Sunday 23 April 2017

Madhouse diaries : Walking along the beach at Zuydcoote

After geocaching in the dunes around the maritime hospital, Juliette wanted to finish off with a walk along the beach. It was a lovely sunny day but a bit breezy on the beach. Nevertheless, she took her shoes off and started walking in the deep sand so that she could feel it squish between her toes !

It may have been a Sunday afternoon but this part of the beach was deserted. Quite a contrast to the promenade closer to town which is always packed at the weekends when the sun's out.

We'd already walked quite some way by now - my FitBit had just started buzzing to say we'd covered 10k steps - but Juliette found an extra burst of energy, running up and down the dunes like a loony !

We were intrigued by the "steps" carved out of the sand by the wind, then wondered if there was an old world war II bunker buried under this dune.

A few hundred metres on, we started coming across the first vestiges of the war.

However many times we see them, it still seems strange to have such ugly reminders of a horrific part of our past in such beautiful surroundings.

They were certainly built to last - despite tumbling down the dunes as they eroded, they are still in pretty good condition.

After successfully taking some action shots of Pierre jumping off a log earlier in the week, Juliette wanted a picture of her mid-jump. You can tell I'd been practising - this was my first attempt !

There were some tourists looking at the unsightly concrete blocks with a puzzled expression on their faces - I suppose this one does look more like public toilets than part of the war defences !

Seeing the people standing next to the biggest bunker gives you a real sense of scale - it's enormous !

Local kids, including the Madhouse kids, take them for granted as part of the scenery and enjoy exploring them, without ever really thinking about the horrors that they have witnessed.

Give it a few more decades and I think Mother Nature will have overtaken them and restored the natural beauty of the beaches.

Operation Dynamo took place in late May and early June 1940 and imagining all those thousands of men desperately trying to escape and lining up on the beaches to face their fate in such a beautiful area under bright blue skies seems even more shocking.

No doubt the soldiers had no time to admire the views though, even before the evacuation kicked off.

There's something very sinister about the big bunker (or blockhaus, as they are called in French, from the German). It always reminds me of a Dalek !

Despite its bulk and resistance, it has come to a rather inglorious end nose-down in the sand !

There's something irresistible about climbing over the ruins, whatever your age. Just out of shot here was a dad who was just as excited, if not more so, than his young sons !

I could spend hours taking photos down here - I love the contrast of the natural and the man-made !

Time to put our shoes on because we had to head back up into the dunes to get around the stretch of beach that is inaccessible at high tide.

The sky was starting to look menacing - time to speed up to avoid a downpour by the looks of it ! 

The moody skies do fit in with the backdrop of the bunkers though.

Time for a quick rest at the top of the dune before heading back down to the beach for the final slog.

The bunkers in this area are more easily accessible so they have been covered in lots of graffiti.

As well as some very impressive street art.

Look out Juliette, it's behind you !!

This colourful addition sprayed on this one actually fits in quite well with the war theme ...

It features tanks and Daffy Duck in a tin hat !

The frivolity of the artwork contrasts with the impacts along the top of the bunker, presumably from the war. I'm sure these concrete monsters have some tales to tell.

The final bunker is my favourite - the one that has been completely covered in fragments of broken mirrors so it looks like a giant disco ball !

It's not weathering very well though - lots of pieces have fallen off leaving just the silver backing on the walls and lots of broken glass in the sand, which is quite dangerous as they are very sharp shards.

They throw up lots of interesting reflections, of the beach and the people taking pictures.

It's an interesting artistic statement, to make something pretty out of something so ugly and with such negative connotations.

This area of the beach was cordonned off later in the week with bomb experts coming in to remove a series of concrete blocks that may or may not contain explosives. The whole area was evacuated, with homeowners told that they could stay inside their houses all day long or leave the area from 8am-5pm, with shutters closed and windows left open. Big diggers retrieved the blocks from the sea/sand and brought them up to be cracked open. Four of them were boobytrapped with shells, so it's a bit worrying to think of the number of times we've walked so close to them, but then again, they have been there for about 70 years !

After our long walk, Juliette had earned a sweet treat from the ice cream shop next to the bus stop - she chose a waffle on a stick smothered in Nutella. I'm sure this is the main reason she likes coming out geocaching with me !

Country Kids


  1. Fab photo of Juliette jumping.
    Mmm, waffle with Nutella sounds delightful.

    1. There's a saying in French, "après l'effort, le réconfort" (after the effort, the comfort) ! Juliette is heading into her stroppy teen years so I love these lapses into childishness when they occur ! :)

  2. Fantastic photos.
    That looks like a fantastic beach. What a wonderful place to explore.

    1. I never get bored of this stretch, however many times we go there :)

  3. What a lovely walk for the two of you, it's great that Juliette and you managed to enjoy a walk along the beaches. The Bunkers are definitely a poignant feature along the seashore and it's hard to imagine the history they have seen. It's great that you can really explore them and the history that it can all teach.

    Thanks for linking up with me on #CountryKids.

    1. I'm really looking forward to seeing Dunkirk when it's released this summer - it was really filmed here so should be fairly accurate.

  4. Wow it's like an open air art gallery and a huge contrast with the beautiful natural surroundings. I think it is important to retain such reminders though however harrowing #countrykidsfun

    1. I don't think they'd have much choice, even if they did want to get rid of them - they were built to last !!

  5. Those sand dunes look amazing! Beautiful photos my monkey would also be running up and down them like a loon! #CountryKids


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