Our second day visiting the World War 1 sites saw us drive back towards Ypres but this time follow signs for Sanctuary Wood. This is a fascinating place. More than one hundred years after the first shots were fired in this terrible conflict, you can still see the trenches, shells and muddy craters in one of the most famous battlefields. Part of the battlefield has been kept as close as possible to how it was then. Nicknamed Sanctuary Wood it sheltered soldiers with the additional cover provided by the trees. We all found it a haunting and moving place.
A change in the weather too, up until today we had experienced sunshine and blue skies on our Belgian trip. Now the bright weather was replaced with drizzling rain and grey clouds, this seemed more fitting. To see the trenches and battlefields without the cheerful blaze of sunshine felt somehow more appropriate.
Arriving at Sanctuary Wood my heart sank when a coach party pulled up just ahead of us. We stood behind a long line of people at the entrance, amazingly they did not venture into the museum or head for the trenches, the cafe was their destination. Great for us but it left me puzzled.
We entered a little museum stuffed to the rafters with everything and anything relating to the war. It is a bit ramshackle, very eclectic and there seemed no order to the displays but I loved it. You needed to take time, browse and look hard. Thousands of bits and pieces – uniforms, pieces of crockery, letters they had everything under the sun.
Some strange machines caught our eye. We had a look through them and saw old war photos displayed almost as if they were in 3D. Absorbing but beware with children – Son unexpectedly came upon a picture of a man in Ypres with his face partially blown away. Several of the pictures are realistic and traumatic.
Outside are the original trenches. We walked in silence and looked. Rusty corrugated iron, barbed wire and mud filled holes and craters left by shells from both sides.
Tributes everywhere to soldiers who had died here.
Munitions cases have been gathered up and piled in heaps.
A scarred landscape and one that leaves a lasting impression.