrimage Books are also on sale at Gwennap Pit between May and September. EBOOKS facility can be accessed from Robin’s Website in July. Other outlets include St Day Post Office, the Cornish Library in Redruth and all regional Tourist Offices.
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CORNWALL HOSPICE CARE
Cornwall Hospice Care is an independent Cornish Charity which provides specialist clinical care and support to adults living with a life limiting illness at our two hospices. To find out more visit: http://www.cornwallhospicecare.co.uk

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LANNER WALKS (constructed and written by Robin Moore).
A new walking club at the Coppice Inn, Lanner commences in July with a view to exploring the Local Region and its many places of interest. Each walk starts and finishes at the Coppice Inn and covers distances between 3-6 miles. Unless there is a public demand for weekend walkers we hope to commence around 10.30am on a chosen weekday. At present we hope to produce individual walks with a view to publishing a walking guide by autumn; for now each walk publication will cost £1 and we will provide a group leader, give a talk about my worldwide expeditions with opportunities to purchase the original diaries/walks and artwork.
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GWENNAP PILGRIMAGE
The Gwennap section of The Cornish Pilgrimage is traditionally August Bank Holiday Sunday for Cornwall Hospice Care, commencing around 10.30 am at the Coppice Car Park. Passports, Guides and Sponsor Forms are available at the Coppice Inn. Guides and passports are also available at Cornwall Library Redruth and Gwennap Pit.
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THE CORNWALL PILGRIMAGE
A full guide is now available at tourist offices/Cornish Libraries – Discovering ancient and modern Cornwall.
Beginning in Cornwall’s attic at Reverend Hawker’s Morwenstow Church this discovery trail follows a course from coast-to-coast to St Michael’s Mount. It takes in old tram roads, the unrelenting coast path, ancient pilgrim trails and adopts parts of modern day cycle routes of The Cornish Way.
Each section covers a 1-2 day walk (10 in all) and can be done at any time, though we do have fundraising days for Cornwall Hospice Care – visit: http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
Our website has GPS maps and an illustrated overview of each section of the Pilgrimage; we also have a walking guide with reference to accommodation and alternative routes/cycle options; this can be purchased from local Tourist offices or from our EBOOKS section at: http://www.robin-moore.co.uk
The creator of the Pilgrimage supports Cornwall Hospice care and other local charities and has walked over 30,000 miles around the world raising thousands of pounds for these organisations.
Certificates from our Pilgrimage organisation and Cornwall Hospice Care are available for participants completing the journey using this passport. Stamps or signatures can be collected from the tourist offices, local churches, inns or campsites/accommodation.
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The route is marked by St Piran’s scallop shells, black and white tape or yellow and black tape. Single yellow tape also demarcates the Pilgrim Route.
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TITLES
The Gwennap Pilgrimage
The Cornish Pilgrimage Guide
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OTHER INFORMATION
‘Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity On Facebook’
http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
http://www.cornwallhospicecare.co.uk
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AUTUMN PROJECTS
These include latest leg of Europe (1000km walk) – to be arranged.
The Keltek Ale Trail (walking central Cornwall in a day for local charities). This section will be updated soon with reference to the proposed charities and sub events within each pub to support them.

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Visit: the Coppice website/facebook and Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity pages for further updates and news bulletins.

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SPRING NEWSLETTER

SPRING NEWSLETTER – Fundraising for local charities
BOOKS
1) BOOK LAUNCHES

Historic Walk of  battlefields commemorates WW1 and completes 30,000 miles of walking around Europe helping worthy causes

Historic Walk of battlefields commemorates WW1 and completes 30,000 miles of walking around Europe helping worthy causes

Fundraising at The Rose & Crown, Islip.

Fundraising at The Rose & Crown, Islip.

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A PILGRIMAGE OF WAR AND WORDS
Commemorating WW1 and raising funds for local charities – Book signing to be arranged in Lanner and Vogue soon. To be Published in Oundle, Northamptonshire in July.
2) THE CORNISH PILGRIMAGE – A Discovery Trail for walkers and cyclists

Book signings to be arranged soon with fundraising objective to commence in June.

EVENTS
THE OUNDLE PILGRIMAGE
The Pilgrimage was originated in 2010 in honour of Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall with walking, cycle routes and a family picnic trail; Videos available on Youtube; 3 walking guides available at Trek-Kits Outdoor Adventure Centre, the Wharf, Oundle. Visit:
http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
THE GWENNAP PILGRIMAGE
A 10-mile circular route starting at the Coppice Inn, Lanner on August Bank Holiday Sunday at 10am. The trail is marked with St Piran’s scallop shells and forms part of the Cornish Pilgrimage – a discovery trail of Cornwall founded in honour of Cornwall Hospice Care; please visit:
http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk

RECENT FUNDRAISING
We concluded our ‘Pilgrimage of War and Words’ fundraising at The Rose & Crown, Islip on Sunday 17th May with Mark and Rachael Graham. The total money raised from the WW1 Anniversary Walk now stands at £1400.
Follow Robin Moore on Facebook and Youtube;
‘Robin Moore’s Walking For Charity
– 30,000 miles and still counting…..!
Books also available on EBOOKS
http://www.robin-moore.co.uk

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HISTORIC WALK HELPS WORTHY CAUSES

Devastating effects of The Great War

Devastating effects of The Great War

SPRING NEWSLETTER 2015 – ‘Robin Moore’s Pilgrimage of War and Words’ offers a message of history and peace for the good of charity raising £1125.

The cheque presentation held at The Angel Inn, Oundle represents fundraising from Robin Moore’s Pilgrimage of War and Words which commemorated WW1 in September/October 2014. The walk also marked a completion of his expeditions around Europe and the British Isles covering over 25,000 miles. He has walked in other continents too and around several countries exceeding in all 30,000 miles including Barmy Army Cricket Tours (he was a founding member at Adelaide in 1995 when England won the test match to keep the series alive for the last game at Perth). As well as his passion for cricket he enjoys the countryside and history and has always been an extreme athlete with a love for sport too.
It was an interest as a youngster in the 60’s to recognise the sacrifice of those who fell in the Great War and Robin knew many WW1 veterans (including his grandfather and great uncle) at his home at The Angel Inn Oundle where he grew up; he will soon be publishing a book about his amazing journey. ‘Although the quest goes on with many walks planned for the future we still need time to reflect on the past which has also seen the end of a personal era too. My Auntie Marjorie, who died recently at the age of 91, was one of my greatest supporters and friends also donated generously to the Cancer Charities after my Uncle Eric died of the disease in 2000.’ As well as helping Robin, she recently pledged £10,000 to Macmillans, £10,000 to her local charity; also £264 was raised at the funeral service for one of Robin’s fundraising charities from his recent walk, Sue Ryder Care. Other organisations that benefited from the expedition are Prostate Cancer UK; The Cornwall Hospices and Cancer Research UK. The WW1 Walk was set up originally for a local Cancer Appeal in Peterborough, PCTA which is largely fronted by friend Mark Folgate of Oundle who is the Fundraising Executive and major supporter of the charity. Robin’s expedition helped raise awareness for the charity and his book will be dedicated to the appeal.

Extracts of the book are printed below (historical content refers the first year of the Great War) For more about the wonderful life of Marjorie Jones please click on CANCER CHARITIES when you visit: http://www.robin-moore.co.uk

ROBIN MOORE’S PILGRIMAGE OF WAR AND WORDS
Geneva to Ypres – WW1 Walk – September 2014
PROLOGUE
‘The Early Shots’
August 1914 saw the Battle of Mons,
As Britain and Germany sent fourth their sons,
Soon to be cannon fodder and casualties of war,
Shedding blood on a scale never seen before.

Reeling through France came the British retreat,
Shielded by the cavalry who turn up the heat,
Those gallant equestrians, adrenalin-fed,
Push back the big guns till all are dead.

But the Kaiser’s war machine continues to roll,
Crushing forests and towns as the guns take their toll,
Gone are the romance and glamour of war,
Replaced by trenches, barbed wire and gore.

Gas, gas, gas a ‘Tommie’ cries,
As the Battle of Ypres takes on a new guise,
The Prussian Guard advance strong and steady,
Like a ceremonial parade, but with guns at the ready.

