Podge’s Belgian Beer Tours

Tour 79 / Beer & Battlefields 2015

Thursday 22 October – Tuesday 27 October 2015

This is a six day Beer & Battlefields tour is based in Ypres at the luxury Hotel Novotel Ieper Centrum Flanders Fields.

This Tour will be guided by Siobhan McGinn (MA British First World War Studies, Birmingham University, 2014) who will travel with us throughout the Tour and not only tell us all about the people and locations we visit but will also add detail from her unique research area - Alcohol, Morale and Discipline in the First World War. If you have any personal visits you would like to make near these sites let us know and we can usually incorporate this in the Tour.

Ypres by Night.

This is our detailed itinerary:

Thursday 22 October 2015

05.15hr Coach pick up Crown Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3HS (opposite NCP Car Park).

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

09.36hr Eurotunnel from Folkestone.

11.15hr 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 Farm and café restaurant Schraevenacker in the village of Oostvleteren where we will have our pre-arranged lunch and a beer or two chosen from their menu. We are still behind British lines here, but there are three famous CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission) cemeteries here as this area was extensively used for Casualty Clearing Stations during the war.

14.30hr We will visit Dozinghem CWGC, one of the trio of cemeteries’ (The others being Mendinghem and Bandaghem) built on the sites of wartime Casualty Clearing Stations. Here we will have a look at the South African Army graves and hear about their contribution to Battle of Third Ypres 1917and hear about Jackie the Baboon who served with the South African Army, in uniform.

15.30hr Pay a visit to Jagershof Cafe in Krombeke for a beer and a look at their well-presented private museum and exhibition* about the experience of WW1 in the area of Sint Sixtus Abbey, Westvleteren nearby.

17.00hr Quick stop in the village of Proven to have a look at some remarkable relics from the Great War in the form of chalked army billet numbers which still exist on civilian houses in which the BEF were lodged during the war.

Nearby is the Zokola Chocolate Makers who make artisan chocolate poppies and beer filled chocolate hops, and we’ll pop in for an opportunity to buy choc gifts, etc

18.00hr Make our way to Novotel Ieper Centrum Flanders Fields for check in and an evening at leisure in Ypres armed with a copy of 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 1927 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.

Dozinghem CWGC.

Friday 23 October 2015

10.00hr Following the luxury buffet breakfast in the hotel we meet in the lobby and head off for a morning on the Pilkem Ridge, just north of Ypres.

10.30hr First we visit an area associated with the Irish poet Francis Ledwidge and we see the place and memorial erected where he died whilst drinking tea on 31 July 1917. We also visit his grave in nearby Artillery Wood CWGC which also contains the grave of the Welsh poet, Hedd Wyn, killed the same day as Ledwidge.

Just nearby we will call in at another significant site on this important strategic ridge, the ‘Carrefour de la Rose’ crossroads and the Breton Dolmen Memorial and calvary erected to commemorate the soldiers of the French 45th (Algerian) Division and 87th Territorial Division who died here during the first gas attack on the salient on 22 April 1915. These territorials were older men and after the war their bodies were repatriated to France, and this memorial was built here as a focus for the annual pilgrimage by their families from Brittany.

Pay a visit to the nearby new Welsh Dragon Memorial Park complete with bronze dragon on top of a cromlech, twin to the one at Mametz Wood on the Somme. This memorial stands on the ridge south west of Langemark, where in the summer of 1917 the Battle of Pilckem Ridge (31 July – 2 August 1917) was fought, and where many Welsh units took part the opening attack of the main part of the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres, 31 July – 10 November 1917).

12.00hr Next we head to the South salient and meet up with Englishman Hugh Shipman who has lived near these battlefields for a number of years and has recently published a book Palingbeek 1915 on the war in the area of The Bluff, The Caterpillar and Hill 60. Hugh will tell us about the German records which he has researched which afford a view from the other side of the wire.

14.00hr We make our way to the Volksbond Restaurant in Zonnebeek for our pre-arranged lunch and a stab at their superb beer list.

