Brabant Wallon Hiking in Belgium

Nethen. Butterflies in November, and a virtual butcher

Follow the 6-km "Promenade des murs" around this sleepy Wallonian village

I got the idea of walking around Nethen from my fellow hiker/blogger Guido, who on his blog Guidowke’s Wandelblog, wrote recently of his walk through Nethen, “a village that time has forgot.” Intrigued, and realizing that this was a part of Brabant Wallon that I had not yet explored, I got the relevant map (Grez-Doiceau: Carte des promenades) and settled for the 6 km “Promenade des murs”.

Immediately after parking the car, my first sight was of five red admirals and a peacock butterfly sunning themselves on a wall!

P1040319Nothing remarkable about that, except that it’s the first of November! What is happening to our climate? Of course it’s lovely to walk in the warm sunshine instead of a cold, rainy, cloudy November day. And it’s great to see butterflies and dragonflies in November, but this exceptional heat is worrying at the same time, with all its implications of climate change. In Belgium it has been the warmest October for years, and later this evening I read that it was the warmest 1st November for over 100 years, with temperatures climbing to 21 degrees Centrigrade. Today’s launch of the latest report into climate change by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change at least has some strongly worded recommendations about finally moving to renewable energy sources before it’s too late.

But back to the walk, which starts at the little church in Nethen.

P1040352The village, as Guido said, is a place where time has stood still. Actually in some respects time has probably gone backwards here, as I am sure that 30, 50 or 100 years ago Nethen was much more of a thriving village than at present. I counted three cafés, a newspaper shop and two beauty parlours here. I didn’t come across a general store, a baker’s, nor a butcher’s (though I did see a signpost for a butcher’s but I didn’t find it.). Oh and a cemetery, which was looking exceptionally colourful as it the day after All Saint’s Day.

P1040358The walk was highly enjoyable, although not particularly well signposted, so you need to keep your wits about you in the wooded section of the walk, and (unless you use a GPS) a compass might come in handy.P1040341The first part goes through the southernmost tip of the Meerdalbos, a beech forest which is still very green (another sign of the mild autumn).

P1040339P1040336The walk then skirts the Savenel Estate and château, which is protected by a 3-km high brick wall (hence the name of the walk). Here is the main gate:

P1040347The estate dates back to the 17th century, when the Carmes Déchaussés (barefoot monks) from Leuven bought it to serve as a retreat. They stayed there from 1688 until 1795, when they were forced to leave under the French occupation. Most of the monastery buildings were pillaged and then destroyed. The wall, built at the beginning of the 18th century, survived and still surrounds the property today.

P1040343The walk is fairly undulating, but gives some impressive views over the village.

P1040326As you will see on the map (Map of Nethen walk) there are two options to take once you come out of the woods. Regretfully, I took so long exploring the village and then in the woods, I didn’t have the time to complete either of the options, so will return another day to complete the walk and explore the next village of Pecrot.

P1040363If anyone else has completed the walk and can tell me if the latter third around Fontenelle and Beaumont is OK, please drop me a line. Here is a map of the complete route.

P1040359

9 comments on “Nethen. Butterflies in November, and a virtual butcher

  1. What a gorgeous destination. It is looking lovely for November, but I do understand your concern about the weather. Here we have had a week of +30 temperatures and there have been terrible bushfires and summer hasn’t even started yet.

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    • Thanks for your comment Carol. It is a timely reminder to me that a strange but largely harmless fluctuation in the weather in one part of the world can not be compared to the much more serious effects of climate change elsewhere in the world, where the potential for drought, bush fires, rising sea levels, increased rainfall etc. have the potential for causing large-scale disaster. I sincerely hope that you are spared bushfires in your neighborhood.

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      • There have been some close by but none are a threat to us. I think the change in the weather anywhere in the world is a warning sign but sadly our government does not seem to be prepared to put climate change ahead of coal mining companies. It is frustrating when we have so much sunshine and could power ourselves so easily.

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  2. Denzil, That area between Wavre and Beauvechain is very quiet and sleepy with some lovely “coins”. The IPCC report is quite a bit more explicit than previously. It was so warm last week in NL and Germany where I was visiting for business, even I found it a little worrying. There needs to be a serious change in energy policies and use or things will get very bad indeed. Thankfully there are more and more “Mainstream” messages coming through now that the sheer COST of allowing temperatures to rise above 2 deg. C will be enormous. Sadly, humans will not really act strongly until they are clearly hit badly and individually. Altruism is hard. CG

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    • Thanks for your comment Chris. That was a strong message from the ICPP: That the cost of doing nothing will be much higher than the cost of instigating change. I am delighted that one of my technical copywriting clients is Leonardo ENERGY, the Global Community for Sustainable Energy Professionals, who are doing a lot of good things to promote the transition to a more sustainable energy economy.

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  3. Dear Denzil, I am pleased to read that my blog inspired you to go for a walk in the quiet village of Nethen. Congratulations on your understanding of Dutch, by the way ;-)I read that you plan to visit Pecrot. One of my next walks will start there. Earlier you asked me if I know the region south of Hoegaarden. I don’t but I have planned a walk starting in Jodoigne. The weather forecast for next weekend doesn’t look so good, so it may have to wait a little longer. Anyway, as the hunting season has started in the Ardennes it appears that I won’t be walking there for some time to come. It’s impossible to find out on the villages’ websites on what day the forest walks are closed. Instead I’ll be walking in Brabant-Wallon or closer to home in the Campine region. Regards, Guido

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    • Guido I am totally impressed by your site, not just the descriptions but the “My Track” link to a digital map. I have to admit being somewhat of a dinosaur in that I use maps and a compass. If ever you have a spare few minutes, would you be able to drop me a line about the type of GPS system you use and how easy it is to transpose this onto http://www.gpsies.com or other such sites? I am thinking it might be time to upgrade…? Thanks a lot.

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      • I definitely don’t consider people using maps and compass to be dinosaurs 😉 On the contrary, it requires more skill than using a GPS. Actually, I use my Dakota 20 as a back-up. If there is no track available on the Internet (GR-tracks in Flanders are free for members; SGR-Sentiers doesn’t provide them for fear of falling sales of their printed topo-guides), I design one using the free program Basecamp. Then I export the designed track to my GPS. While walking I do use the printed guides and the maps inside them but in case of doubt I consult my GPS. My GPS not only shows me the track but also records my own footsteps. At home I import this track into Basecamp and perform some corrections (deleting unnecessary detours). It is then quite easy to upload my track into GPSies and even transform it there into a google map image. The digital map I’m using in my GPS and in Basecamp is freeware, by the way (OSM or Open Street Map). I guess one could also just print the designed track from Basecamp without using a GPS device. Many people still prefer a paper map. As I said, I use it as a backup and I bought it after a rather frightening walking experience in the “Hoge Venen” (High Fens) when I thought I was completely lost- which I wasn’t. The GPS also has a track back function; so even without a loaded track it could lead you back to where you came from, provided you have recorded your track. And then of course you could go treasure hunting (geocashing) with the young ones. So keep me updated 😉

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  4. Thanks for your helpful comments Guido. I will let you know how I get on with this possible new direction. Having looked up “geocaching” on Google, I’m not sure it’s for me! (Also not young enough!)

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