The British fix bayonets and the guard are speared,
Fighting hand-to-hand till the woods are cleared,
By dusk the guard lie dead in great knots, swathes and heaps,
For them the war is over in this first battle of Ypres.
Poem by Robin Moore.
Dedicated to those who fell in the first year of the Great War.
Commemorating WW1 a century on, Robin Moore sets off on a 1000km trek across Switzerland, France and Belgium which will complete a circuit of Europe and the British Isles. Read how his adventure unfolds each day and learn about the historical places of interest he encounters.
CHAPTER 1
Dominant Mountains That Preside Over Europe
Geneva to Hotel Bellevue, Gex
Starting my walk from Geneva city centre, I make my way to the great lake which borders France and Switzerland; then after running a video commentary near the ferry port and fountain, I continue beside the water. It is a perfect late September day; sunshine with a breeze from Lake Geneva allowing a pleasant initiation to this historic walk. Although the war did not affect this region I planned to start here so as to link this expedition with my previous one in March when I walked from Geneva to Arles. A century ago WW1 was well underway having commenced in August; The First German Army had already penetrated the borders at Belfort and Luxembourg; then spilling all across Belgium. By the end of September they had taken Liege, fought the BEF at Mons and the French on the Marne. These places I hoped to see a week or so from now but for the time being I am pondering all sorts of thoughts about weather, what I will see along the way and where I will stay each night. As the journey unfolds, I pass through several small parks, occasionally stopping to absorb the changing scenery and around noon I take a cycle route away from the lake towards the mountainous French Border. The road becomes busy though broken frequently by colourful towns and occasionally my gaze is drawn towards the sky where air traffic is in motion too. I am 5 km from the next village when a local walker joins me; he is astonished when I tell him I am walking to the Menin Gate! He shuffles off quietly on reaching his destination and after continuing to the end of the village I seek help from a hotelier who points me towards France. In the distance lie the Jura Mountains which I feel will test me over the coming week. Soon I cross the border, and with little to get excited about other than a sign post marked ‘France’, I continue uphill towards Gex. It is an arduous trek in the heat as I struggle with a 50lb load, and lack of sleep at the airport the previous evening also adds to the discomfort. Once I am confident of my route I start to feel much better and on my last ascent, which sees me only 27km from Morez, I decide to take refuge at Hotel Bellevue. it is a large building owned by an enthusiastic ex-marine commando whose father fought at Verdun during the Great War. He shows me his father’s picture and medals and later I begin writing my book with a beer on hand while the bar maid tells her local patrons of my endeavours.
Hotel Bellevue, Gex to Morbais
Starting in hot sunshine I continue my ascent across the Jura Mountains; there are no war monuments or battle fields here – just a slow grind through steepling countryside as the towns and villages of yesterday disappear behind a curtain of mist. Even traffic flows by at a leisurely pace and the lorries chug along cautiously as the journey evolves by way of the narrow pass. It is an laboured affair during the morning where at times the diverse terrain reminds me of New Zealand with its collaboration of forest and stern peaks. The afternoon brings respite with a cool descent beyond the St Claude Junction; by now I am hitting towns regularly and make use of the facilities available to enjoy a coffee break and the chance to pick up a few provisions.
At La Cure I rouse some curiosity as I deposit my backpack on a park bench outside the Tourist Office, change my socks and eat a sandwich. Soon I have an audience comprising of a touring party who had seen me walking earlier; after explaining the purpose of my journey I show them my WW1 passport and a publication about a recent expedition. After wishing me well they depart and their distant waves see me on the way to Les Rousses and later Morez where I purchase groceries for tonight’s supper. A further ascent along a busy road section completes my day at the campsite in Morbais. Although the amenities are now closed for this season the club owner allows me to stay the night and I am able to purchase a drink from the Bar Brasserie known as ‘Chez Nous’, where the locals are enjoying some lively banter amid the smoky atmosphere of a ‘barbie’. After completing the final day’s entry in my diary amid a background of contemporary disco music, I retire to a more peaceful location beside the campsite stream.

Bar Brasserie ‘Chez Nous’ Morbais to Veiux Chalet Champagnole
Rising to a dew-soaked morning I roll up the tent and take a shower at the wash room which is still unlocked despite the closure of the site. A cooler start makes walking bearable as the continuation of steep ascents set the tone for the day. The first few days of any walk always present a challenge but I am grateful to find this route is broken nicely by interspersing villages. As the road narrows the terrain becomes more demanding and yet diverse affording sheer drops of many hundreds of feet; it is awe-inspiring peering down onto treetops as they disappear into a bottomless chasm. Reaching the next summit I stop at a park to relax in the shade and study my map. Recommencing my walk I dodge more traffic by crossing the road at each bend and take in the changes of terrain as each new town approaches. Reaching Champagnole I collect groceries and beyond the town, not far from my next route, I stop at a public park and camp for the night; there is a terrace of houses on a suburban lane where I hear a party celebration in progress. Next to the park entrance is a shop where I buy a bottle of wine and ask the owner to uncork it. Sitting on a bench by my tent I eat a supper of cheese, olives and salad washed down with wine as dusk closes in across the mountains and all becomes quiet beneath the stars.

Veiux Chalet, Champagnole to Samson
Rising to bright sunshine I dismantle my tent, use the toilet facilities at the park entrance and then proceed along the main road to the Salin Junction. This section follows minor roads throughout the morning and with little else open on a Sunday, I take my first break at a restaurant in Salin-le-Bains. From here the heat is unbearable though the scenery, comprised largely of forest mountain landscape broken by a spectacular viaduct, and the audio presence of running water help serve as a delightful opiate. As the traffic dies down the sound of jingling bells from ascending cattle add a different tune to the journey. En route I meet another traveller who had passed me earlier in a car heading for Champagnole; he hails from Verdun and speaks good English. Intrigued by my quest he takes photos and a video which he posts on his Youtube/Facebook pages to give me a bit of support and hopefully some media coverage for our charities. Before departing he hands me some fruit and a bottle of water; then wishes me well for the remainder of my trip. As evening draws close, I meet a group who also supply me with water and an offer to camp by their recreation centre where their friends are playing bowls. Feeling that the day is incomplete, I thank them for their trouble and press on to the next village called Samson. On arrival I am fortunate to purchase cheese and wine from a grocer shop (Bulangerie Courtois) which is about to close, and a further 2km north of the village I camp at a field beside the road. I find a sheltered spot near the hedgerows which conceals me from the public eye. Feeling satisfied with my effort I relax
with my provisions and listen to the sounds of dusk as a new world comes to life.

Samson to Rioz
Disappearing off the radar at dusk is quite important when camping rough in order to rest and recuperate sufficiently to gain a few hours sleep.
A misty morning brings cooler air as I tackle the busy main road with caution. It is a tedious session and I am glad of a coffee break at Larnod around 11.30am. Sitting outside the cafe, I enjoy a few moments as a spectator. It is a pleasant interval watching the world go by as people greet each other with an embrace and friendly chat. I ponder over the reality that there would have been many young men recruited for WW1 from these rural parts of the continent. I wonder too what the bar conversation of that time would have entailed as these little meeting places have always been the soul of a community. Soon the road beckons and I prepare to return to the task. The next ascent exposes me to distant river scenes and before entering the urban sprawl of Beure I stop at a lay-by to rest from the speeding traffic. Sadly the second part of the day disintegrates as the road network becomes complex around the industrial realms of Besancon. After taking a wrong turn I receive directions from a lady at a nearby school and descend to the outer regions of town. Soon I am walking on the main road to Vesoul having failed to locate the byway I need to keep on course to Combeaufontaine. A sense of apathy creeps over me as I fear the momentum of today may be lost along this dangerous highway. Continuing in fear for my life and with motorway instructions imminent, I am relieved to reach Rioz by nightfall. After an extensive ‘reccy’ I realise there is nowhere to stay; so I put up a bivvy outside the campsite which is closed, and fetch a takeaway meal from the only place that is open in town.
CHAPTER 2
A Countryside Devoid Of Time
Rioz to Combeaufontaine
Sleeping through sheer exhaustion and uncertain what to do, I visit the police station for help. They are great! Once issued with a coffee they give me a route planner to cover the next 2 days which promises a rural journey along the quieter byways/cycle routes as far as Jussey. Then after receiving an official Brigade De Gendarmerie stamp on my WW1 passport, I set off in good stride, feeling grateful for their efforts to help me. The route takes me through the remainder of the town and passes under the motorway where it bears left by a country park to join the D33. As the day unfolds I begin to appreciate a pleasant scenic journey through rural France in contrast to the initiation along the steep mountain pass, and mad motorway of yesterday. This more refined route allows me passage through many small villages such as Fondremond with its old abbey and unique water features; later I visit Maizieres and Traves where I am happy to enjoy my coffee breaks amid a rural atmosphere. I even stumble across a Camino de Santiago route which interacts with some of the more ancient communities. There are lone bridges and wide river crossings; archaic buildings with eloquent gardens and festooned streets prompting me to make good use of my camera. On reaching the quaint little town of Combeaufontaine I pick up some groceries, and with the hotel closed for renovation, I set up camp 2 km north of the village in a paddock beside a forest.

