When we talk about wars, we do it in a cold way, always thinking in numbers, but as heartbreaking as the figures from the Battle of the Somme are, walking through this verdant place gives you another and deeper perspective of those terrible months of 1916. It’s incredible how over the years the courage and the suffering still cover the landscape and, as you continue walking, you will be feeling both.
Located at the northeast of Amiens, the Somme region nowadays is a charming collection of traditional French villages and towns that are sprinkled around the rolling hills. The battlefields cover a small area so it’s possible for you to see several war cemeteries spread out around the same location. Therefore, there are different walking routes, which vary in duration from hours to a whole day.
You can find the most moving memorial in the Somme at Thiepval, and it can be seen from different parts of the region. You will have to take a five-hour walk from Authuille in order to go through the countryside around Thiepval, a place that saw action on the first days of the battle. The Authuille cemetery is located favorably behind the village on a low valley slope, it’s small if you compare it to other cemeteries, therefore, it lends a feeling of intimacy.
No matter which section of the Somme walk you decided to take, you will see rows upon rows of white headstones with details that will catch your attention like the dates, and how friends fell beside friends. The route continues via Blighty Valley Cemetery and Crucifix corner, then it will take you around Authuille Wood. Also, past Lonsdale Cemetery, you will see the Leipzig Redoubt, which is a small stand of trees atop an imperceptible slope that was crucial for Germans during the war. As you walk up towards the redoubt, it gets difficult to believe that anyone survived, and in fact, just a few did. Once you go beyond the redoubt you will reach the memorial at Thiepval.
As you walk, you will notice that many memorials are worth visiting, but the most emotive monument is the one to South African Soldiers at Delville Wood, near Longueval. It’s a majestic structure with sweeping wings emerging from a central arch. Once you start walking through what nowadays is a forest, you will feel like the souls of those who participated during the war are retained there, but also you will be getting closer to the Newfoundland Memorial Park, near the village of Auchonvillers.
Below the Newfoundland Memorial Park, you will find Beaumont-Hamel. A three-hour walk from Auchonvillers to this village will take you to the most important sites. En route, you will pass by Hawthorn Ridge where the first explosions took place during war times, and they signaled the start of the battle. Walking through these different routes will be an experience that you will never forget.
Just for you to know
“Walking the Somme” by Paul Reed is an easy-to-follow guidebook that we recommend because it shows the different walking trails around the battlefields. Public transportation is scarce so it’s better if you have your own vehicle for this journey. Also, hotels are scarce around the area, but you don’t have to worry because there are countless B&Bs that offer a good level of affordable accommodation.
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