The Ypres Salient and its Regeneration

The Landscape of Ypres

I visited the Ypres Salient in April 2014 and spent four days exploring the town of Ypres and the surrounding villages, battlefields and museums.

There are hills here but they are very subtle. Hill 60 is named as such because it’s about 60 metres above sea level. Any hill around here was fought over and this one wasn’t even a naturally occurring hill, having been formed from soil dug out from the railway cutting for the Ypres–Comines railway.

Polygon Wood

Polygon Wood in 2014

Much of the land is at sea level so when it rains the land can flood. During the war the ground had been bombed so much it had started to resemble the surface of the moon. The military assault from both sides, combined with the continual rain, turned this landscape into a quagmire of rotting, fetid, stinking, putrid mud. Horses and men got caught up in this with many of them sinking to an ungracious and undignified end. The deep and numerous shell holes acted as receptacles for the rain water and served as a useful source of rehydration for many soldiers.

The Menin Road

The Menin Road heading out of Ypres in 2014
Countryside near Wytschaete Village
Countryside near Wytschaete Village in 2014