Combeaufontaine to Lamarche
The early morning pattern of mist continues as I dismantle my tent and wander carefully along the road. The one problem I face today is obtaining enough water and provisions in these rural parts where it seems that the inhabitants live with a degree of self-sufficiency. Passing through numerous communities over the last week I notice allotments, small-holdings and farm shops which open only in the morning; though later today I manage to get adequate supplies at Jussey. After obtaining road information from the Tourist Office, I visit the cenotaph which is the most conspicuous so far, revealing the names of the war dead who had fought in great campaigns such as Verdun, Le Marne and the Somme; monuments such as this will be commonplace throughout the remainder of my journey. Resting at a bench near a road junction I eat a salad meal which I purchased from the local supermarket; at present the town is a lively scene of folk shopping and socialising in restaurants and cafes. Jussey is an unusual, yet welcome break in this quiet, rural section of my walk which gives more of an insight into farming traditions. With each road spurring off to a new destination I continue into the wilderness not seeing another shop or restaurant for the remainder of the day. There are moments too when I feel as though this countryside has transported me back to a former age – devoid of change or the passage of time. Only speeding motors and farm machinery betray the secrets of an environment where people enjoy their allotments and orchards which have kept them self-sufficient for generations. Nearing dusk a group of youngsters at a small village direct me to a tap by the church where I obtain fresh water. Later on course for the final 6km to Lamarche they track me down on bicycles to give me a king size water bottle for the night. It is as though they know I am facing a tough evening and I am quite taken back by the kindness – it is the highlight of the day – God bless them.
Lamarche, like all that preceded it since Jussey, is another dead place – rundown hotels which are closed – no sign of life any where, and on leaving the town I quickly find a quite spot near the woods to set up camp for the night.
Lamarche to Neufchateau
I am shattered having completed a week on the road at 12 hours per day with each night under canvas – I need a proper sleep! The dew fell heavy over night but as the mist clears the day heats up draining me as I struggle to obtain water. Eventually I manage to acquire a bottle at a farm where the owner also gives me some fruit for sustenance. I only have a 37km walk today but the heat and lack of food make it slow work. Reaching a village fountain I leap into the water to cool down and enjoy a good soak. The locals appear bemused though I try to explain it is more pleasurable to do this now than at 6am – though I did summon enough courage to attempt a shave in a water butt one chilly morning! Life on the road is full of innovations where good health and survival are the only way forward. Rejoining the road I stop to ask a local couple for water; they kindly invite me into their garden for a drink of freshly squeezed apple juice curtesy of their orchard while I explain my quest and what it has so far entailed. They are astonished to feel the weight of my pack – ‘Vingt kg?’ exclaims the lady! After bading farewell I make good progress along the industrial perimeter of Neufchateau, reaching the town centre by 5pm where I promptly book into the local hotel, Le Rialto – 52euros. The lady signs my WW1 passport but refuses to give any discounts – explaining that they were reserved for those with Camino de Santiago credentials. At least I enjoy a proper night’s rest with the promise of a breakfast in the morning.
Neufchateau to Vaucouleurs
After a night in a hotel I actually feel more tired than usual and after my breakfast I struggle in the heat. I make hard work of the morning session to Domremy but enjoy a good coffee which is a boost to morale. After the break I get into a steady rhythm and the afternoon drifts by amid the drone of harvest machinery as farmers toil to make good the land. Reaching Vaucouleurs I pass an old military hospital founded in 1916 for the soldiers of Verdun; a few metres on is a cenotaph and a brightly coloured mural decorating part of the church. It is early evening and I feel as though I can press on further, but wary of the previous times when short of provisions I opt to visit the supermarket first to get food and refreshment. From here I am content to walk a few km beyond town where I set up camp on the edge of a forest next to a road junction.
CHAPTER 3
Poignant Reminders Of The Great War
Vaucouleurs Region to Rouvrois Sur Meuse
Starting in heavy mist I concentrate hard for the first 10 km and cross a bridge into Void where all is still quiet on this Saturday morning. Not able to get coffee I press on to Commercy and enjoy a bustling market scene which to a ‘man of the road’ is a breath of fresh air. Feeling energised by the moment I walk through the slender streets to the beautiful town centre and its lofty architecture. Here I take coffee and marvel at the crowds thinking to myself that Commercy most definitely lives up to its name. Before pressing on to St Mihiel I visit a war cemetery harbouring those who fell in the battles of the Marne, Meuse and Verdun – here I get my first glimpse of the effects of WW1. Battles raged on around these parts throughout the Great War where the Germans came within 50 miles of Paris. So desperate was the plight of the French that commander-in-chief, General Joffre hired every cab in Paris to rush troops to the front line. This drastic action enabled him to successfully launch a counter-attack along the River Marne on 4th September 1914 which halted the German war machine. Sadly though, the great French dreams of a triumphant offensive to end the conflict did not come and the misery of trench warfare followed with pointless combat in ‘No mans land’ until the end of 1918. Beyond here are many places with war graves but few with shops though I manage another at coffee at a bar and later a cake at St Mihiel. Along the way there are more cenotaphs and memorials to the Great War; most significant is the Roman Camp at St Mihiel which was taken by the Bavarians despite brave fighting from the single unit left there to guard it; it was later freed by General Pershore during a Franco/American offensive. Beyond the town is another war cemetery and a tablet on a hill defining the battle at Troyan Village in September 1914. Six miles on I find the only hotel between St Mihiel and Verdun thanks to the help of a local lady. Merci beaucoup!
Auberge du Chaudron Fleuri to Verdun
I am glad of a good sleep at the hotel and keep some of my supper for this morning’s breakfast realising that there are so few facilities out in these rural parts. Today is also Sunday and a wet one at that as I walk all the way to Verdun ticking off the cemeteries en route and trying to imagine the scenes of battle along the Meuse. Over a hundred years ago tanks would have rolled through broken woods towards the river against the sound of cannon fire and machine guns. Today could not be more contrasting as the landscape presents a peaceful arable scene that bears the solitary murmur of a tractor. Only the weather identifies with history in that the day stays damp and miserable as it may well have been a century ago. Reaching the outskirts of town I begin to wonder when I will come across a place to enjoy a coffee! Joining the thoroughfare I find a solution to the problem at Macdonalds where I also tuck into a cooked meal – burger and chips and use the wifi system to upload my video diary– good old Uncle Ronnie!
Heading into town I pass the spectacular Hotel de Ville accentuated by its bold, sumptuous facade. Further on I find a grocer shop that is open and later visit the Tourist Office where the attendant stamps my passport and provides information about the town’s war history. Continuing across the river to the gated town entrance I watch a boat race reach its conclusion amid enthusiastic cheers along the river bank. Passing through the gated entrance I see a different section of the town which is largely commercial with modern shops, restaurants and a few dated buildings; most of these are residential interspersed by several reasonably priced hotels. On the whole this is an ideal base for war historians wishing to explore one of the most catastrophic theatres of war ever known.Tourism here is largely derived from the devastation of the Great War which has intrigued so many over the last century. Some are drawn here to find lost relatives who fought in the campaign; others visit to try to make sense of the huge loss of life which occurred during what was the most modern war of its age. The whole region conveys a poignant message and as the night continues I pass more cenotaphs and a vast war cemetery where the visual evidence of a desperate struggle is quite conclusive – those who fought here knew real hardship and suffering! As the white tablets fade in distance dusk approaches bringing more wet weather. Finding a field suitable for camping I descend to the woods where I stay dry and free from the noise of traffic. A mackerel salad accompanied by a drop of wine finally caps off the day helping me to drift into a deep slumber for the remaining hours of darkness.

Verdun Region to Inor
Waking after a night of rainfall I make the most of the clear visibility in the morning and later obtain a coffee at a bar near Charny around 10am. The bar which is next to a park attracts a few visitors, and the locals express curiosity at the sight of ‘a lumbering backpacker’ in pursuit of his quest. After exchanging greetings the patrons enjoy looking at my passport stamps while I take a wash and shave in the disabled toilet. As it turns out this is the one and only opportunity to have a coffee break as the trend of no facilities continues; during the last week I have come across many places closed for renovation, sale or simply brought to a standstill through lack of trade. Even at the town of Dun sur Meuse everything is either closed or under repair and the only place I can obtain water is the chemist! Eventually my efforts are rewarded at Stenay where I find a supermarket and buy all I need for tonight. A few miles on at Inor I finish at the campsite where a night under canvas costs only 4euros. I speak to another traveller from Germany who is also visiting the battlefields. I had seen my fill of cemeteries over the last few days including a German one which I located along the D964 earlier this morning. Unlike the white tablets that represent the Allied soldiers of the Western Front, this cemetery contains rows of black crosses. Inscribed on a plaque is the story of their demise and there is a memorial to them above the steps to the entrance. After a further chat with the proprietor I cross the road to the local pub and write up my diary on what turns out to be the most productive day on tour so far – realising over 50km.
Inor to Sedan
During the night torrential rain forces me to abandon tent and take refuge in the wash room. Packing a wringing wet tent and clothing is not the best start to the day and my initial steps along the road lack the normal enthusiasm that I need to meet this challenge. The nightmare continues as rain and traffic disrupt the journey, though I pass through some historic places which helps break up the monotony; Mouzon with its medieval archway entrance and wonderful church add a depth of history dating back 2000 years. Although a bit autumnal I enjoy my visit consuming raisin bread and milk beside the river; after I follow the bank back to my main road route via the D954. Occasionally I stray from my route and take a village trail; this is usually counter-productive yet often necessary to relieve myself from the stress of traffic. The last two days have seen many beautiful water scenes where tributaries form from waterfalls and canals spur off the river following the course of the road through more towns and villages. For a while I get a chance to walk close to the river bank; I stop at a lock gate to eat some chocolate and later watch fishermen casting from a bridge. A shoal of large chub in the shallow water catch my gaze and I shout across to the fishers to cast further out. Another place dominated by water (and once again from the sky too) is Sedan, my destination for today, where I am fortunate to find a municipal campsite. Although closed the care-taker does not object to me setting up camp under the games area where I can at least stay dry! He and his wife wish me well and give directions for tomorrow’s journey which will take in the busy region of Charleville Mezieres.

