Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 73 / Beer & Battlefields Centenary 2014

Thursday 23 October – Tuesday 28 October 2014

We have selected October for this special centenary Tour because by October 1914 the front line in the Great War had moved north to settle around the Ypres Salient and the Westhoek area of Belgium. We will be visiting some of the most historic sites one hundred years on especially those connected with the First Battle of Ypres (19 October – 22 November 1914) and taking in some of this areas historic beer culture too.

Ypres destroyed in the war...

Ypres then...

Here is the detailed timed itinerary for this Tour:

Thursday 23 October

05.15hr Coach pick up Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk (opposite NCP Car Park).

06.15hr Coach pick up The Woolpack, Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0DN.

07.00hr Coach pick up 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE.

08.00hr Pick up at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone.

09.20hr Eurotunnel Train Crossing from Folkestone.

11.00hr Arrive Calais. We make our way across northern France, following the route soldiers took to the Flanders battlefields.

12.00hr Our first call is at a typical Flemish café Jagershof in the village of Krombeke where we will have our pre-arranged meal, a group Breughel Buffet. We also have an opportunity to choose a beer or two from their menu. The café is very close to the famous Trappist monastery of Sint Sixtus at Westvleteren and the café has an exhibition on the history of the Abbey during WW1 which we can visit*. We are still behind British lines here, but there are several Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC)cemeteries here as this area was extensively used for Casualty Clearing Stations during the war.

14.30hr Leave Jagershof and make our way to Lijsenthoek CWGC

15.00hr Visit to the second largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery in Belgium (10,000 burials) at Lijssenthoek, just south of Poperinge, where there is an excellent new visitors centre telling the story of this unusual cemetery constructed around a Casualty Clearing Station. There are several Chinese Labour Corps graves of interest here and Siobhan will point out other graves of interest.

17.00hr Check into our base for the tour the Novotel Ieper Centrum Flanders Fields Hotel in central Ypres.

18.00hr Siobhan’s illustrated introductory talk on WW1 in a conference room at the hotel.

19.00hr Evening free in Ypres with Podge’s Ypres Bar Guide and Map*.

20.00hr Travellers can take in the moving last post ceremony at the Menin Gate. This is an imposing memorial gateway inscribed with the names of more than 54,896 men whose have no known grave and who died in the salient up to 16 August 1917. There was not enough room on this gate to record all of the names of the missing so the names of those who were known to have died after that date appear on the panels at Tyne Cot Cemetery, a further 35,000. Opened in 1917 this site was chosen because of the thousands of men who passed through this spot on their way to the battlefields. It is most famous for the last post ceremony that takes place every evening at 20.00hrs by the Belgian Fire Service. We will arrive in time for those who would like to experience this brief ceremony in this special centenary year.

Soldiers in Mons Square, 1914

4th Royal Fusiliers on Mons Square 1914.

Friday 24 October

10.00hr Following the luxury breakfast in our hotel we leave by coach to follow the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) to their first engagement in Mons.

11.00hr Call in at Microbrasserie Brasse-Temps in Mons for a quick beer. Brasse-Temps uniquely only serve beers that have been brewed on site (Cuvée des Trolls 7.0%, Ambrasse Temps 5.5%, La Blanche de Ste Waudrau 4.5%, La Brasse Temps des Cerises 5%, Le Temps des Brunes 6.0%) as well as the Bush range of beers from the Dubuisson Brewery.

12.00hr Leave for a tour of WW1 sites around Mons. We aim to visit the first and last shots memorial, marking where the first shots were fired by the BEF on the continent since Waterloo. Siobhan will guide us around some of the sites associated with the opening moves of the war when the small BEF engaged with the might of the German invading armies. We will visit Nimy Bridge and hear about the action here; especially that leading up to the V.C.’s won by Lt Dease and Pte Godley on the bridge over the canal and the famous retreat from Mons.

13.30hr Drop in to central Mons for a chance to look around this attractive town square and the opportunity to have a beer and some lunch armed with Podge’s Mons Bar Guide and Map.

16.00hr Leave Mons.

16.10hr We make our way the short distance just outside town to the beautiful Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at St Symphorien where Lt Dease is buried as well as the first and last BEF casualties and German burials.

