Cool for Kids

Averbode. Bread, cheese, beer, Mary and Joseph

Well I was wrong. In my last post (Rosdel) I suggested that October 4 was going to be the last warm day of the year. I was two weeks too early with my prediction. This weekend Belgium is enjoying an extremely unseasonable heatwave, with temperatures already up to 23C by noon. So there was no excuse but to head off somewhere for a Saturday morning hike, and I chose Averbode Bos & Heide (Woods and Heathland).

Averbode is mostly known for its Abbey, which dates back to 1134, and by the 17th century had grown to incorporate farms, fields, woodland, mills, heath, and local chapels.

P1040225The abbey housed a bakery, cheese dairy and brewery for many centuries, and these have been recently revived with the launch of the Averbode brands of bread, cheese and beer. I didn’t come across any stalls selling the stuff though, which is a pity because I could have taken an Averbode bread and cheese sandwich and bottle of beer for my elevenses.

P1040222The attractive inner court (above) won a prize recently, the Belgian Public Space Award, with the jury declaring the Abbey Square as “distinguished example of exquisite minimalism.” Which I guess means nice and simple.

I then came across the shrine to Mary in the Averbode Mariapark.

P1040227And throughout the park were various statues illustrating Biblical stories.

The shrine isn’t quite my scene, as I prefer the direct approach to God, but I am sure the statues looked pretty impressive when first constructed in 1935. Leaving the religious part of Averbode behind I set off into the woods and heathland and was mightily impressed by the expanse of this beautiful area.

P1040278It includes several types of habitat that make it interesting ecologically: sand dunes, dry heathland, wet heath, grasslands, beech, oak and pine forests, and sandy plains.

P1040271It’s such a large area that it would be easy to get lost here, but thankfully the numerous paths are extremely well signposted.

P1040258I didn’t see anything exceptional from a wildlife point of view, but there was plenty of birdlife: crested tits, green and great spotted woodpeckers and sparrowhawks being the most notable, and I am always pleased to see red squirrels. Much of the area is managed by the Flemish nature conservation organisation Natuurpunt.

P1040273Here’s a map of the area: Map of Averbode. I parked in the large car park by the Abbey, and then followed this route: 100-98-107-292-104-286-285-101-281 where there was a good bench for a rest. Then it was 279-273-81-79-205-73-274. From here the easiest route is back to 100 but I went 76-99-80-245-89-90-100. Altogether it was 9 km but if you look at the map you can easily make it shorter as the whole area is criss-crossed with footpaths.

PS Since writing the above I have put the map on RouteYou here.

P1040238So altogether a highly recommended area to visit. Plenty of space for the kids to run around too; there’s even part of the woods dedicated to a “speelbos” – a woodland playing area.

P1040276And I’m quite pleased to have got a bit of a suntan even in the middle of October!

13 replies »

  1. On the inner court there is a little store in which they sell some of their products, as well as books that are published there. It was probably closed when you were there, it isn’t very obvious that it is there then. Too bad 🙂 they have tea, cheese, soap, lots of Christian books and CD’s…

    If you go in summer you really should mention the ‘likdreef’ , the little street right across the street from the abbey. From April/may to September, there are 5 to 7 ice cream vendors parked there. People come from all over to enjoy the ice cream and it is usually quite busy!
    Wonderful to enjoy ice cream while walking 🙂

    • Thanks for your comments Naomi. I think I was there too early for the store to be open. Next time I will check it out. I walked down the “lijkdreef” but there were no ice-cream vans. Again, too early. Probably in the afternoon it was full of them! Next time I will go in the summer!

  2. And in the mean time you did have some more pleasant weather 😉 Beautiful pictures, Denzil, of an area I regularly visit. Next time you come, do visit Brasserie Den Eyck and enjoy a delicious (but pricy) Averbode Tripel from the tap. Cheers!

    • It’s interesting you mention that place Guido. I was approaching it thinking of taking a photo of the place, when I got totally distracted by a horse slipping on some cobblestones and its rider trying to steady it, that I forgot all about the photo!

  3. I’m awfully late to this post, Denzil, and it’s already glorious Spring in the Algarve. Hope life is treating you well. I have a walk up on Monday and I’ll include you. 🙂 🙂

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