In the Pas-de-Calais countryside close to Arras, eight villages which all hold the Village Patrimoine© label reveal their secrets to visitors with an interest in local heritage and little-known anecdotes. In its own way, each one tells the story of the Pays d’Artois. Nature, history, historical figures, architecture: you are taken on some fascinating detours.
Villages in a green setting
Head west of Arras to discover villages spared by the ravages of the First World War.
They have preserved their bucolic charm and it is a pleasure to stroll around them. Dominated by the ruins of its abbey, Mont-Saint-Eloi overlooks the hills of Artois. Very popular with cyclists, the village offers some magnificent walking trails. 10 minutes away, standing on the meeting of the waters of the rivers Scarpe and Gy, Etrun still has vestiges of an ancient fortified settlement at Mont César, which can be explored on a walk along the water’s edge.
In nearby Hermaville, you will be enchanted by the manor farms built from white stone and the gentle pace of life. Finally, Pas-en-Artois is a little jewel of greenery nestling in the valley of the River Killienne. A superb panoramic view over the village and the château is in store for you from the Calvary on Saint-Pierre hill.
Villages bearing witness to history
The Villages Patrimoine© hold some significant historical remains.
Etrun has retained the traces of the oppidum, a Gallo-Roman fortress predating the establishment of the city of Nemetacum (present-day Arras). A few centuries later, the enormous Abbey of Mont-Saint-Eloi illustrates the power and influence wielded by monasteries in the Middle Ages. It was also a strategic observation post during the First World War.
The crocket-spired churches of the hamlet of Ecoivres (Mont-Saint-Eloi), Savy-Berlette and Hermaville transport us back to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, a period of warfare that saw tall, pointed spires added to these massive towers. And any number of châteaux! Passed down by nobles and landowners who made their fortunes in agriculture, many of them date back to the eighteenth century. There are some superb examples to be seen in Pas-en-Artois and Hermaville, but they are not open to the public.
Villages become remembrance sites
To the east of Arras, it is a different story.
First Thélus (near Vimy) can be discovered by car on the trail of World War One remembrance sites, recalling the bitter fighting that raged here before the village was liberated by the Canadians in April 1917 (Moulin Rouge, Zivy and Lichfield Craters and monuments dedicated to the Canadians).
Much further south, in Bullecourt, you are entering Australian territory. Between 7,000 and 8,000 men perished here during the battles in the spring of 1917. The Jean and Denise Letaille Museum and the statue of the Digger stand witness to this. Finally, 10 minutes away from Bullecourt, Vaulx-Vraucourt was also destroyed during the War. Two distinctive features of the village are its reconstructed churches. The Church of Saint-Omer is an Art Deco architectural phenomenon. Usually closed, it is open to visitors during the Heritage Days.
Anecdotes and curiosities
The standing stones and chalk quarry of Bray (Mont-Saint-Eloi), the traditional cart-house and Logement des Sinistrés at Hermaville, the Stone of the Guétifs in Pas-en-Artois…
…the Art Deco town hall of Bullecourt, the remains of the former Abbaye des Dames in Etrun, the converted former sugar refinery and Art Deco war memorial in Savy-Berlette: every Village Patrimoine© has its own fascinating curiosities. If you want to learn all their stories, all you need to do is take the time to explore them.
What is a Village Patrimoine©?
First established in Normandy and applied for on a voluntary basis, this label is awarded to villages that are characterised by a distinctive community life and a remarkable historical, artistic, remembrance or landscape heritage.
There are a number of Villages Patrimoine© networks in the Hauts-de-France: in the Pays d’Artois, Flanders, the Pays de la Lys Romane, the Ternois and the Sept Vallées. A Normandy-Hauts-de-France network has recently been formed.
The Villages Patrimoine© in practice
- The key points of interest in every Village Patrimoine© are signposted.
- It is advisable to make your way first to the town hall from where all the unaccompanied discovery trails start. Other walking trails criss-cross these villages.
- The Villages Patrimoine© come alive every summer with the “Villages en Scène” initiative, in which every village holds one event every weekend.