Abandoned Bunkers, Beach Forts, Museums and Windsurfers


TardinghenA few miles from the sea in the north of France, outside the market town of Tardinghen. Along the county roads, a farmers lane cuts into the overgrowth and up the hill-side. We almost miss it. There are no street signs, no marking of any kind. High hedges bound the single lane, brambles brush both sides of the motorhome as we slowly drive past. Occasionally there’s a break in the wild growth, and green fields speckled with black and white cows come into view.

Motorhome view over White Cliffs of Dover

Our views over White Cliffs of Dover

This is the region of Cote d’Opale. The vista is surprisingly vast and looks up to endless rolling hills or out toward Wissant and the English Channel. The road tracks the hills for so long without a house in sight that we become convinced we’ve come the wrong way. But with no way to turn the motorhome, we drive on. Then ahead, on our left, a small stone cottage, the bistro followed by the hand made sign “Ferme de L’Horloge”. We arrive at our destination which is home for the next 2 nights.

Our Bumble Paid Aire Ferme de L’Horloge GPS Location: N050.862103 E001.648600

As we mentioned, this is one of three farms in the area that offer basic aire facilities with breath taking views. The location is just beautiful with large, spacious plots, a 10 hole golf course, dog runs and service facilities. A few nights ago we stayed at the sister aire just outside Wissant but after a few days of sunshine, heavy rain forced us off the bog fest to free concrete platform at the popular Wissant aire. Now the storm has passed and the sunshine returned, its time to return to a few more days of rest and relaxation.  The next few days we stay on the aire and visit the beaches between Cap Blanc Nez and Cap Gris Nez.  The walks long the coastline with dozens of wind surfers, abandoned bunkers, beach forts, museums and obelisks kept us occupied for days.

Ferme de L'Horloge

Ferme de L’Horloge

Tardinghen is tucked between the two cape points, just beyond the borders of Calais. The area has long been one of Northern France’s tourist destinations—for that reason alone, we always gave it a wide berth. But tourist destinations become popular for a reason, and in a land of wild and rugged green spaces topped off with pristine, white sandy beaches. Tardinghen and the surrounding area is among the most audacious with amazing views across the channel to Dover.

Le Shack Wind Surfers

Le Shack Wind Surfers

We walk past fields and beneath recently sheared sheep clinging to ledges above us. We pass outcrops with names like Le Chatelet and avoid the Wimeraux in favour of the scramble up Le Shack. Hugging the coastline through mighty sand dunes as we watch the wind surfers brave the cold opal sea. The bright sky grows suddenly dark. Rain began to pelt down, then stops just as quickly, and the sky is clear again. But the wind picks up speed. The surfers cry tears of joy whilst we head for cover. The ice wind combined with a course sand blast is an big ouch on the skin.

Massive beach with Fort

Massive beach with Fort

As we scramble behind the beach fort shelter, Craig calls over his shoulder, “it’s bloody freezing.” We watch the mussel pickers until the wind dies down before making a dash in to

Abandoned Fort

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On the way back to Tardinghen we spot a sign for a museum. We follow.  Weaving through fields of wheat its hard to imagine any museum down. Then all of a sudden a huge concrete block shoots up out of the ground like primitive marker. A single raven circles above, then rides a thermal west, over the wheat field before returning to pose on one of the many world war guns on display.  Its nearly closing time, so we walk around the perimeter and peer at the museum articles within sight. The bold white writing stands loud and clear…Batterie Todt, which is located inside a huge concrete bunker built by the Germans to fire on London during the war. We climb the hill and the white cliffs of Dover come into view, jutting out into the channel, before being lost in distant haze.

Todt Bunker

Todt Bunker Museum

Then it is a gentle but long tootle to the top of the hill. We arrive home and sit outside with a cup of coffee as the wind continues to blow. The low clouds race overhead, while the land below changes constantly as the shimmery fields of wheat sway and shadow dance. Eventually, the icy wind gets the better of us and we take shelter inside Vin, our motorhome.

Dig the new helmets…ignore the fag!

That evening Craig chins a chilled beer and I treat myself to a G&T (rare for me to drink!) and with each sip we slouch further in to the chair.  Just before midnight we watch a wonderful firework display over the cliffs of Dover.  What a way to say goodbye to England as tomorrow we move to pastures new…France here we come!

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