Sedan to Bourg Fidele
The pattern of wet continues and I promptly stop for coffee at a sports cafe on the edge of town where todays travels begin. I use the facilities for a wash and shave then from here I toil on through the suburban areas of Charleville Mezieres stopping three more times for coffee to take refuge from torrential rain. I pass through Flize which on a good day may have been a bit more inspiring instead of wet and grim like all else today. As my journey finds momentum I notice a burnt out house along the thoroughfare to Charleville but on reaching the town centre I am pleasantly surprised by the spectacular architecture which sets it apart from the rundown towns of previous days. I pause for a while to savour a moment before heading into many more miles of countryside and diminutive communities. In pouring rain I search for the exit from this busy city as teatime traffic nears its peak. The weather does not ameliorate as I march beside the puddled carriageway but by early evening I locate the correct junction and take the D22 to Renwez. It is a quieter affair along the country road where the only significant landmark is an old fortification at Erat. Finally I reach Renwez where to my horror the only hotel I have seen all day is closed! All too often nearing dusk I find myself in this predicament – particularly on this current expedition and with more wet weather imminent I face the prospect of camping in a muddy forest. This I do several miles on but eventually the storm that has stalked me all day finds its quarry and my tent fills with water soaking everything. Now in total darkness I am subjected to a cold, wet and sleepless night.
CHAPTER 4
The Last Charge
Bourg Fidele to Chimay
The nightmare continues and I can barely keep my eyes open as I decide which items of equipment are no longer serviceable. The tent is of no further use and was in any case just a glorified ‘bivvy’ used normally in summer months; I also scrap some of the more worn clothes that are too sodden to dry. Finding a bakery en route I purchase a ham roll and ponder over my predicament; at least I will be crossing the border into Belgium soon. On this note I press on to the next village where I am escorted to a sports cafe by 2 cows – probably an early milk delivery! Cafes in Europe are deemed social places where all visitors are made welcome! They peer through the door and soon gather an audience as we tolerate their company long enough to take photos. After my coffee I march them up the road as far as the square where they stop to investigate a new curiosity. Happy to leave them to their own devises, I continue my adventure in the direction of Rocroi. There are roadworks near the town entrance though thankfully the thoroughfare is more intriguing defined by numerous flags, elaborate features and eye-catching monuments to the left. After visiting the Tourist Office at Rocroi it rains again, so I retire to the Hotel de Commerce to write my diary with the aid of more caffeine. Rain eventually subsides and I move on from the town; the terrain remains typically rural and in the afternoon I pass Le Cafe de La Frontiere and cross the border into Belgium. The road is quiet with only a few broken communities and rundown hotels. Joining the main road I make steady progress to Chimay where I purchase groceries (still French-speaking) but have difficulty in finding anything that resembles an hotel; on making an inquiry at a local residence the family kindly offers to let me stay the night.
The lady is a nurse who works nightshift and her son who speaks good English is planning a walk with his girl friend in Spain. Later his father arrives and we chat and drink as I explain how far I have walked during the last 20 years. They are a very kind family who extend their hospitality to sharing their meal with me which I am very grateful for. Despite a rude awakening to the day, I sleep well tonight knowing that my faith in humanity has been well and truly restored.
Chimay to Mons
My hosts had dried my damp clothes overnight and this morning give me a good breakfast before setting off on an ambitious journey to Mons which revisits the early days of Britain’s WW1. To mark the occasion we take photographs at the house and then I visit the local market to video the activities as the day gets underway in good stride.
Well the task of reaching Mons which is 58km from here seems a little unrealistic yet I feel confident I can get close and should in any case find a hotel along the way by dusk. The morning goes well stopping at Beaumont (26km) at lunch; this vibrant town has many facilities and a good social forum, though it is far too early to stop. I do however rest at a cafe and contemplate the next part of the journey wondering what new experiences lay in wait. Excited about reaching Mons, I enjoy the following session ticking off all the villages thereafter. The Kaiser’s violation of Belgium’s Peace Treaty saw Britain’s enter WW1 and during that time my grandad and great uncles all joined up serving in Northampton Regiments. My grandad, Charles Thurlby was only 14 but like many others altered his age and fought his first battle a year later in Constantinople. My great uncle Ben who owned a scrap yard in Oundle was gassed during a France/Belgium offensive. Ben survived and lived in a caravan at his yard well into his seventies until being attacked and robbed by youths; he died shortly after. Charlie fought again in WW2 but died in the sixties through poor health – predictably the wars had taken their toll. Other family members were killed in the Great War and there were many people I knew from Oundle who fought in these campaigns. One man Billy Duke who lived in a hut beside a paddock used to help my parents at the pub and later lodged with our neighbours. Then there was ‘Nobby’ Smith from the ash cart lorry who lived well into his nineties. What ever future life evolved beyond the trenches these men could never hide the scars borne from this dreadful war; most would have found it too difficult to talk about. Inspired by their brave deeds I soldier on feeling grateful to be here and finding a fruitier by the roadside I purchase bananas and an orange. I am able to pick apples most days as the trees still bear fruit which provides a welcome treat along the way. As darkness approaches I struggle on expecting to find a hotel but realising that I had yet to find one that is open in Belgium! Before long I am entering Mons next to the cenotaph laid by the British and Canadians at the end of the war. Mons was the first battle fought in WW1 by the British who quite literally stumbled on the positions of The First German Army. Their infantry came on in great numbers but where gunned down by the fusiliers of the BEF who had been trained in rapid fire and use of machine guns. The success was short-lived and German artillery fire sent the BEF reeling back through France all the time screened by the cavalry whose bravery and altruism helped preserve the BEF as a fighting force in the field. Four years on in this bloody campaign the German war machine was finally halted and the assailants kicked out of Mons by the Canadians who made a valuable contribution throughout the Great War. Across the road I pass an Irish Cenotaph and continuing into the centre I see many epitaphs and personal reminders of the War. Around midnight I come across the only hotel in this part of the city – priced at 100euros – no thanks! Instead I find a park with a lovely dry spot under a conifer which shelters me from the dew and feeling grateful for comfort I drift into slumber.
Mons to Tournai
Having overslept I amble to a nearby cafe which is opened early to accommodate the Saturday market. This is the only commercial activity I come across as I begin to focus on the day ahead. In fact it transpires to be an even later start as the town is not open for business until after 10am; I need food and the tourist office before I depart from here! Eventually I purchase a breakfast at ‘Uncle Ronnie’s and obtain adequate directions for the last section of my walk from the Tourist Office. Leaving in torrential rain I pass through November 11th Street, onto Parc Road and then join the N50 to Tournai. Slow and arduous is how I describe it as the road transforms into a trickling stream though I am lucky to find a cycle path by the river which I use for part of the way. A huge barge passes by and I think to myself ‘Don’t see many of those frequenting the River Nene.’ The width of the vessel would almost certainly breach both banks of our little country river unlike the waterways here which compare to crossing an ocean. Water is certainly in vast quantity for all concerned along this present route, and when the sun finally appears at Bescecles around 4pm I still face a further 20km to Tournai. Stressful it becomes too! Feeling miserable, I remind myself why I am here and think of those who marched before me a hundred years ago. It is difficult to imagine the horrors of war and what they had to put up with, but soon my problems pale into insignificance. Eventually the rain abates and I manage to buy a fish supper 6km from Tournai. On arrival it is the same old story- no hotels/hostels and so I retire to yet another conifer tree in a park opposite a shopping centre; it is the best option given the circumstances. Surrounded by mud, the tree droppings at least provide a dry surface to lay on, while the density of the branches conceal me from main road traffic and late night party dwellers. Given these advantages and the ebbing flow of traffic I manage to steal a valuable ‘forty winks’ in the warmth of my sleeping bag.
Tournai to Roncq
Waking to the commotion of a Sunday Market at Tournai, I join in the fun at a nearby cafe which is presently a hive of activity and commerce. Feeling invigorated by the experience I make my way out of town filming some of the majestic architecture which gives the place its character. Having survived the Great War, ancient and modern blend well in these parts; all the old world cafes have embraced technology and I have no difficulty in constructing a facebook video diary along the way. The road is a less dramatic affair as I tick off the villages en route, find the necessary ‘pit stops’ for coffee and treat myself to a meal after crossing the border into France. I am now bound for Roubaix where I hope to reconnect my journey through Flanders via the Menin Road. Reaching the urban swirl I continue along the busy streets which are a mix of rundown flats and fast-food facilities in what appears to be a largely Muslim Community. I see a cloaked man walking barefoot in the road as he tries to avoid a raucous crowd – it is busy here with many intersections to cross. My journey slows down for a while but eventually I reach Tourcoing where the streets are a maze of captivating architecture. After finding a grocer shop and purchasing provisions, I feel as though the day is near its end. Unable to find a receptionist at a nearby hotel, I take on another section which at least ensures my route to Menin. I stumble down a hole in the embankment and damage my hamstring; continuing lamely I am fortunate in finding a budget Hotel-Premiere where I feel happy to retire for the day. It is only 40 euros including breakfast so at last I can relax, attend to my injury and enjoy the comfort of a bed having walked 150 km for the privilege of sleeping in it!
Roncq to Ypres
Leaving the Premiere Inn after a substantial buffet-style breakfast I walk the N8 to Warelgem which provides reasonable passage despite being under siege from commuter traffic. Bearing left at Warelgem, I cross the road bridge and I walk into Menin. Promptly finding a restaurant I enter for coffee and attempt to chat with a few of the locals; one of the guys, called Jules Coppelle, had spent time in Canada in the 60′s and still speaks good English. He buys me another coffee and takes a photograph to mark the occasion as we continue to chat. Leaving the cafe around noon my journey takes shape along Iuper Street which leads me out of Menin as I follow my course through Flanders Fields. There are now pavements to walk on and a few villages en route; eventually we encounter the Ypres Salient where I visit a cenotaph on the right. A bit further on is a museum containing Great War relics and archives; opposite is a cemetery harbouring many of those who fought in the last battles of 1914. The contestants of this battle front where the BEF who had regrouped at Zonnebeke and stiffened up with Commonwealth troops against the hand picked elite Prussian Guard who had pledged victory or death. It is said the guard came on magnificently – almost as if they were on a military parade; only mortality defied their courage as they fell in their ranks against the murderous machine gun fire of the British Fusiliers. This was a do or die battle to save the Channel Ports and it is impossible to imagine the carnage and consequences resultant from this desperate struggle which only served to widen the conflict. The chaos of backup troops arriving to the front line with the guard breaking through the forest; officers panicking as they try to lead counter-attacks to clear the woods. Hand to hand fighting continued with bayonet and pistol until finally dusk fell upon the victorious remnants of the BEF who had managed to hold their positions; before them lay the guard dead in great swathes and heaps. It should have been the end of the war but instead battles raged on until 1918; new weapons were employed; gas, high explosives laid by tunnellers and the discovery of the tank added to the misery of the ‘tommies’ life on the front line. Despite the innovations of a new age, tactics often remained dated as old generals steeped in Crimea and Boar War history blundered there way to the battle fields. The romance of war, deeds of gallantry and childhood dreams of adventure soon disappeared beneath the mud and barbed wire of Flanders Fields. Young men were wrenched from theirs families and propelled into a war that was fought in Hell. All along the Menin Road I saw poignant reminders of the Great War and a mile from Ypres, by a Commonwealth Inn I take an excursion to Hill 62 at Zillebeke where the Canadians fought battles between 1914-16. Passing Wood Cemetery I come to a museum which is also a restaurant; further on I find the cenotaph; from here Ypres sits only 2 miles from the field which would have been a sobering concept for the public to deal with throughout the conflict. Returning to the restaurant I chat to the maid about finding a hotel in town and spend a moment savouring the day with a coffee. There are many archives here, and on leaving I take photographs of the artillery outside; then head back towards Wood Cemetery and the Ypres Salient. Finally I conclude my pilgrimage at the Menin Gate where a great lion sits proud above the cenotaph reminding the world of the ultimate sacrifice made for peace. It is a stark paragon showing insight into the oddity of war and yet its true horrors and reality could only ever be known by those who stood in ‘No Man’s Land’. This is the most sacred place on Earth to a military man from the British Empire – an epitaph of epic proportions – one that would require a week to read every name inscribed. The soldiers names are all that remain of them though their souls live on in the heart of Ypres where locals and visitors commemorate their loss each night at the Last Post usually performed around 8pm.
We will remember them – God Bless them always!
EPILOGUE
‘The Apathy of War’
Remembering the mud at Passchendaele
In an Autumn offensive doomed to fail,
The loss of life that came to us all,
In another pointless battle which saw many fall,