16.30hr After lunch we stop off at the tiny but evocative Royal Engineers CWGC at Railway Wood with no individual grave markers but a single Cross of Sacrifice marking the spot where eight Royal Engineers of the 177th Tunnelling Company and four infantrymen were killed underground.

We make our way back to Ypres for a free evening. In Flanders Fields Museum on the square is open daily from 10.00-18.00hrs. At present on display is the famous Will Longstaff painting The Menin Gate at Midnight (1927) with its ghostly soldiers, which has been loaned to Ypres from its home in Canberra and this is the first time it has been displayed in Ypres.

18.30hr If anyone would like to join Siobhan for a little walk*, she will be going to have a look at two British Moir Pillboxes on the Ypres City built with instructions and a kit from England. Meet in hotel reception.

Tank in front of Cafe de Zwaan, Poelcapelle.

Saturday 24 October 2015

10.00hr Leave Hotel for a tank morning and an afternoon on Kemmel Hill. 10.15hr Arrive at the village of Poelcapelle where we will have a look at the new Tank Memorial and the beautiful memorial to French Flying Ace Georges Guynemer. Here we will meet local tank enthusiast Johan Vanbeselaere who will talk to us about tank action in Poelcapelle in 1917*, show us his unique collection of photographs and bits of tank he has dug up and we should get an update and a look (and listen) of Johan’s long-term project, a full size replica Mark IV tank to adorn the centre of Poelcapelle village. Johan may also show us the full size replica of Georges Guynemer’s Spad plane which he has constructed.

11.45hr We have a special guided Tour* of the infamous Pond Farm by the owner’s son Stijn and his private WW1 Museum.* This farm near St. Julien was known as Pond Farm on British Army trench maps, and Kazerne Häseler on German maps. After the Second Battle of Ypres in May 1915 the farm was occupied by 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.

14.00hr Make our way south to Café Kauwackers in Dranouter for our pre-arranged lunch and a beer or two from their superb list of over 150, with plenty of 75cl bottles for sharing. 16.30hr We then proceed to nearby Loker and will follow the war experience of the16th Irish Division and its most famous soldier Willie Redmond MP. We will see the memorial to Redmond at Loker Hospice CWGC and hear why he is buried apart from the other WW1 burials.

We drive to Kemmel Hill to follow the 1918 battles which have been overshadowed by Third Ypres 1917 but which were just as heavy in casualties. As well as visiting the Lettenberg Bunkers and the French Ossuary at the top of Kemmel Hill we can admire the fine views over Flanders from the imposing 60ft high Memorial to the French Soldiers who died here in the Spring Offensives of 1918, in the form of a winged goddess Nike. Kemmel hill is also home to the U.S. Army monument Kemmel where Siobhan will tell us about the American army on the Western Front and their part in the Great War here.

19.00hr We then head for a beer and the wonderful in Den Witten café in Fintele. This is a new venture in an old building stocking over 80 quality beers including some special lambic beers.

21.00hrish Return to Hotel in Ypres.

Moument to French Soldiers on Kemmel Hill.

Sunday 25 October 2015

10.00hr Depart by coach from Hotel to spend a morning on the Belgian Army front. We go via The Memorial to the 34th Division which incorporates a German bunker on same line as those at Langemark. This bunker was captured in September 1918 by the BEF and used as a dressing station under command of Robert Lawrence, brother of T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) - no trenches, a sea of mud and duckboards from shellhole to shellhole.

We make our way first to Houthulst Belgian Cemetery in Houthulst Forest which is one of the largest Belgian Army cemeteries in Flanders. It is star shaped and contains the graves of 1723 Belgian soldiers who died in this area clearing the German army from the forest in 1918. We’ll also have a look at the graves of the 81 Italian prisoners of war used by the Germans to work behind the front. Within the Houthulst Forest the Belgian Army Service (DOVO) explode WW1 ordnance collected from Flanders fields and hopefully we can hear them during our visit.