17.30hr Arrive at La Forge café in Tourpes just across from the Dupont Brewery. Here we can have a beer or two, best make it a Dupont.

19.00hr Call in at the ancient city of Tournai on way back to Ypres. The cathedral is a UNESCO and World Heritage Site. An opportunity to have a wander round the lovely square, a snack and a beer armed with Podge’s Tournai Bar Guide and Map.

21.30hr Leave Tournai.

22.00hr Arrive back in Ypres.

Ganzpoot Nieuwpoort.

Saturday 25 October

10.00hr Leave Hotel for a day at the Belgian Front.

10.20hr Quick stop at Cafe Steenstraete in Bikschote Siobhan will take us on a short walk along the Ijzer River to the famous Great War monument to the Flemish Brothers Van Raemdonck, two brothers who died in the war and their memorial which is an important marker in the history of the modern Flemish movement. Back to the café for a reviving beverage.

11.30hr Visit the preserved Belgian Army trenches and museum near Dixmuide, the Dodengang (Trenches of Death). It was here that inundation which saved the small part of free Belgium from the German army and where the remnants of the Belgian Army hung on for four years. Here you can walk up the trenches to the Mousetrap snipers post and the position of the petrol tanks.

13.30hr Sandwich lunch* and a beer at the nearby Dodengang Café.

15.00hr Leave Dodengang for the short journey to Nieuwpoort where the trenches fell into the sea.

15.30hr Arrive at Nieuwpoort where Siobhan will take us on a brief walking tour of the Ganzepoot Complex and war memorials, explaining how the Belgian’s flooded the local area via the sluice gates, exactly 100 years ago, stopping the German advance in this sector. We hope to visit the brand new visitors centre* and viewing galley built underneath the Albert I Memorial, which is due to open in time for this anniversary week.

Our coach will then take us on to the pretty town of Veurne, nerve centre of the Belgian Army at the time of the flooding of the Ijzer. Evening free in Veurne armed with a copy of Podge's Veurne Bar Guide and Map* and an opportunity for a beer and dinner if you wish.

Leave Veurne for return to Ypres.

Sunday 26 October

10.00hr Depart by coach from Hotel to spend a day in the immortal salient and for a look at the Three Battles of Ypres in 1914, 1915 and 1917. We will head first to Gheluveld to hear about the First Battle of Ypres one hundred years ago this weekend on 25-29 October 1914. We will visit the memorials to the 2nd Worcesters and the 1st South Wales Borderers for their stand in the Chateau grounds of this village.

14.00hr We head to Hooge, one of the most dreaded spots on the Salient. We pay a visit to the excellent Hooge Crater Museum* and will have a light lunch* and a beer* in the attached cafe. We may have an opportunity to go into the grounds of the hotel next door and visit* some original blockhouses (pillboxes). It was here that the Germans used the 'flammenwerfer' or flamethrowers for the first time in the Battle of Second Ypres May - July 1915. You can also visit the Hooge Crater CWGC Cemetery opposite the museum on the site of the huge crater blown over the road here in July 1915.

16.00hr A special guided visit by the owner’s son Stijn to the private WW1 Museum* at the infamous Pond Farm. This farm near St. Julien was known as Pond Farm on British Army trench maps, and Kazerne Häseler on German military maps. After the Second Battle of Ypres in May 1915 the farm was occupied by the Germans. By 1917 Pond Farm was one of many reinforced strongpoints in the German Army's defensive line. Three large bunkers, small bunkers, tunnels and cellars formed the fortifications at this place. We should be able to see Stijn’s new finds including some pieces of tank, a rare find. Much of the Battle of Third Ypres (Passchenedaele 31 July – 10 November 1917) raged around this farm and the surrounding area.

18.00hr Arrive at Poperinge for the Poperinge Beer Festival held in the rear banqueting room of the Belfort Hotel on the main square. This festival has over 20 breweries represented with 100 beers on offer including some new releases. The festival has free admission and there is a returnable deposit of 3€ on a commemorative festival glass which you can keep or return. Tasting tokens are 1,50€ each. Filled rolls are available or you can try some of the other bars in town armed with a copy of Podge's Poperinge Bar Guide and Map*.

22.00hrish Return to hotel.

