As anyone who has reached retirement age knows, many choices and possibilities present themselves. I started to plan expeditions to Europe using my bicycle, in order to tour the World War One and World War Two battlefield areas.
My passion for history began when I was very young. I lived in a street that seemed to be full of WW2 ex-servicemen, my own dad included, who filled me with their stories and reminiscences.
Since finishing my teaching career, I have been lucky enough to have pedalled around Normandy many times, as well as the Somme battlefields and the Ypres Salient, the Ardennes in Belgium (“The Battle of the Bulge”), Arnhem in Holland (“A Bridge Too Far“) and down the Atlantic Coast in France visiting the WW2 German U-Boat bases.
There have been times when cycling has been impractical, for example on winter visits to the Somme and Ypres. On these occasions, walking boots, woollies and waterproofs have been the order of the day as well as essential guides such as Paul Reed’s excellent “Walking the Somme” and “Walking the Salient”.
I have almost lost count of the number of cemeteries I have visited, of all nationalities. What is never forgotten though, are the moments when I have stood silently in little windswept corners of foreign fields and woods where men have fought and died, places which all retain a distinct sense of the presence of the past.