Every year on November 11, huge crowds gather under the Menin Gate in Ypres to hear the Last Post played in memory of those who died in the First World War. But most people do not stray far beyond the walls of the ancient Flemish town. If they did, they would find an astonishing number of cemeteries, memorials and relics of the war.
Ypres tourist office and In Flanders Fields Museum recently launched a project to encourage more people to explore the war-scarred landscape around Ypres. To make it easier, three entry points were established along the former line of the trenches.
The entry point at Klein Zwaanhof, or Little Swan Farm, is located in a reconstructed house on the site of an old Flemish farm. It serves as information centre complete with maps, historic photographs and video films.
You are encouraged to follow a 2.8-kilometre walking trail from Klein Zwaanhof to discover a small area of the battlefield. The trail leads through quiet fields to small cemeteries including one whimsically named Caesar’s Nose. Along the way, you pass young trees that were planted in 2014-18 along the line of the vanished trenches.
The three walking trails (each beginning at a separate entry point) represent a new way of understanding the war by heading out into the landscape where it all happened. Over the coming two years, the Flemish tourist office is financing a further 25 small-scale projects devoted to the landscape around Ypres.
Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.