My nostrils fill with the stench of death,
And gas too, as I struggle for breath,
Flooded are the trenches in the pouring rain,
To fight a battle here is totally insane,

Finally the guns fall silent offering a peaceful hand,
Now poppies grow tall in ‘No Man’s Land’,
Across the world bells toll with joy,
But whatever happened to our beloved boy,

Where are the young people that we all love,
Are they happy in heaven above,
Taken so young is our greatest pain,
How can our world be the same again,

The war to end all wars came at great cost,
Dynasties shattered and a generation lost,
Our boy will never age nor again march or roam,
For he lies with his pals in Flanders Fields and won’t be coming home.
Poem by By Robin Moore
Dedicated to the soldiers who never came home.

With the last post still ringing through my mind the train journey across Flanders and then Lille to Calais gave me much to reflect on having now completed a 35,000km circuit of the British Isles and Europe. To finish the last leg of this circuit along the WW1 battle fields one hundred years on makes my effort more significant and historically rewarding; I have seen poignant plaques and cenotaphs; learned of the brave deeds of our ancestors who were selfless and altruistic in the face of battle with an undying sense of duty. Even though I have met many of these brave men as a child I could never have envisaged their plight or the misery of the trenches, mud and barbwire. It should have been the ‘War to end all Wars’ but sadly it seems humanity has failed to learn this lesson; or is it simply that we are only capable of solving our problems through conflict. A hundred years on, we can only show deep respect and gratitude for the sacrifice of a generation and pray no such war will visit humanity again.
APPENDIX
Follow Robin Moore on Facebook, YouTube and websites.
For all information on Robin’s expeditions, charity work or to download EBOOKS visit:
http://www.robin-moore.co.uk
Robin Moore’s Walking for Charity on Face Book
NATIONAL PILGRIMAGES
http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
1914 TIME LINE – the opening stages
28th June – Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
1st August – Germany declares war on Russia
3rd August – Germany declares war on France
4th August – Germany violates Belgium Neutrality – Great Britain is now at war
7th August – German forces march into Leige
16th August – BEF lands in France and sets up HQ at Amiens
21st August – BEF crosses into Belgium – Private John Parr, aged 16, is the first British casualty at Obourg
22nd August BEF take up positions at Mons – Cavalry Divisions are engaged in battle with the German Hussars
23rd August – The Battle of Mons Salient where the Germans attack on two flanks
Apparition of the ‘Angels of Mons’ follow the BEF in retreat through the Marmal Forest towards Le Cateau
Other Battles
September – Battle of the Marne
November – The First Battle of Ypres
Christmas Day Truce – British and German troops meet in ‘No Mans Land’ to celebrate Christmas.
Follow Robin’s walk from Ypres to Nantes (via Arras/Somme) in part 2 of A Pilgrimage of War and Words.

PERSONAL DEDICATION TO MARJORIE JONES
THE CADBURY’S ANGELS – Celebrating the life and times of Marjorie Jones.
One late day in July saw a new gift of life,
Born to this world that had seen much strife,
The Great War had gone parting families and friends,
But as an old era dies, a new one begins,

Now the winds of change blow quieter here,
Where the folk of Bournville are kind and sincere,
Like a song that celebrates a brand new face,
Comes free spirit and energy that make a good place,

With compassion and love they valued each day,
Forging friendships at work the Cadbury way,
It was a time of happiness, joy and great fun,
Especially for young Marjorie who loved every one,

The old widows of war had a family again,
Working with the young helped ease their pain,
Among chocolate and raisins life was such fun,
On the sports field too, playing cricket in the sun,

As time marched on this community grew strong,
Bolstering the friendships that remained life-long,
‘The Cadbury’s Angels’ they became to be known,
Iconic in a workplace that they viewed as their home,

But people move on just as the world will turn,
And as this song ends we look back and learn,
Not to forget, and treasure dearly those days,
With the Cadbury’s Angels and their fun-loving ways.

Written by Robin Moore as a Tribute to Marjorie’s wonderful life at Cadbury’s where she viewed her friends as an extended family. She will be sadly missed by all she knew – Marjorie we will always remember you. God Bless you.

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WINTER NEWSLETTER 2014

WINTER NEWSLETTER 2014

Nigel and Robin present a cheque to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall for funds raised on their Oundle Pilgrimage Walk.

Nigel and Robin present a cheque to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall for funds raised on their Oundle Pilgrimage Walk.


The Oundle Pilgrimage – supporting local charities
Pictured above are Robin Moore and Nigel Laxton presenting a cheque to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall raised from their efforts walking the Oundle Pilgrimage.
Symbol of the Oundle Pilgrimage.

Symbol of the Oundle Pilgrimage.


Robin Moore developed the project in 2010 and the 46 mile walk/cycle route has since raised thousands for local charities with a weekend put aside each August for locals to do their bit for Thorpe Hall in Peterborough, Robin says’ The hospice has helped a local people here in Oundle so I decided it would be fitting to build a project in its honour. It has also been one of my own objectives to promote fitness, the environment we live in and tourism in Oundle – so I think its fair to say the pilgrimage caters for all of this’. Robin has walked 30,000 miles around the British Isles and Europe and other continents. Nigel has walked with Robin on a few of these occasions and between them have raised thousands for good causes. Last year’s pilgrimage, Nigel raised £2000 for HEARTSTART. Robin’s recent encounter with the WW1 Salients helped other charities and saw the finish line at the Menin Gate where he completed his circuit of Europe (still with more to do) and has given him an opportunity to write some verse and a book about the experience and his thoughts about the conflict which took place one hundred years ago.
A PILGRIMAGE OF WAR AND WORDS
Geneva to Ypres – WW1 Walk
PROLOGUE
August 1914 saw the Battle of Mons,
As Britain and Germany sent fourth their sons,
Soon to be cannon fodder and casualties of war,
Shedding blood on a scale never seen before.

