I adore France so once again we found ourselves holidaying in the nation where it's apparently OK to eat an entire baguette AND pastries for breakfast every day. Well. I've decided it is anyway. We had a list of things to do and see - baguette and croissant for breakfast ✔✔ Now for some sightseeing.
We had already been to see the famous Bayeux Tapestry which my son in law informed me is actually embroidery (he should know - he's an internationally recognised embroidery maven) and thoroughly enjoyed the informative and entertaining commentary from the handsets which look like TV remotes but work like phones. Those embroiderers had a cheeky and gory creative streak it seems!
My history loving daughter really wanted to go to a much less well known Normandy attraction- Maisy Battery just outside the little seaside port town Grandcamp-Maisy. Partly because she loves history and partly because her name is, you guessed it, Maisy.
Built in 1942 as part of the German's Atlantic Wall defences and almost forgotten for 60 years after the end of WWII Maisy Battery has around 2km of trenches for visitors to wander along. You can also explore concrete bunkers and lookouts and marvel at the enormous guns the German occupants hoped would help prevent the invasion of the allied forces via the Normandy beaches. Of course *spoiler alert* they didn't.
The site was rediscovered by a British military historian, Gary Sterne who bought a US army vet's uniform in 2004 and found a hand drawn map in it. Using the old map Sterne visited the site and found a bunker entrance in the undergrowth. Exploring further he found more fortified buildings, gun platforms and a hospital. The site opened to the public in 2006 but still only about 1/3rd of the site has been uncovered. You can buy books about Maisy Battery by Gary Sterne (some signed) who believes there was a cover-up of everything to do with Maisy Battery. You can read more about that here.
Political history aside, the site is a fantastic place to visit for an insight into those times. As a parent electively home educating this was a trip not to be missed while we were staying so close by.
Although grey clouds and rain would have probably given a more authentic flavour to our visit we waited until the sun came out and enjoyed a warm wander round the twisting and turning site. Upon admission we'd been given laminated self-guide instructions which was pretty easy to follow with a numbered trail corresponding to the written explanations. Additional information boards gave even more colour to the tour with some fascinating facts and anecdotes.
I particularly enjoyed one story about one Grandcamp-Maisy resident who used to help deliver supplies to the German forces at the battery with his father. Upon hearing the guns and bombs marking the start of the D-day landings as they made their way to the battery, his Dad turned to him and said: No milk for the Germans today!" and they headed back home to shelter.
I also found it fascinating to see and touch sandbags turned solid by the passage of time and weather.
Most of the site is said to be accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. I would say although many paths are step free and relatively smooth, some are muddy and some are covered in stones which prevents mud. As a wheelchair and pushchair pusher in the past and a wheelchair user occasionally now I don't think it would not be an easy push. If you have a baby carrier or a strong person to push you, it should be OK. I suggest if you are at all mobile, use other mobility aids like walking poles or sticks. I have no experience of mobility scooters so I don't know how they would fare.
We found the (English) lady in the shop/pay desk very friendly and helpful- note none of the military memorabilia on sale there is from the site. You could buy drinks too. We took a picnic but there was only one (collapsing) picnic bench but plenty of grassy space next to the shop and large car park you could sit on for a picnic. We were mindful that some visitors might be there for remembrance purposes and we actually ate in the car in the end.
Maisy Battery is open with varying hours between April 1 and the end of September. For exact times, admission prices and more information check the website.
Disclaimer: I was not paid or rewarded to share this review