Starting point for this walk – as with so many others – is a church. This time it’s the church in Nieuwrode, a small Flemish village a few kms south of Aarschot. And like virtually all Flemish churches, it’s ridiculously large for the size of village, although presumably in the olden days it used to be packed full of villagers for the traditional Saturday evening Catholic service.
It’s a small but growing industry. Vines used to be grown in this area back in the days of the Romans, but 20 or so years ago it was given a kick-start after many years in the backwater. The first decent wine was produced in 1997, and since then Hageland wines have won national prizes. A variety of grapes are grown, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Merlot.
The next top is the tiny village of Houwaart. Tiny, but advanced and innovative, thanks to the presence of this on the outskirts:
Such a facility could be incredibly useful. Just imagine, you wake up hungry in the middle of the night and say “oh I just fancy some … potatoes, so I’ll just nip down to the automatic spud dispenser!” Well, I guess it must be worth the investment, although I didn’t see anyone using it while I was there. But then it wasn’t in the middle of the night.
So into Houwart itself, and, despite it being just a few kilometres down the road from Nieuwrode, the village boasted another large church:
It always amazes me that Belgian churches usually seem to be in a good state of repair, unlike many rural churches in my homeland of England which are falling down and are constantly asking for money for repairs. The difference lies in the fact that the Church of Belgium is state-sponsored, so the country looks after the upkeep of the church fabric, whereas the Church of England is responsible for maintaining its buildings itself.
The village has a typical village shop: a combination of baker, butcher, newsagent and general haberdashery (I’ve been wanting to use that word in a blog post for years!).
My next destination was Horst Castle, which I have written about elsewhere. Firstly it became visible in the distance …
… and then up close.
The total length was 12 km, and if you’re interested in walking the route, I followed waymarks 154, 155, 156, 157, 225, 226, 230, 229, 228, 144, 143, 150, 151, 152, 160, 159, 154. Here’s a map of the route should you want to print or download it.