Jun 6, 2010

Ten new wind turbines planned for the Flers, Ginchy, Lesboeufs, Gueudecourt area

Whilst away for three weeks on the recent Somme archaeological dig I managed to get as many bike rides in as possible. I always try and take my road bike when I am in France for any length of time as it is such a great country to cycle in with the average Frenchman having a real respect for cyclists. Coupled with the huge open spaces, sparse population and traffic free roads, it is a cyclist paradise.  On occasions I would squeeze in a quick 20 mile ride after a day on site – these rides were mainly a circle around the Peronne area. However, when time permitted I would drive up to the main British 1916 battlefield with the bike in the boot and set off from there. It would be a busy day if I saw a dozen cars per ride – the roads were delightfully quiet.

Proof that I did indeed cycle around the Somme - my bike at the Newfoundlanders Caribou Memorial at Gueudecourt

Proof that I did indeed cycle around the Somme - my bike at the Newfoundlanders Caribou Memorial at Gueudecourt

But what has any of this to do with ‘News from the Front’? Well, for one thing, I would recommend cycling the area for all the reasons outlined above but also for a real appreciation of the lie of the land. As much as I huffed and puffed up some inclines, my constant thought was that any difficulties I endured were nothing compared to those faced by the average British infantryman in 1916, weighed down with equipment on his back, rifle, grenades and faced with German artillery, MG and rifle fire. The relative slow speed of cycling enables one to spot features easily missed in a car and get a greater understanding of the battlefield.

To illustrate this, whilst travelling between Ginchy and Morval I came across the following sign regarding ten new wind turbines or ‘aérogénérateurs’ in the area – a brief translation shows that they are planned for the Flers, Ginchy, Lesboeufs, Gueudecourt locality and the cut-off for public consultation is 14 June.

Public Notice on the road between Ginchy and Morval concerning ten new wind turbines

These will cover much of the ground fought over in the Battle of Morval (25-28 September 1916). This area of the battlefield is rarely visited, especially compared to the 1 July line. I won’t comment on whether these ‘aérogénérateurs’are a good thing or not (the jury is still out on wind-power) but am pretty sure that they will get the go-ahead as there are so many of these in this part of France. They will alter the old battlefield but at least may focus some minds on this area. One can only hope that appropriate archaeological procedures are followed when the foundations are dug. I cannot imagine that earthworks on the scale required for these turbines will not disturb numerous Great War related features, perhaps also bodies of the fallen.

Area of proposed wind turbines. Image courtesy of Google Maps.

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