The Ocean Villa Tea Room is located in a small town called Auchonvillers in the Somme, in northwestern France. English speaking troops would refer to the town Auchonvillers, as ‘ocean villas.’ When the tea room owner, Avril Williams first bought the abandoned farmhouse in 1992 and turned it into a tea room she called it Ocean Villas after the British.
After our visit to the Newfoundland Park memorial Beaumont Hamel we visited the Ocean Villa Tea Rooms for a light lunch. I have to say this place is amazing. We ate in the outdoor area, set up like an English pub. The gardens were nice and there was even a couple of ducks waddling around.
While waiting for lunch we visited the trenches. The trenches were built by the French in 1914 for communication and used while the Beaumont Hamel trenches were established. When the British took over this area of the trenches from the French in July 1915, they strengthened the walls and used bricks from the former house to use on the floor. The trenches were once again used in 1918 by a New Zealand Division. During 1997 a history group discovered the trenches and gathered enough interest that by 1998 a specialist team arrived to further investigate. Artifacts that were found in the trenches are now housed in the tea room. Since 1999 the trenches have required constant maintenance so that tourists can visit.
It is amazing to think that in somebodies backyard are trenches and they look like photographs I’ve seen of WW1 trenches. It had been raining a lot prior to and since our arrival in France, so the trenches actually had quite a bit of water in the bottom, giving you a bit on an idea of what the appalling living conditions would have been like during WW1 for the soldiers. We all really enjoyed looking at the trenches. Inside the tearoom are the different artifacts from the trench as well as photos and other WW1 objects.
Farmers and locals in the Somme area, even today are still finding bullets and other objects from WW1, some very clever person decided to use these and make key rings and other souvenirs with them. The tearoom sells these type of souvenirs, which our eldest loved and got himself a bullet key-ring in anticipation of getting a car when he goes home to Australia at the end of the year.
Although we did not visit it, (because we didn’t realise it was there) in the building beside the tearoom is the Auchonvillers Museum, it houses WW1 and WW2 memorabilia that had been collected over many years by collector André Coillot. Avril purchased the entire collection and its now housed in the museum.
The trenches and artifacts at the tearoom are great and well worth a visit, the lunches were good and the staff friendly and accommodating. The tearooms also have a guesthouse offering accommodation.
Tourist Information on Avril Williams guesthouse (Formerly Ocean Villa Tea Rooms)
Tearooms – Are open 7 days a week, from 9 am – 5 pm and serve cakes, teas, snacks, meals and other beverages including draft beers.
Auchonvillers Museum – The museum is open 10 am to 4 pm. Cost: adults – €5, childen 10 – 16 years – €4, under 10 – free, senior citizens – €3, groups of over 20 people – €4
Accommodation costs: The Guesthouse has seven rooms en-suite rooms available and the prices are listed on a per night basis that includes an English breakfast:
- Single room – €60 per night
- Twin room – €90
- Family room (sleeps 3) – €110
- Family room (sleeps 4) – €130
- Apartment (sleeps 6) – €90 – for two people and €15 for each additional person
- Group rate is offered for groups with over 15 people, for prices you need to contact them.
Evening Meals – If staying at the guesthouse you can get a three course meal and wine for between €15 – €20
Official Website: http://avrilwilliams.eu/