Craig’s sciatic nerve is playing up and causing constant pain in his low back and all down his left leg. Fortunately, he managed to sleep until around 4am before the dull ache drove him mad and left him no choice to get up and take a walk.
More motorhomes arrived in the middle of the night and this morning the aire was full to busting. Double parked, blocked in and on the grass side walk, it was manic. Taking the dogs for a walk was like ‘its a knock out’, dodging the randomly parked motorhomes and huge puddles of water from last nights down pour.
We drove a few kilometres down the coast to the seaside town of Dunes Bray. We parked up on the free car park that permits motorhome parking and headed to the seafront. As we turned on to the promenade we felt the full force of the icy wind. It was bitter and even the dogs gave a big shudder. We walked for half an hour and but for the weather you could imagine this place as a cheerful seaside resort. With broad promenade, hotels and high-rise apartment blocks, seafood restaurants, ice-cream and waffle vendors and bucket-and-spade shops. In the sea, small groups of very brave people. We are not sure what they were doing but it looked like some sort of training -sort of a power sea walking conga. Rather them than us! Great kite weather too.
After a cup of coffee we warmed up then decided to head in land and escape the blustery winds. A few kilometres and we were entering Belgium…time to tour the World War 1 battlefield. In 1914, the invading German army forced the Belgians to retreat. In turn, the Belgians opened the sluicegates of the river and flooded the landscape, which formed an effective obstacle as far south as Diksmuide. Between 1915 and 1917, this was the front line, where the gruelling stalemate of trench warfare cost more than 500,000 lives. Today, the area around the Salient is a beguilingly pretty landscape dotted with monuments, museums and numerous cemeteries.
Our first stop, Diksmuide. We parked up at the Ijzer tower car park and went for a cycle ride through the village and along the Ijzer river. Mac in one bike basket and Tosh in the other, both pretty content with life as long as they were out and about tooting. The nice thing about having the dogs in the basket is the fact it brought a smile to everyone who saw them. Diksmuide has a nice little village centre with shops, churches and small market and lovely place to stroll or cycle.
Whilst in the village, Craig nipped in to a bakers and bought us both a cake for our afternoon snack. A massive custard slice topped with oddles of fruit and of course.. a Belgium bun. After a nice cuppa and a cake we walked off the calories with a stroll around the tower .
The tower is rather a strange and ugly looking thing – a huge brick cross standing 84 m (275 ft) tall, rising from the banks of the River IJzer. Known as the IJzertoren (IJzer Tower), a monument to the Flemish dead of World War I, and a physical plea for peace. Inside it contains a museum spread out over 22 floors and right at the top a roof terrace with views over the surrounding landscape. Apparently, the tower is a controversial monument and, until recently, the focus of right-wing Flemish nationalism. The site contains two towers – the original one at the entrance, which was mysteriously blown up in 1946, so they built the second tower on the site, completed in 1965. Entrance fee to the site is €8 pp.
Whilst preparing dinner (a nice piece of steak) we watched a group of Dutch people arrive and hop on to some old fashioned war motorcycles. They looked like they were out to have some fun. I typed up the blog and then realised we had no internet connection..arrggghhh.
Tonights sleep spot, IJzertoren free car park, which permits overnight camping. Located next to the train lines but we did not hear any trains pass by after about 8pm.
GPS coordinates N.051.030647 E.002.853741.
Route: Dunkirk to DIksmuide
Weather high 16 and low 6, overcast and freezing cold winds that made you teeth chatter.