Reeling through France came the British retreat,
Shielded by the cavalry who turn up the heat,
Those gallant equestrians, adrenalin-fed,
Push back the big guns till all are dead.

The Kaiser’s war machine continues to roll,
Crushing forests and towns as guns take their toll,
Gone are the chivalry and glamour of war,
Replaced by trenches, barbed wire and gore.

Gas, gas, gas a ‘Tommie’ cries,
As the Battle of Ypres takes on a new guise,
Advances the Prussian Guard, strong and steady,
Like a ceremonial parade but with guns at the ready.

The British fix bayonets and the guard are speared,
Fighting hand-to-hand till the woods are cleared,
By dusk the guard lie dead, in great knots, swathes and heaps,
For them the war is over, in this first battle of Ypres.
Poem by Robin Moore.
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Commemorating WW1 a century on, Robin Moore sets off on a 1000km trek across Switzerland, France and Belgium which will complete a circuit of Europe and the British Isles. Read how his adventure unfolds each day and learn about the historical places of interest he encounters.
CHAPTER 1
Dominant Mountains That Preside Over Europe
image
Geneva to Hotel Bellevue, Gex
Starting my walk from Geneva city centre, I make my way to the great lake which borders France and Switzerland; then after running a video commentary near the ferry port and fountain, I continue beside the lake. It is a perfect late September day; sunshine with a breeze from the water allowing a pleasant initiation to this historic walk. I pass through several small parks, occasionally stopping to absorb the scenery and around midday I take a cycle route away from the lake towards the mountainous French Border. The road becomes busy though broken frequently by colourful towns and occasionally my gaze is drawn towards the sky where air traffic is in motion too. I am 5 km from the next village when a local walker joins me; he is astonished when I tell him I am walking to the Menin Gate! He shuffles off quietly on reaching his destination and after continuing to the end of the village I seek help from a hotelier who points me towards France. In the distance lie the Jura Mountain Range which I feel will test me over the coming week. Soon I cross the border, and with little to get excited about other than a sign post marked ‘France’, I continue uphill towards Gex. It is an arduous trek in the heat as I struggle with a 50lb load, and lack of sleep at the airport the previous evening also adds to the discomfort. Once I am confident of my route I start to feel much better and on my last ascent, which sees me only 27km from Morez, I decide to take refuge at Hotel Bellevue at the town of Gex. it is a large building owned by an enthusiastic marine commando whose father fought at Verdun during the Great War. He shows me his father’s picture and medals and later I begin writing my book with a beer on hand while the bar maid tells her local patrons of my endeavours.
Hotel Bellevue, Gex to Morbais
Starting in hot sunshine I continue my ascent across the Jura Mountains; there are no war monuments or battle fields here – just a slow grind through steepling countryside as the towns and villages of yesterday disappear behind a curtain of mist. Even traffic flows by at a leisurely pace and the lorries chug along cautiously as the journey evolves by way of the narrow pass. It is an laboured affair during the morning where at times the diverse terrain reminds me of New Zealand with its collaboration of forest and stern peaks. The afternoon brings respite with a cool descent beyond St Claude Junction; by now I am hitting towns regularly and make use of any facilities available to enjoy a coffee break and the chance to pick up a few provisions.
At La Cur I rouse some curiosity as I deposit my backpack on a park bench outside the Tourist Office, change my socks and eat a sandwich. Soon I have an audience comprising of a touring party who had seen me walking earlier; after explaining the purpose of my journey I show them my pilgrim passport and a publication about a recent expedition. After wishing me well they depart and their distant waves see me on my way to Les Rousses and later Morez where I purchase groceries for tonight’s supper. A further ascent along a busy road section sees me to the campsite at Morbais. Although the campsite is now closed for this season the club owner allows me to stay the night and I am able to purchase a drink from the bar where the locals are enjoying their banter amid the smoky atmosphere of a ‘barbie’.
Morbais to Veiux Chalet Champagnole
Rising to a dew-soaked morning I wind up the tent and take a shower at the block which is still unlocked despite the closure of the site. A cooler start makes walking bearable as more steep ascents set the tone for the day. The first few days of any walk always present a challenge but I am grateful to find this route is broken nicely by interspersing villages. As the road narrows the terrain becomes more demanding and yet diverse affording sheer drops of many hundreds of feet; it is awe-inspiring peering down onto treetops as they disappear into a bottomless chasm. At Champagnole I collect groceries and beyond the town, not far from my next route, I stop at a park and camp for the night. Here I buy a bottle of wine from a shop nearby, and the owner kindly uncorks the screw. Sitting on a bench by the tent I enjoy my supper as dusk closes in across the mountains and all is quiet beneath the stars.
Veiux Chalet, Champagnole to Samson
Rising to bright sunshine I dismantle the tent, use the toilet facilities at the park entrance and then proceed along the main road to the Salin Junction. This section follows minor roads throughout the morning with my main coffee break at a restaurant at Salin-le-Bains. From here the heat is unbearable though the scenery, comprised largely of forest mountain landscape and the audio presence of running waster, served as a delightful opiate. En route I met another traveller who had passed me earlier in a car heading for Campagnole; he hails from Verdun and spoke good English. Intrigued by my quest he takes photos and a video which he posts on his Youtube/Facebook pages to give me a bit of support and hopefully some media coverage for our charities. Before departing he hands me some fruit and a bottle of water; then wishes me well for the remainder of my trip. As evening draws close, I meet a group who give me water and an offer to camp. Feeling that the day is incomplete, I press on to the next village where I purchase cheese and wine; a further km north of the village I camp at a field near the road which is at least encompassed by hedgerows.
Samson to Rioz
Disappearing of the radar at dusk is quite important when camping rough as I need to be concealed and feel relaxed to manage a few hours sleep.
A misty morning brings cooler air as I tackle the busy main road with caution, not able to obtain a coffee until reaching Landin around 11.30am. I enjoy a few moments as a spectator, watching the world go by; but soon the road beckons and it is time to return to the task. Sadly the second part of the day disintegrates as the road network becomes complex around industrial Besancon. After taking a wrong turn I receive directions from a lady at a nearby school and descend to the outer regions of town. Soon I am walking on the main road to Vesoul having failed to locate the byway I need to keep on course to Combeaufontaine. Continuing in fear for my life and with motorway instructions now imminent, I make it to Rioz by nightfall. After an extensive ‘reccy’ I realise there is nowhere to stay; so I put up a bivvy outside the campsite which is closed, and fetch a takeaway meal from the only place that is open here.
CHAPTER 2
A Countryside Devoid Of Time
Rioz to Combeaufontaine
Sleeping through sheer exhaustion and uncertain what to do, I visit the police station for help. They are great! Once issued with a coffee they give me a route planner to cover the next 2 days which promises a rural journey along the quieter byways/cycle routes as far as Jussey. Then after receiving an official Gendarme stamp on my WW1 passport, I set off in good stride, feeling grateful for their efforts to help me. The route takes me through the remainder of the town and passes under the motorway where it bears left by a country park. As the day unfolds I begin to appreciate a pleasant scenic journey through rural France in contrast to the initiation along the steep mountain pass, and mad motorway of yesterday. Passing many ancient villages such as Fondremand, Maizieres and Traves I feel consumed by a timeless rural atmosphere. I even stumble across a Camino de Santiago route which interacts with some of the more ancient communities. On reaching the quaint little town of Combeaufontaine I pick up some groceries, but with no accommodation available to tempt me to stay, I set up a camp 2 km north of the village.
Combeaufontaine to Lamarche