We then head to Vladslo German Military Cemetery, a concentration cemetery containing 25,644 German soldiers and home to the beautiful and now important artworks, The Grieving Parents by Käthe Kollwitz, a noted German sculptor who made these statues in the 1930s as a tribute to her youngest son, Peter, killed near here in October 1914. The eyes on the father-figure gaze on the ninth stone before him, on which his son's name is written.

12.00hr Our next visit is to the re-vamped Lange Max Museum at Koekelare, site of a huge German gun used during the war. Here we’ll have a look at the gun site* the museum* and have a beer in their café.

14.00hr Make our way to excellent De Dolle Brouwers in Esen, where we will have a brewery Tour* in English and a taste of their beer*. This village was occupied by the Germans throughout the First World War and several local inhabitants were shot whilst seeking shelter in the brewery cellars.

15.30hr We proceed to nearby Dixmuide. In the shadow of the Ijzer Tower, the Belgian Monument to peace and Flemish nationalism we will have our pre-arranged meal at the new Poppy Inn Diksmuide. They also have a decent beer list to choose from.

17.30hr We drive the short distance to the main town square of Dixmuide for a visit to the newly improved Brouwershuys Cafe for a crack at their 100+ beer list and have a brief look at this completely reconstructed square which like the whole town was occupied by the German Army throughout the Great War, destroyed and rebuilt.

19.00hr Arrive at Poperinge for the Poperinge Beer Festival 2015 in a new, bigger location with brewery stalls offering 100 beers, including some exclusive new brews. This year will feature WW1 Remembrance beers with over 20 breweries with 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 on the main square.

21.30hr Return to hotel in Ypres.

Arabier from De Dolle Brouwers, Esen.

Monday 26 October 2015

10.00hr Depart our hotel in Ypres.

10.30hr Arrive at the brilliant Deconinck beers in Vichte, the best beer shop in West Flanders, for an opportunity to buy beers to take home.

12.00hr We pay a visit to the Gulden Spoor Brewery in Gullegem for a brewery tour* and beer tasting*. The brewery is named after the famous Battle of The Golden Spurs fought against the French in nearby Kortrijk in 1302.

13.30hr Stop off for our pre-arranged lunch and a beer or two at De Neerbeek in Bissegem, our first visit to this café restaurant.

16.00hr We then make our way to the Kortrijk ring road, stopping off at an unusual war memorial which is one of five bronze Newfoundland Caribou on the Western Front. We can hear from Siobhan about the Newfoundlanders who fought in the Great War.

16.45hr We then travel the short distance for a visit to the United States War Cemetery at Waregem, the only American cemetery for the Great War in Belgium where we can compare national differences in war remembering and memorialisation.

18.15hr Arrive back in Ypres for an evening at leisure.

Tuesday 26 October 2015

10.00hr Leave our Hotel in Ypres and check out.

10.30hr We will visit for the first time the newly opened Messines Museum of the First World War*. This village is famous for the New Zealand forces who took it in 1917 and we can have a look at the new memorial to the New Zealanders, a soldier statue in the main square.

Hopefully if it is open we can also visit the crypt under Messines church where Corporal Adolf Hitler (a signaller) was treated for wounds in the Great War. We will then travel slightly south along the front line to visit the Irish Peace Tower and hear about why it was built here and about the actions on this commanding ridge, where both the 16th Irish and the 36th (Ulster) Divisions fought side by side.

14.30hr Arrive at the Restaurant bar Sarlinde in Dranouter for our pre-arranged lunch 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.

20.30hr Coach drop 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: £590 per person based on sharing in a twin or double room

Single Supplement: £200

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.

Included in the cost of this Tour are:

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 items marked with an asterisk on the individual detailed tour itinerary;

Copies of Podge’s City Bar Guides and Maps for the town where we stay or spend some time;

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.

Travellers are responsible for the costs of all food and drink apart from items marked with an asterisk on the detailed itinerary plus all passport and insurance costs.

All itinerary times are local and approximate.

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 have any questions or would like to join us on this Tour please send Podge an email or call him on +44 (0)1245 354677 for details on how to send a deposit of £120 per person for this Tour. The full balance is payable five weeks before departure.

All Tours are subject to our Terms and Conditions.