Written by John Ruler
Nord-Pas de Calais is a wonderful region to explore on foot © Nord Tourism
The route, based on one taken by Kent walker Noel Wills, takes two to three days, depending on which sights you visit. The terrain is fairly flat, with the obvious exceptions of Cap Blanc-Nez and Cap Gris-Nez.
Finding your way from the Calais ferry terminal can be the trickiest part. Head for the boulevard des Alliés, turning right when it becomes the boulevard de la Resistance to cross the Bassin Ouest. At the roundabout continue across avenue Raymond Poincare and continue to the next roundabout, turn right and then left into Jetée. You should now be standing on the beach. There is only way to go – west towards Boulogne.
The fine sand provides good walking, past beach chalets and the remains of concrete World War II bunkers and gun emplacements. These continue until you approach Cap Blanc-Nez, visible from some distance and marked with an obelisk commemorating the Dover Patrol which kept the Channel free from U-boats during World War I.
At Sangatte you need to decide, depending on the tide, whether to continue along the beach or take the clifftop path. Provided the tide is starting to recede, it should be safe to continue along the beach to Wissant. Steer clear of possible falling stones by not walking too close to the chalk cliffs at Cap Blanc-Nez. If the tide is in, or about to come in, take the coast path through the Dunes du Fort Mahon, a conservation area west of Sangatte, and across Cap Blanc-Nez until you’re able to return to the beach. The ancient fishing village of Wissant is a good refreshment stop on a hot day. From here head along the beach towards Cap Gris-Nez, which is surmounted by an obelisk. The walking here is good, though keep to the water’s edge as the soft sand makes for hard going – especially if you wander into the dunes!
If the tide is favourable, stay on the beach until you reach La Sirène, possibly stopping here for lunch; alternatively take the clifftop route at Pont de la Coute Dune to La Sirène, another stiff climb, and continue to the top of Cap Gris-Nez for a view of the White Cliffs of Dover on a clear day. A hotel or campsite at La Sirène can provide handy overnight accommodation. (NB: it might be possible to stay on the beach below the Cap if the tide is completely out; however, with boulders on the west side, walking would be timeconsuming and hard work.)
You now turn south as you head for Boulogne, following the path to the beach at Cran-aux-Oeufs. Then either continue along the path or take to the beach to Audresselles, a delightful old fishing village with limited accommodation and camping facilities. It lies on the left bank of the estuary of the River Slack whose tendency to silt up eventually ended its strategic role. This still presents a problem as the estuary floods when the tide is in. This means taking a detour via the town – an interesting diversion anyway – to cross the river higher up. If the tide is out, cross from the fort using the groyne. Beware: the exposed boards are slippery when wet. You could, of course, wade across…
Once past the resort of Ambleteuse, make for Wimereux, a family resort with good restaurants.The Dunes de la Slack to your left are both towering and tiring, though interesting from a bird-spotting point of view. If pushed for time, you would be well advised to walk at the water’s edge.
You are now only 4km from your destination. Continue along the beach towards Pointe de la Crèche, which you will see jutting out. If the tide is completely in you may be forced to take the coast path; it depends on just how high the water is. As you approach the corner of the cliff before the Pointe juts out, look for a stairway which takes you to the top. From here take the path south leading to a road. It is now just a short walk downhill into Boulogne – and the ferry back home to Dover!