'Wheeling and winching over (and under) the French countryside
It's hard to make up a better title. "Channel hopping" is the name our British friends give to the "jump" over "The Channel," that infamous sliver of water that separates Scotch whiskey, bowlers (typical English hat), and tea from Camembert, wine, and frog legs. Throw in a winch together with a Challenge, and every true four-wheeler knows we are talking about an event in which the winch plays the principal role.
It started innocently, but afterwards we were sure we had been involved in a historic event. The location supports this, because it is literally drenched with history. The name of the area where this winchfest takes place is called Les Cinq Piliers (the Five Pillars) and is located near the French town of Compigne, about 60 miles north of Paris. During World War I, there was severe fighting in this area. In addition to fighting, the German occupiers carved enormous caves into the hilly areas, which served as bomb shelters for their soldiers and ammunition. The industrious Germans chose this site for their tunnels due to its geological make-up. The local rock consists of relatively soft limestone, which is much easier for boring into than harder rock such as granite. During the 31 months the occupiers stayed in the area, they did a tremendous job, because their gallery of caves stretches out over a length of about three miles. You can easily get lost amidst all the recesses, thoroughfares, and pillars. In the forest above the caves, you also can find a lot of artifacts from the period as well. Graves of deceased soldiers dot the landscape, and German text carved into rocks can be found too. Another common occurrence found carved into rocks is an eagle, the national symbol of Germany.
The owner of 4x4winches.com asked Mick Doherty to organize the event because he was responsible for a similar event in Scotland. Mick contacted Eric Bowyer-Wilson, an Englishman living in France, who suggested the Five Pillars as a site for the event, held last December. The maximum number was limited to 20, and an announcement in a Euro-distributed English-language magazine ensured that it wouldn't be an English-only event. Two Danish teams and three Dutch teams entered-and of course they didn't have to hop over The Channel to reach the battlefield.