The early morning pattern of mist continues as I dismantle my tent and wander carefully along the road. The one problem I face today is obtaining enough water and provisions in these rural parts where it seems that the inhabitants live with a degree of self-sufficiency. Passing through numerous communities over the last week I notice allotments, small-holdings and farm shops which open only in the morning; though later today I manage to get adequate supplies at Jussey. After obtaining road information from the Tourist Office, I visit the cenotaph which is the most conspicuous so far, revealing the names of the war dead who had fought in great campaigns such as Verdun, Le Marne and the Somme; monuments such as this will be commonplace throughout the remainder of my journey. Continuing into the wilderness without seeing another shop or restaurant, I begin to feel as though this countryside is in a time of its own – devoid of change or the passage of time. Only speeding motors and farm machinery gives it away in an environment where people enjoy their allotments and orchards which have kept them self-sufficient for generations. Nearing dusk some youngsters help me obtain water from a tap by the church. Later on course for the final 6km to Lamarche they track me down on bicycles to give me a king size bottle for the night. It is as though they know I am facing a tough evening and I am quite taken back by the kindness-it is the highlight of the day- God bless them.
Lamarche, like all that precedes it since Jussey, is another dead place – rundown hotels which are closed – no sign of life any where and on leaving the town I quickly find a quite spot near the woods to set up camp for the night.
Lamarche to Neufchateau
I am shattered having completed a week on the road at 12 hours per day with each night under canvas – I need a proper sleep! As the mist clears the day heats up draining me as I struggle to obtain water. Eventually I manage to acquire a bottle at a farm where the owner also gives me some fruit for sustenance. I only had a 37km walk today but the heat and lack of food make it slow work. Reaching a village fountain I leap into the water to cool down and enjoy a good soak. The locals appear bemused though I try to explain it is more pleasurable now than at 6am – though I did summon enough courage to attempt a shave in a water butt one misty morning! Life on the road is full of innovations where good health and survival are the only way forward. Rejoining the road I stop to ask a local couple for water; they kindly invite me into their garden for a drink of freshly squeezed apple juice curtesy of their orchard while I explain my quest and what it has so far entailed. They are astonished to feel the weight of my pack – ‘Vingt killos?’ exclaims the lady! After bading farewell I make good progress reaching my destination of Neufchateau by 5pm and promptly book into the local hotel, Le Rialto – 52euros. The lady signs my WW1 passport but refuses to give any discounts – explaining that they were reserved for the pilgrims with Camino de Santiago credentials. At least I enjoy a proper night’s rest with the promise of a breakfast in the morning.
Neufchateau to Vaucouleurs
After a night in an hotel I actually feel more tired than usual and after my breakfast I toil in the heat. I make hard work of the morning session to Domremy but enjoy a good coffee which is a boost to morale. After the break I get into a steady rhythm as the afternoon drifts by amid the drone of traffic. Reaching Vaucouleurs in early evening I feel as though I can press on further, but wary of the previous times when short of provisions I opt to go to the supermarket, get food and after, I set up camp whilst still light a few km beyond town.
CHAPTER 3
Poignant Reminders Of The Great War
Vaucouleurs Region to Sur Meuse
Starting in heavy mist I concentrate hard for the few Km to Void where all is still quiet on this Saturday morning. Not able to get coffee I press on to Commercy and enjoy a bustling market scene which to a ‘man of the road’ is a breath of fresh air. Feeling energised by the moment I walk through the slender streets to the beautiful town centre and its lofty architecture. Here I take coffee and marvel at the crowds thinking to myself that Commercy most definately lives up to its name. Before pressing on to St Mihiel I visit a war cemetery harbouring those who fell in the battles of the Marne, Meuse and Verdun. War raged on around these parts throughout 1914-18 and at one stage the Germans came within 50 miles of Paris. So desperate was the plight of the French that commander-in-chief, General Joffre hired every cab in Paris to rush troops to the front line. This drastic action enabled him to successfully launch a counter-attack on the River Marne on 4th September 1914 which halted the German war machine. Sadly though, the great French dreams of a triumphant offensive to end the war did not come and the misery of trench warfare followed with pointless combat in ‘No mans land’ until the end of 1918. Beyond here are many places with war graves but few with shops though I manage another at coffee at a bar and later a cake at St Mihiel. Along the way there are more cenotaphs and memorials to the Great War; most significant is the Roman Camp at St Mihiel which was taken by the Bavarians despite brave fighting from the single unit left there to guard it. Beyond the town is another war cemetery and a further 6 km I find the only hotel between St Mihiel and Verdun thanks to the help of a local lady. Merci beaucoup!
Auberge du Chaudron, Fleuri sur Meuse to Verdun
I am glad of a good sleep at the hotel and keep some of supper for this morning’s breakfast realising that there are so few facilities out in these rural parts. Today is also Sunday and a wet one at that as I walk all the way to Verdun ticking off the cemeteries en route and trying to imagine the scenes of battle along the Meuse. A hundred years ago tanks would have rolled through broken woods towards the river against the sound of cannon fire and machine guns. Today the landscape presents a peaceful arable scene that bears the solitary murmur of a tractor. Only the weather denies history and the day stays damp and miserable as it may well have been a century ago. With 27km under my belt today I wonder when I will come across a place to enjoy a coffee! Entering the town of Verdun I find a solution to the problem at Macdonalds where I also enjoy a cooked meal – burger and chips and wifi for my video diary– good old Uncle Ronnie!
Heading further into town I find a grocer shop that is open and visit the Tourist Office where the attendant stamps my passport and gives me information about the town’s war history. Continuing across the river to the gated town entrance I watch a boat race reach its conclusion amid enthusiastic cheers along the river bank. Passing through the gated entrance I see a different section of Verdun which is largely commercial with modern shops, restaurants and a few dated buildings; most of these are residential interspersed by several reasonably priced hotels. On the whole this is an ideal base for war historians wishing to explore one of the most catastrophic theatres of war.Tourism here is largely derived from the devastation of the Great War which has intrigued so many over the last century. Some are drawn here to find lost relatives who fought in the campaign; others visit to try to make sense of the huge loss of life which occurred during what was the most modern war of its age. The whole region conveys a poignant message and as the night continues I pass more cenotaphs and a vast war cemetery where the visual evidence of a desperate struggle is quite conclusive – those who fought here knew real hardship and suffering! As the white tablets become more distant dusk approaches bringing more wet weather. I manage to find a field suitable for camping and descend to the woods; here I stay dry, and after a mackerel salad accompanied by a drop of wine, the traffic grows quiet allowing me to drift into slumber.
Verdun Region to Inur
Waking after a night of rainfall I make the most of a mist free session in the morning reaching Chamy around 10am. I visit a bar by a park where the locals gaze at my passport stamps while I take a wash and shave in the disabled toilet. As it turns out this is the one and only opportunity to have a coffee break as the trend of no facilities continues; during the last week I have come across many places closed for renovation, sale or simply brought to a standstill through lack of trade. Even at the town of Dun sur Meuse everything is either closed or under repair and the only place I can obtain water is the chemist! Eventually my efforts are rewarded at Stenay where I find a supermarket and buy all I need for tonight. A few miles on at Inur I finish at the campsite where a night under canvas costs only 4euros. I speak to another traveller from Germany who is also visiting the battlefields. Later I cross the road to the local pub and write up my diary on what turns out to be the most productive day on tour so far – realising over 50km.
Inur to Sedan