Monday 27 October

10.00hr Depart Hotel for the excellent Vanuxeem beer warehouse in Ploegsteert for an opportunity to buy beers to take home.

12.00hr Arrive in the Plugstreet Wood sector for a look at the new visitors centre opened recently to explain what happened in this area during the war. We can also have a look at the huge Ploegsteert memorial at Hyde Park Corner and some of the memorials here.

14.00hr Make our way back to central Ypres and an afternoon visit to the brand new Kazematten Brewery built into the stone caverns, or casemates making up the city walls. This is the site where the Sherwood Foresters who were stationed here set up the printing press on which they the famous Trench Journal The Wipers Times. We will have a brewery tour* and beer tasting*.

15.00hr Afternoon and evening free in Ypres. There have been a rash of great new beer bars setting up in Ypres which all appear on Podge’s Ypres Bar Guide and Map*. Here you can wander around the famous square, get in some chocolate shopping, find a beer or something to eat, and if you wish pay a visit to In Flanders Fields Museum or take part in the Menin Gate ceremony at 20.00hrs.

18.00hr Siobhan will give an illustrated talk on Beer in the First World War in the Hotel this evening.

Tuesday 28 October

10.00hr Leave Hotel

11.00hr Arrive Zeebrugge. Here Siobhan will tell us about the little known Zeebrugge Raid and Ostend Raids of 1918. We will visit the infamous Mole (sea wall) and we follow the story of the Zeebrugge Raid, the role of Mersey Steamers Iris & Daffodil, the exploding of Submarine C3 and the limited successes of the block ships. We go to the Zeebrugge Memorial and the nearby Zeebrugge Churchyard CWGC to follow the fate of missing officer Frank Brock who was last seen on the Mole fighting Germans with his fists.

12.45hr Leave Zeebrugge and make our way down the coast to:

13.15hr Ostend where we visit the newly moved monument incorporating the actual prow of HMS Vindictive and hear its fate from the first daring raid at Zeebrugge to its role in the Second Ostend Raid.

14.00hr Leave Ostend.

14.30hr Arrive at Bistro Nieuwege in Varsenare for our pre-arranged lunch stop and chance for a last beer before Blighty chosen from their excellent beer list.

18.00hr Leave for Calais.

18.50hr Arrive Eurotunnel.

19.50hr Leave Calais on Eurotunnel Train.

19.30hr Arrive Folkestone.

19.45hr Coach drop off at Stop24 J11 M20 near Folkestone.

20.30hr Coach pick up 7 Mays Siding, London Rd, Swanley, Kent BR8 8EE.

20.45hr Coach drop off Dartford Railway Station DA1 1BP.

21.30hr Coach drop off 102 Mildmay Road, Chelmsford CM2 0EA.

22.30hr Coach drop off Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk (opposite NCP Car Park).

Tour Price: £555 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £180

If you are travelling alone and want to share a room with another traveller please contact Podge as we are regularly able to pair up travellers in twin rooms to avoid the need for payments of Single Supplements.

All detailed itinerary times are local and approximate. All food and drink (apart from those marked with an asterisk* on the detailed itinerary) and all passport and insurance costs are each traveller’s responsibility. Personal insurance is not included in the Tour price, but is strongly advised, as is carrying the European Health Insurance Card available online, by phone or via the Post Office.

If you would like to join us or have any questions please call Podge on +44 (0)1245 354677 or send Podge an email. Please also contact Podge to get details of how to send a deposit of £100 per person for this Tour. Full balance payable five weeks before departure.

Included in the cost of this Tour: Hotel accommodation and breakfasts; Hotel city taxes; Luxury coach travel on a 49 seater coach with toilet; All Brewery visits, tours and brewery beer tastings; Entrance fees to attractions, museums and historical sites; All other items marked with an asterisk on the individual detailed tour itinerary; Copies of Podge’s City Bar guide and Map for the town or city where we stay or spend some time on Tour; Free still and sparkling water on the coach; Pick up from Ipswich (Crown Street Layby), Colchester (Southway Chapel St South Layby) or Chelmsford (The Woolpack, Mildmay Road). Arrangements can be made for different joining points on the way to Folkestone or even on the other side of the channel. Tour terms and condition here.