Sanctuary Wood

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Tributes everywhere to soldiers who had died here.

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Munitions cases have been gathered up and piled in heaps.

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A scarred landscape and one that leaves a lasting impression.

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33 thoughts on “Sanctuary Wood

  1. Thanks Joy for your informative Blog. I also love travel so try to incorporate some travel into my Flowers~Blumen~Fleurs Blog. Your son is being educated in a way like no other – he will certainly appreciate it in later years. Shirley

  2. My heart would have sank too if I saw a coach load of tourists! How strange they didn’t actually look around? It must have been so interesting to explore Sanctuary Wood – seeing the trenches and shells must have really brought home the enormity of the conflict

  3. Thanks for sharing this.

    I, too, shudder every time I find myself in the company of large bus tour groups (or really any size group), especially in places like that: silence is appropriate, but unfortunately not many seem to understand that. Tammy and I always travel just off center, either right before the season begins or right after it ends. Lets us appreciate without distractions.

    Happy travels!

    • The thing that surprised me most about those tourists was their desire to get into the cafe and then get going again!! Strange, not even curious enough to have a look at the trenches and everything else here…. still made it a better visit for us. I completely agree with travelling off peak, that is definitely the best time, we always used to plan our trips then….now school holidays rule our schedule!!

  4. What a fascinating place Joy – sad, interesting, historical, poignant all rolled into one museum. The sort of place that leaves a lasting impression. Can’t believe the tour bus people made for the cafe!! Perhaps they went to the museum afterwards? Your photos really convey what it must be like to visit there. Thanks for sharing and hope you have an enjoyable weekend! 🙂

    • The tour bus had long gone before us Rosemary so not sure at all about that!! Strange… It was another of those unforgettable experiences here, very unsettling but one I’m glad we had. Hope your weekend is a lovely one too!!

      • Thanks Joy – I would have lost myself for ages in the museum! Sounds so moving – I couldn’t begin to imagine what it must have been like in the trenches 😦 The Belgians sound so respectful in the way they have ensured the memory of the fallen lives on!

  5. Thank you for sharing this part of the world. WW1 fascinates me as I feel so many men were lost needlessly. We spent time at Normandy, but I wish now I’d got to Ypres. Your photos are excellent and give you a sense of being there, so I thank you for that.

    • Normandy must have been fascinating too….we went there quite a few years ago, long before our son was born and are planning a return trip next summer, looking forward to that. Ypres is incredible though, I’ve always been fascinated by WW1 too, this place just makes it all hit home

  6. That looks like a really interesting place to visit. I am sure that walking in trenches engages in the experiences of soldiers a century ago in a way that merely observing footage or photographs could not. I rather enjoy ramshackle museums. I am sure it was a thoroughly absorbing and moving trip.

    • This museum seemed like they’d gathered all sorts of everything over the years and stuck it all in cases – I loved that! The trenches was just an incredible experience, sombre and very sad, it left us feeling rather strange but hit home in a very strong way.

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