Wednesday 15 May 2019
There are two cheap motorhome stopovers in the centre of Dieppe, but I decided to pitch up in the village of Berneval-Le-Grand as it was only a 30 minute cycle into the city. It turned out to be a good call. The village is quiet and attractive. It looks like a second home area, as the houses are relatively new, but then I discovered the original village was virtually bombed out of existence, suffering some of the heaviest bombing in WW2, so has been rebuilt.
The cycle into Dieppe was lovely. Well kept villages and countryside on a pleasant Normandy spring day, with the sea to my right, bright green to turquoise to deep blue, offset by the white cliffs.
Dieppe was named by the Vikings from their word for deep, acknowledging the depth of its harbours.
Its four harbours are thriving and the city is very much a working city. As you’d expect with its history, and as an important port in WW2 which saw a lot of action, Dieppe is a mishmash of styles, ancient to modern.
To the west, it is dominated by a citadel
here pictured above a memorial to Canadian troops killed on a notorious failed attack on the beaches in 1942.
Those beaches pictured from the citadel, the grounds of which are free to explore. They contain this fun piece,
as well as the usual cannons and such like.
There is also a good view of the tightly packed town.
The streets are narrow and meander on some medieval plan.
Dieppe was one of the first French seaside destinations, picking up early on the Victorian trend for taking beach holidays.
It’s promenade and beach are wide,
peppered with beach huts and memorials to the action that took place 77 years ago. Imagine Canadian tanks landing on the beach, only to stop as they were pinned down by enemy fire and then having to form a wall and make a last stand to help the retreat and evacuation of foot soldiers. They fought until they used all their ammunition and, those that weren’t killed, were taken prisoner and held for the next three years, until the successful Normandy invasions.
I really shouldn’t be surprised by the presence of memorials to the wars, but I am. Le Tréport, a small town, had four large military cemeteries and many memorials. Dieppe, a strategic port, has ‘on the beach in front of you, this happened’ information boards everywhere. Even here, in small Berneval-Le-Grand, (bigger than Petite Berneval) there’s a Canadian Memorial, another to a ship lost with all hands, a board about the extent of the bombing,
and a commemorative bridge.
It’s one thing to vaguely understand conflict and occupation, but getting down to the granular level, that ‘at this place, at this time, this happened to these people named…’ hammers the impact home.
Despite cycling into Dieppe and back and spending a few hours looking around, I wanted to explore Berneval-Le-Grand when I got back. Following my nose, and after reading many information boards,
I found myself near the beach.
This scene was painted by Pissarro,
not a painter I’m familiar with. I found similar boards, ‘Pissarro stood here and painted this’, around Dieppe. I’ll learn a bit more about him.
Berneval-Le-Grand has much to offer so I’m going to stay local tomorrow, have a slow start, visit the patisserie around the corner, read the brochures I picked up today and explore a bit more. I’m so glad I didn’t just go to Dieppe.