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Belgian Breweries & Battlefields by Bicycle 2017

by
Greg Robertson


Saturday 9 Sept - 64km

Early September 2017 six of us met in Dover to catch the 10am ferry to Dunkirk for the start our tour of Belgian Battlefields & Breweries.

After setting off from Loon-Plage we were passed by a large group of motor cyclists dressed either for a wedding or a funeral, however it was far too noisy to ask which event they were celebrating.

The cycle route along the French coast disappeared into road works in the centre of Dunkirk which meant a spot of cyclocross through sand & stones before stopping for a sandwich & cake at a nice looking boulangerie.

We headed on to look at the Yser tower and "trench of death in Diksmuide" via the old border post at De Panne & then the medieval town of Veurne. A final pedal through the waterside parks & Roeselare town centre brought us to the historic butcher's shop where we were booked in to stay.

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium


Sunday 10 Sept - 86km

On Sunday morning we set off along the old railway "Road to Passchendaele" to look at the Ypres/Passchendaele battlefield. It was a national monuments day so we were lucky enough to get a guided tour of the Commonwealth Cemetery at Tyne Cot.

We set off for lunch at In de Vrede, the visitor centre of the Saint Sixtus monastery. Along the way we passed the St Julien Canadian war memorial, the site of the first gas attack during the second Battle of Ypres, before coming across a half-marathon being run along the banks of the old Ypres canal.

After a lunch of Trapist cheese sandwiches and beer (the Westvleteren 12 is claimed to be the best beer in the world) we headed south towards Ypres for a coffee stop then a look at the restored Cloth Hall and Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing. We left Ypres across the fields towards Zonnebeke across the front lines and back to Roeselare along the old railway.

Belgium

Belgium


Monday 11 Sept - ??km

Monday saw a weather forecast of thunder & lighting so we split into two groups for our look around the historic city of Brugge. The "Lightweights" set off for the railway station while the "Hard Riders" set off following the cycle track north.

After a 20-minute struggle with a ticket machine we "Lightweights" eventually found a lady who sold us some rail tickets. On reaching Brugge it was a short walk from the station to the St Johns Hospital & the Church of Our Lady, this gave us our first view of the canals and the tourists sitting in their bin bags sheltering from the rain. Putting raincoats on we pressed on to look around the buildings of the Brugse Vrije followed by a stop for coffee & fully loaded waffles (Mmmm…).

We pressed on to look at the Belfort, the Markt square and Stadhuis, then a stop to watch chocolate being made & decorated.

After lunch we met up with the riders for a tour of the Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan, this was a great mixture of old and new technology with mash tuns, rooftop tanks and a 3km beer pipeline to a bottling plant outside the city. The tour was followed by a tasting of pasteurised & un-pasteurised beer along with samples of their multiple fermented Dubble. I'm not sure how much education my palette received but it was a great way to spend a rainy afternoon.

Belgium

Belgium


Tuesday 12 Sept - 57km

On Tuesday we set off along the canal for Kortrijk, the industry of Roeselare gave way to quieter towpaths before we turned away from the canal at the town of Izegem. Another 40 minute pedal across flat countryside punctuated by a couple of cobbled sections of road brought us to the Broel towers on the bridge across the river Leie in Kortrijk.

We headed past the historic city hall into the market square looking for coffee. Having found a suitable café, the owner started to talk about bicycles & the many famous climbs around the town. Refreshed we set of with a newly printed map of climbs but instead found one of the few remaining examples of a Low Countries court Beguinage in a corner of the market square.

After a fast-food lunch back in the main square we headed for the Groeningepark to view the monument to the famous Battle of the Golden Spurs.

In the afternoon we visited the Gavermeer in Harelbeke before following the river Leie and then the canal back to Roeselare.

The final visit of the day was to the Bicycle Museum, temporarily located inside a church in Roeselare and mixing themes of cycling & religion.

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium


Wednesday 13 Sept - 59km

The following day we made the same trip along the canal this time to visit the Bierkasteel a brewery built on the outskirts of Izegem. This was a space age facility although they emphasised that the timber in the Lambic coolship roof was brought from the original building back in town to ensure a consistent product. They explained the multiple fermentation processes as well as the bottling & labelling problems of exporting all over the world. The tour finished with a beer tasting in their rather fancy restaurant, the sour cherry beer & multiple fermented brands were particularly tasty. Since we weren't dressed for a formal lunch we set off to Ledegem for a traditional croque-monsieur & coffee lunch stop.

The afternoon was spent visiting the Hooge crater cemetery & museum, along with a trip to the Black Watch memorial in Polygon wood on the route towards Hooge.

We headed home via Zonnebeke and the fields of Passchendaele.

Belgium

Belgium

Belgium


Thursday 14 Sept - 104km

The weather was wet for the trip back to the ferry terminal at Dunkirk so we set off due west via Zonnebeke and Langemark. This had the fortunate consequence of delivering us to the visitors centre of the Saint Sixtus monastery around lunchtime, so we took the opportunity to get out of the rain and sample some more Trappist beer & cheese.

After lunch we headed along the main roads toward the coast in foul weather before turning onto the cycle route at Bray Dunes. We made a final stop in the centre of Dunkirk for coffee and sandwiches and then set off along the main road to avoid the road works before re-joining the cycle route back to the ferry terminal and so ended a very enjoyable trip to Belgium.

Belgium

Belgium


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