Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Ken Worpole

Ken Worpole | 6th December 2011

In which, as the year comes to its end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments;

The Dieppe Raid

The Dieppe Raid is a long-standing cycling event, established forty years ago to commemorate the ill-timed offensive on Dieppe Harbour in 1942. Also known as the Randonnée Des Trois Vallees, it is organised in co-operation with the local cycling club there, Cyclo-Club Dieppois. This weekend trip is held every June, with a choice of rides ranging from 30km to 200km, providing opportunities to spend extra days cycling round the hilly, wooded countryside of coastal Northern France, including the Avenue Verte, a landscaped former railway line that runs for many miles from industrial Dieppe deep into the rural interior. For some of us there is almost as much pleasure in the ferry journey from Newhaven as there is in the randonnée: for my generation boarding the cross-channel ferry was once the most exciting threshold to another, more exotic, world imaginable. Not having done the ride for some years, it was as enjoyable as ever, with plenty of time to explore the bars and family restaurants of Dieppe, a working harbour town that retains a lively character, while still remembering the disasters of war.

Military cemetery at Etaples, August 2011

Two months later our family was in Le Touquet, a bit further along the coast, complete with grand-children. Taking a couple of hours away from beach duty one afternoon, I cycled along the wide avenues of the town’s forested suburbs, with their great French Normandy turreted and rusticated villas to the north-east. After crossing the river, La Canche, I came into industrial Etaples, and then rode on to the war cemetery there, where more than 10,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers are buried. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, and maintained by the Commonwealth Graves Commission, it is the largest of these profoundly moving First World War cemeteries in France. It is strange how a site of such carnage and horror is now a place of melancholy calm and serenity.