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!
Nothing 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.
The 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.
The 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.The first part goes through the southernmost tip of the Meerdalbos, a beech forest which is still very green (another sign of the mild autumn).
The 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.
As 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.
If 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.