Discover the hiking and cycling routes of the Remembrance Trails

These regions are home to the many sites that bear the scars of two world wars. The sites commemorate the selfless sacrifice of those who took part and now, thanks to the regional Remembrance Trails, you can discover them at your leisure along local cycling and hiking routes. Each route develops a specific theme and is accompanied by an illustrated guide. Consult the guide on your mobile (or download it) to discover the human side of these conflicts and learn about the region and its history in an original and compelling way.
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Duration: 3 hours - Distance: 18,33 miles

Practical info

Contact: Office de tourisme et du patrimoine de Lens-Liévin
Call: +33(0)3 21 67 66 66
E-mail: info(at)tourisme-lenslievin(dot)fr
Starting point: French National War Cemetery at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette - Chemin du Mont de Lorette - 62153 ABLAIN-SAINT-NAZAIRE

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The Great War Cycling Trail in Artois

The First World War in Artois

The rim of the Artois plateau that lies 10 km north of Arras was a strategically important position throughout the First World War. Lorette Spur (165 m) and Vimy Ridge (145 m) overlook Gohelle Plain and the Pas-de-Calais coal basin which, in 1912, accounted for half of all the coal produced in France. Coal was the dominant energy source at that time.

In October 1914, during the "Race to the Sea" which preceded the war in the trenches, the Germans managed to seize the high ground along the Western Front and occupy the coal basin. This forced the Allies to carry out a number of offensives to try and win back these dominant positions which were rapidly fortified by the Germans.

The first French attack, the First Battle of Artois (17–19 December 1914), was a failure and cost the lives of 8,000 poilus. After the Second Battle of Artois (9 May–25 June 1915) the French started calling Notre-Dame-de-Lorette la colline sanglante (the bloody hill). They took Lorette Spur but failed to reach Vimy Ridge despite the heavy shelling and fierce fighting. In total 40,000 French soldiers were killed and 64,000 wounded for the gain of twenty square kilometres. German losses amounted to 75,000 men either killed, wounded or taken prisoner. The expected breakthrough did not happen. The Third Battle of Artois (25 September–14 October 1915) also ended in failure.

In February 1916 the British Army took over the Artois Front to relieve the French who had been sent to Verdun to repel the German attack taking place there. In April 1917 the Canadians carried out a remarkably well-prepared lightning strike on Vimy Ridge, taking the position at a cost of 3,600 lives. This success had a profound effect on the Canadians back home and was a defining moment in the budding nation's history.

The Great War Cycling Trail in Artois winds its way through a landscape that shows few scars of the devastation once inflicted upon it. The trees have been replanted, the trenches have been filled in, the battlefields ploughed, and the villages rebuilt. The Commonwealth, French and German military cemeteries and memorials that can be visited today were built in the 1920s to replace the numerous temporary cemeteries of the Front. They symbolize the horrific tragedy that was the First World War. A tragedy that saw the death of millions of young soldiers, victims of industrial firepower.

Route details