The delightful 6.5 km Sint-Veronawandeling starts behind the Sint-Lambertus church in the village of Leefdaal. You can park opposite the church in the car park. By public transport from Brussels you can take the 44 tram to Tervuren and then the 315 bus to Leefdaal. Alternatively you can take the 315 bus directly from Kraainem metro station.
One of the first sights along the route is Leefdaal Castle. The original castle was probably built in the 11th or 12th century by the Lords of Leefdaal to provide some degree of protection to commercial travellers passing along this section of the important Bruges-Rhineland trade route. The only remnant of that castle is a Roman cellar under what is now the garden. The castle was restored in the 17th and 19th centuries, and belongs to the De Liedekerke family, who live there today.
Opposite the castle is a small lake, with excellent views of great crested grebes and herons. Another waterbird – the little grebe or dabchick – is more difficult to spot as it is fairly secretive, but you may hear its loud and strange whinnying trill from the depths of the reed beds. The path then follows the River Voer. Check out the riverbanks and meadows for a wide range of wild flowers with splendid names like St. John’s Wort, butterbur and yellow toadflax.
The walk is named after Verona, the daughter of the German emperor Lodewijk. According to legend, while looking for the grave of her twin brother Veroon, Verona took a rest at a roadside chapel in Leefdaal. In the peace of the chapel, the voice of God apparently revealed two secrets to Verona: she could find her brother’s grave in Lembeek; and she would be buried underneath this chapel. She went on her way and found her brother’s grave – in Lembeek – before returning to her native Rhineland, where she established a number of convents before dieing in the year 870. Her body was then brought by oxen to Leefdaal, where she was buried in the chapel that now bears her name. The walk takes you right past the Sint-Verona chapel.
The path then leads you up into the rich farmland that stretches towards Leuven, and gives you marvellous scenic views. It then circles back to where it started. Hopefully you will have time to look around Leefdaal and sample the local Teusserbier or munch a Veronneketaart (yes, Sint-Verona has a cake named after her!).
For the kids - The Sint-Verona walk takes you through a number of wooded glades that on a sunny summer’s afternoon are full of butterflies. Buy or borrow a butterfly identification book or check out the Butterfly Conservation website, and see how many you can identify. One summer’s day I identified no less than 9 types of butterfly in a 50-meter stretch of this route. How many species can you identify?
(First published in The Bulletin, August 2005)