Historic town en route to Verdun

Historic town en route to Verdun


During the night torrential rain forces me to abandon tent and take refuge in the wash room; my tent is saturated and difficult to pack away; other items too are wet. The nightmare continues as rain and traffic disrupt the day though I pass through some historic places which breaks up the monotony; Mouzon with its medieval archway entrance and wonderful church add a depth of history dating back 2000 years. Although a bit autumnal I relax with some raison bread and milk beside the river; after I follow the bank back to my main road route via the D954. Occasionally I stray from my route and use a village trail; this is usually counter-productive yet often necessary to relieve myself from the stress of traffic. The last two days have seen many beautiful water scenes where tributaries form from waterfalls and canals spur off the river following the road through more towns and villages. For a while I get a chance to walk close to the river bank; stopping at a lock gate I eat some chocolate and later watch fishermen casting from a bridge. A shoal of large chub in the shallow water catch my gaze and I shout across to the fishers to cast further out. Another place dominated by water (and once again from the sky too) is Sedan, my destination for today, where I am fortunate to find a municipal campsite. Although closed the care-taker does not object to me setting up camp under the games area where I could at least stay dry! He and his wife wished me well and gave directions for tomorrow’s journey which will take in the busy region of Charleville Mezieres.
Sedan to Bough Fidele
The pattern of wet continues and I promptly stop for coffee at a sports cafe on the edge of town where todays travels begin. I use the facilities for a wash and shave then from here I toil on through the suburban areas of Charville Mervais stopping three more times for coffee to take refuge from torrential rain. The day does not ameliorate and on leaving the city I take the D22 to Renwez where to my horror the only hotel I have seen all day is closed! All too often nearing dusk I find myself in this predicament – particularly on this current expedition and with more wet weather imminent I face the prospect of camping in a muddy forest. This I do several miles on but eventually the storm that has stalked me all day finds its quarry and my tent fills with water soaking everything. I am subjected to a cold, wet and sleepless night.
CHAPTER 4
The Last Charge
Bourg Fidele to Chimay
My ordeal continues and I can barely keep my eyes open as I decide which items of equipment are no longer serviceable. The tent is of no further use and in any case, I had converted it to a bivvy, whilst in Spain earlier this year for the purpose of short journeys in summer months; I also scrap some of the more worn clothing that is sodden through. Finding a bakers en route I purchase a roll and ponder over my predicament; at least I will be crossing the border into Belgium soon. On this note I press on to the next village where I am escorted to a sports cafe by 2 cows – probably an early milk delivery! They peer through the door and soon gather an audience as we tolerate their company long enough to take photos. After coffee I march them up the road as far as the square where they stop to investigate something else of interest. Happy to leave them to their own devises, I continue my adventure in the direction of Rocroi. There are roadworks near the town though thankfully the thoroughfare is more intriguing accentuated by some elaborate features and eye-catching statues to the left. After visiting to Tourist Office at Rocroi it rains again so I retire to the Hotel de Commerce to write my diary with the aid of more caffeine. Rain eventually subsides and I move on from the town; the terrain remains rural and in the afternoon I cross the border into Belgium. The road is quiet with only a few broken communities and closed hotels. Joining the main road I make steady progress to Chimay where I purchase groceries (still French-speaking) but have difficulty in finding anything that resembles an hotel; on making an inquiry at a local residence the family kindly offered to let me stay the night; feeding me and making most welcome which I am very grateful for.
Chimay to Mons
My hosts spoke good English and were kind to me drying my damp clothes and making me a good breakfast before setting off on an ambitious journey to the early days of WW1
Well the task of reaching Mons-58km from here seems a little unrealistic yet I feel confident I can get close and should in any case find a hotel along the way before dusk. The day goes well stopping at Beaumont (26km) for lunch; this vibrant town has many good facilities though it is far too early to stop. I do however rest at a cafe and once rejuvenated power into the following session ticking off all the villages thereafter. I find a fruitier by the roadside and purchase bananas and an orange; I am able to pick apples most days as the trees still bear fruit; but as night fell I struggle on expecting to find a hotel – realising that I had yet to see one in Belgium! Before long I am entering Mons by the Cenotaph laid by the British and Canadians at the end of the war. Mons was the first battle fought in WW1 by the British who quite literally stumbled on the positions of The First German Army. Their infantry came on in great numbers but where gunned down by the fusiliers of the BEF who had been trained in rapid fire and use of machine guns. The success was short-lived and German artillery fire sent the BEF reeling back through France all the time shielded by the cavalry whose bravery and altruism helped preserve the BEF as a fighting force in the field. Four years on in this bloody campaign the German war machine was finally halted and the assailants kicked out of Mons by the Canadians who made a valuable contribution throughout the Great War. Across the road I pass an Irish Cenotaph and continuing into the centre I see many epitaphs and personal reminders of the War. Around midnight I come across the only hotel in this part of the city – priced at 100euros – no thanks! Instead I find a park with a lovely dry spot under a conifer which shelters me from the dew and feeling grateful for comfort I drift into slumber.
Mons to Tournai
Having overslept I stumble to a nearby cafe which is opened early to accommodate the Saturday market. This is the only commercial activity I come across as I begin to focus on the day ahead. In fact it transpires to be an even later start as the town is not open for business until after 10am; I need food and the tourist office before I depart from here! Eventually I purchase a breakfast at ‘Uncle Ronnie’s and obtain adequate directions for the last section of my walk from the Tourist Office. Leaving in torrential rain I pass through November 11th Street, onto Parc Road and then join the N50 to Tournai. Slow and arduous is how I describe it as the road floods through and I am lucky to find a cycle path by the river which I use for part of the way. A huge barge passes by and I think to myself ‘Don’t see too many of those on the River Nene!’ The width of the vessel would almost certainly breach both banks of our little country river unlike the waterways here which compare to crossing an ocean. Water is certainly in vast quantity here for all concerned and when the sun finally appears at Bescecles at 4pm I still face a further 20km to Tournai. Laboured it becomes too! However, the rain abates and I manage to buy a fish supper 6km from Tournai. On arrival it is the same old story- no hotels/hostels and so I retire to yet another conifer tree in a park opposite a shopping centre; it is the best option given the circumstances. Surrounded by mud, the tree droppings at least provide a dry surface to lay on, while the density of the branches conceal me from main road traffic and party dwellers. Given these advantages and the ebbing flow of traffic I manage a few valuable hours rest in the warmth of my sleeping bag.
Tournai to Roncq
Waking to the commotion of a Sunday Market at Tournai, I join in the fun at a nearby cafe which is presently a centre of activity and commerce. Feeling invigorated by the experience I make my way out of town filming some of the majestic architecture which gives the place it’s character. Having survived the Great War, ancient and modern blend well in these parts; all the old world cafes have embraced technology and I have no difficulty in constructing a facebook video diary along the way. The road is a less dramatic affair as I tick off the villages en route, find the necessary ‘pit stops’ for coffee and treat myself to a meal after crossing the border back into France. I am now bound for Roubaix where I hope to reconnect my journey through Flanders via the Menin Road. Reaching the urban swirl I continue along the busy streets which are a mix of rundown flats and fast-food facilities in what appears to be a largely Muslim Community. I see a cloaked man walking barefoot in the road as he tries to avoid a crowd – it is busy here with a lot of intersections to cross. My journey slows down for a while but eventually I reach Tourcoing and its captivating architecture. After finding a grocer shop and purchasing provisions, I feel as though the day is near its end. Unable to find a receptionist at a nearby hotel, I take on another section which at least ensures my route to Menin; Then I am fortunate in finding a budget Hotel-Premiere where I feel happy to retire for the day. It is only 40 euros including breakfast so at last I can relax and enjoy the comfort of a bed having walked 150 km for the privilege of sleeping in it!
Roncq to Ypres
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Leaving the Premiere Inn after a substantial buffet-style breakfast I walk the N8 to Warelgem which provides reasonable passage despite being under siege from commuter traffic. Bearing left at Warelgem, I cross the road bridge and I walk into Menin. Promptly finding a restaurant I enter for coffee and attempt to chat with a few of the locals; one of the guys had spent time in Canada in the 60′s and still speaks good English. He buys me another coffee and takes a photograph to mark the occasion in between the chat. Leaving the cafe around noon my journey continues along Iuper Street. There are pavements to walk on and a few villages en route; eventually we encounter the Ypres Salient where I visit a cenotaph on the right. A bit further on is a museum containing Great War relics and archives; opposite is a cemetery harbouring the soldiers who fought in those last battles of 1914 culminating in the First Battle of Ypres. The contestants in the field were the BEF who had retreated from Mons; then regrouped at Zonnebeke with re-enforcements from the Commonwealth. Here they prepared to defend against hand picked troops of the elite Prussian Guard who had pledged victory or death. It is said they came on magnificently – almost as if they were on a military parade; only mortality defied their courage as they fell in their ranks against the murderous machine gun fire of the British Fusiliers. This was a do or die battle to save the Channel Ports and it is impossible to imagine the carnage caused by this desperate struggle. The chaos of backup troops arriving to the front line with the guard breaking through the forest; officers panicking as they try to lead counter-attacks to clear the woods. Hand to hand fighting continued with bayonet and pistol until finally dusk fell upon the remnants of the BEF who had managed to hold their positions; before them lay the guard dead in great swathes piles and heaps. It should have been the end of the war but instead battles raged on until 1918; new weapons were employed; gas, high explosives laid by tunnellers and the discovery of the tank added to the misery of the ‘tommies’ life on the front line. All along the Menin Road I saw poignant reminders of the Great War and a mile from Ypres, by a Commonwealth Inn I take an excursion to Hill 62 where the Canadians fought battles between 1914-16. Passing Wood Cemetery I come to a museum which is also a restaurant; further on I find the cenotaph; from here Ypres sits only 2 miles from the field which would have been a sobering concept for the public to deal with throughout the conflict. Returning to the restaurant I chat to the maid about finding an hotel in town and spend a moment savouring the day with a coffee. There are many archives here, and on leaving I take photographs of the artillery outside; then head back towards Wood Cemetery and the Ypres Salient. Finally I conclude my pilgrimage at the Menin Gate where a great lion sits proud above the cenotaph reminding the world of the ultimate sacrifice made for peace. This is the most sacred place on Earth to a military man from the British Empire. The soldiers names are all that remain of them though their souls live on in the heart of Ypres where locals and visitors commemorate their loss each night at the last post – 8pm.
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We will remember them – God Bless them always!
EPILOGUE
With the last post still ringing through my mind the train journey across Flanders and then Lille to Calais gave me much to reflect on having now completed a 35,000km circuit of the British Isles and Europe. To finish the last leg of this circuit along the WW1 battle fields one hundred years on makes my effort more significant and historically rewarding; I have seen poignant plaques and cenotaphs; learned of the brave deeds of our ancestors who were selfless and altruistic in the face of battle with an undying sense of duty. Even though I have met many of these brave men as a child I could never have envisaged their plight or the misery of the trenches, mud and barbwire. We can only show deep respect and gratitude for their sacrifice and pray no such war will visit humanity again.
APPENDIX
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NATIONAL PILGRIMAGES
http://www.oundlepilgrimage.org.uk
http://www.cornishpilgrimage.org.uk
1914 TIME LINE – the opening stages
28th June – Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand – Austria-Hungary declares war on Serbia.
1st August – Germany declares war on Russia
3rd August – Germany declares war on France
4th August – Germany violates Belgium Neutrality – Great Britain is now at war
7th August – German forces march into Leige
16th August – BEF lands in France and sets up HQ at Amiens
21st August – BEF crosses into Belgium – Private John Parr, aged 16, is the first British casualty at Obourg
22nd August BEF take up positions at Mons – Cavalry Divisions are engaged in battle with the German Hussars
23rd August – The Battle of Mons Salient where the Germans attack on two flanks
Apparition of the ‘Angels of Mons’ follow the BEF in retreat through the Marmal Forest towards Le Cateau
Other Battles
September – Battle of the Marne
November – The First Battle of Ypres
Christmas Day Truce – British and German troops meet in ‘No Mans Land’ to celebrate Christmas.

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