Solange Leclercq Syndicat Mixte de la Côte d'Opale
Hôtel communautaire<br>Pertuis de la Marine - BP 5/530
59386 DUNKERQUE Cedex 1
+33 (0)3 21 87 33 06
+33 (0)3 21 87 33 06


Network of fortified towns (Réseau des places fortes)

Countries: Belgium, France, United Kingdom
Border(s): France-Belgium, Belgium-United Kingdom, France-United Kingdom,
Dunkirk-West Vlaanderen-Côte d'Opale, Channel Arc,
European programme:
Interreg IIIA - France-Wallonie-Flandres Interreg IIIA - France-Royaume-Uni
- Culture
- Tourism

Lead partner: Province de Flandre occidentale

This project, conducted by the Province of Western Flanders, Kent County Council and the Syndicat Mixte de la Côte d´Opale (Joint Union of the Opal Coast), has enabled the networking of sites that are of tourist and cultural interest due to the presence of fortifications and ancient defence systems.


  • Syndicat Mixte de la Côte d´Opale (the Joint Union of the Opal Coast)
  • The town of Ostend
  • The town of Menin
  • The town of Ypres
  • The town of Lo-Reninge
  • Office de Tourisme
  • Bergues (Bergues Tourist Office)
  • Office de Tourisme Cassel (Cassel Tourist Office).

Project goals

The main objective is to strengthen the Réseau des Places fortes in the framework of the INTERREG II project. Four specific objectives have been defined:

  • to strengthen the networking process,
  • to maintain the specific identity of the network,
  • to form part of a type of cultural tourism that is attractive, animated and lively,
  • to attract the interest of a broad cross-section of the public and to make the network accessible to all.

In order to achieve these objectives, the aims of the project are:

  • to cooperate on new areas, in an enlarged network (the towns of Ostend and Tonbridge, for example, joined the network at the end of 2003) and by offering new tours,
  • to contribute to the fight against discrimination by ensuring that the sites are accessible to as many people as possible,
  • to assist in maintaining and preserving the heritage with a view to encouraging lasting tourism
  • to develop the educational role of the network,
  • to improve multilingual translations for written documentation and visits,
  • to develop NICTs among the population of the cross-channel region,
  • to implement tools enabling a calculation to be made of the number of tourists visiting the sites as a result of these actions.

Target group(s)

Local population, Tourists

Project activities

This involves optimising, improving and harmonising the existing promotional support material on the unifying concept of "walking the walls" and on the key symbol, which is the logo that identifies the network. As such, brochures, guides and promotional activities aimed at the general public (stands at tourist exhibitions, publicity in brochures, etc.) have been implemented.

This action relates to developing what the network can offer and research into new products. In order to do this, scientific and technical support is planned. In practical terms, the following actions are planned:

  • compiling the historical content of a topographical guide, 
  • designing teaching material for schools,
  • offering "products" from the network through specific actions carried out by the towns.
  • NICT
  • audio-guided visits: multilingual audio guides will enable tourists to visit the fortified towns individually, at their own pace and in their own language. Given the technical complexities and the cost of implementing the system (outdoor audio guides), trials will be conducted first of all in various pilot towns (at least one for each of the three countries).
  • the web site, which has been online since April 2001, will be optimised and improved. A recreational and educational strand for children will be developed in the form of an interactive game, linked up to schools.

Each country has formed a working group (linking the representatives of disabled people) whose role is:

  • to draw up a list of requirements and a diagnosis for all of the towns, 
  • to identify potential actions in accordance with the different types of disability targeted (people with motor disability, visually impaired people, hearing-impaired people, etc.).

The town of Gravelines in France has agreed to become a trial area and will reflect further on the accessibility of the fortified towns. Experience exchange in the form of transnational working meetings is planned, in addition to a framework document outlining the process and the towns participating in it (in the style of a "charter of accessibility" of fortified towns). Furthermore, topographical guidesheets suggesting tours that are accessible to disabled people will be created.

Teaching materials adapted to the different school curricula have been created, the core aim being to propose interclass exchanges among children and teachers in the three regions. Between 2003 and 2004, three seminars providing information, training and exchanges on specific themes (guides, educational actions, descriptions and accessibility, for example) were organised. For example: on 22 September 2003 a "Journée du Patrimoine Jeunes" (Children´s Heritage Day) was organised following Journées Européennes du Patrimoine (European Heritage Days), held in French towns. That event was opened up to the three regions in 2004. The réseau des places fortes enables the appeal of the three regions to be enhanced and tourist flows to be shared more equally between well-known sites, which are generally visited by too many people, and those that are less well-known. Furthermore, the spread of multilingual promotional tools encourages tourists to visit all of the sites. The partners also intend to intensify the activities of cross-border transport companies.

Project duration

Depuis/From 07/2003

Total cost

920 906 €

EU funding

371 730 €