Big Battlefield Bike Ride and other events....

The main event! The Big Battlefield Bike Ride

Here is the offical itinerary as published by Help for Heroes and Discover Adventure (it is subject to change)

Our exciting cycle challenge takes us from HMS Victory in Portsmouth, a hugely important part of naval history, across the channel to Le Havre and then through Northern France to Dunkirk.

This challenging route traces some of the region’s most significant WW1 & WW2 battle sites, including Thiepval on the Somme.

This will be a great physical challenge and also an amazing emotional journey as we visit some of the memorial sites in the Somme. We finish our challenge by departing from Dunkirk on the 70th Anniversary of the last evacuation of British troops where we will join the commemorations with the Flotilla of Dunkirk Little Ships

Day 1: Portsmouth - Caen

We will have a great send-off from HMS Victory in Portsmouth’s Naval Dockyard.  After a spectacular parade we will cycle to the ferry terminal and catch the evening overnight ferry to Caen. We are allocated our cabins and have a good night’s sleep – ready for an early start and a challenging day tomorrow!

Cycle 2 miles

Day 2: Le Havre - Dieppe

We arrive in France at around 7am local time. We shall transfer directly onto buses and make the short journey by coach to our starting point in Fecamp, a coastal fishing town outside of Le Havre.  Here we will mount our bikes and begin cycling eastwards to Dieppe. We make our way to St Valery-en-Caux where the 51st Highland Division, part of the British Expeditionary Force, attempted to evacuate Northern France in June 1940. The attempt failed due to fog. We will walk to the cliff-top memorial to the soldiers that died, which overlooks the small coastal town and beach. Our cycle continues along the beautiful, but hilly coastal road to Dieppe with stops at several other points along the route where there are memorials to the events of both the D-Day landings and the earlier BEF evacuations. 

Cycle approx 50 miles  (total 52 miles)

Day 3: Dieppe – Amiens

From Dieppe we cycle inland, gradually climbing away from the coast along country roads, passing through hamlets and small towns, stopping maybe for a cool drink in a typical village café. The terrain becomes testing and undulating as we head into the French countryside where the aftermath of the First World War remains apparent by the small military cemeteries dotted around the landscape. We will stop at two of these en route, the first at Grandcourt, where 29 British and Commonwealth soldiers are buried. In addition we visit the Cauillon and Crouy British Cemetery.  The route we take is beautiful; through rolling farmland and woodland. We spend the night in Amiens, relaxing after a long day in the saddle.

Cycle approx 75 miles (total 127 miles)

Day 4: Amiens – Arras

Today is our most thought provoking ride as we explore the tragic battle sites of the First World War. We leave Amiens following the River Somme heading north east through small villages towards Albert. As we progress, the cemeteries and memorials become ever more frequent as we ride on into the heart of the Somme. We cycle on to Thiepval, which is the main memorial to the lost French and British soldiers who gave their lives during that terrible time. After exploring the area, including the Beaumont Hamel trenches, we carry on cycling north-east, finally finishing in the town of Arras with a visit to the underground tunnels that housed the Allied Troops.

Cycle approx 70 miles (total 197 miles)

Day 5:. Arras – Ypres

Leaving Arras behind us we head directly North on a tough cycle via the Canadian memorial at Vimy Ridge and on to the smaller cemeteries such as those at Vermelles and Festubert.  Fromelles is where the most recent WW1 burial ground was found, so we shall remember those who fell here at the brand new memorial built in 2009.  Heading north of Armentieres there is the opportunity to hear our Battlefield Guides talk at Ploegsteert and to visit the memorial which commemorates nearly 11,000 servicemen who died in WWI mostly during day-to-day trench warfare. From here we complete the final stretch into Ypres, an immensely historic town where we shall join the evening ceremony held daily at the Menin gate. 

Cycle approx 70 miles (total 267 miles)

Day 6: Ypres – Dunkirk

Our penultimate days ride sees us traversing the flatter lands of the Belgian/French border to join in a spectacular celebration with the townspeople of Dunkirk to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the evacuation of our troops. We will cycle via the British cemetery at Boezinge and follow the route taken by troops north westward up to Bray Dunes, site of many casualties during WW11 as part of the Dunkirk evacuation.  Cycling along the coast towards Dunkirk we will stop at the beach memorial to those soldiers who lost their lives so close to being free, and take part in a special ceremony to remember those who fought for us here.  The Association of Dunkirk Little Ships will welcome us, with 50 small ships which were actually active in the evacuation taking our men to safety 70 years ago.  After the ceremony we will head back through the battle areas south of Dunkirk via Poperinge, a town used in WW1 to billet British Troops and which provided a safe area for field hospitals.  Returning to Ypres we will rest after a long and emotional day and prepare for the final push tomorrow for our own evacuation.   

Cycle approx: 70 miles (total 335 miles)


Day 7: Ypres - Dunkirk

Today will be an early start as we take a more western route up to Dunkirk, our final destination in France.  The cemeteries at Dikkebus and Bambecque are a constant reminder of the struggle our troops faced in this region.  We will cycle directly to the port of Dunkirk where we will dismount for the final time and hand our bikes to the trucks.  We will take a final time to reflect on the Dunkirk evacuation as we are then transported over the Channel by the Royal Navy, subject to operational permissions, to land at Dover.  (Please note: this is subject to change and may be replaced by a Calais – Dover passenger ferry crossing).  You will be taken to your hotel in Dover to freshen up before you are transported to a well earned celebration at the Duke of York Royal Military School in Dover, where we will be well fed and watered, and will be welcomed by a Military Band and dignitaries.  A chance to reflect and congratulate yourselves on a huge achievement, before a good nights sleep. 

Cycle approx: 40 miles (total 375 miles)

Day 8: Free time and departure

You will be able to have a well deserved lie in before making your own way home with your bike. (I plan to be picked up not ride from Dover!)