The fields around Gottechain
Brabant Wallon Hiking in Belgium

Archennes: Fields and fields of Belgian frites!

A gentle 7-km walk in the countryside south-east of Brussels

Here is a really lovely 7-km walk, ideal for a weekend afternoon, and suitable for children, although not for buggies. It’s not well signposted, so you need this map of the route, and a compass might come in handy too unless you are high-tech and use a GPS. It starts (as do so many of these walks I describe) at the Archennes village church, Saint Pierre. There’s place to park your car outside the church, and Archennes is also accessible by train.

P1050229I don’t think there is any great spiritual reason why so many walks start from the local church; I guess it’s simply that a church is the largest (by far) and most easily recognizable building in a village. However, it does point to the historical significance of the church in the local community, when it would have been the focal point for many social events: births, deaths, baptisms, weddings, religious festivals, summer fetes, harvest festivals, war remembrances etc. Evidence of this is seen in the building directly opposite the church:

P1050227It doesn’t look like it’s still used as café, but this would presumably have been where the whole congregation would have gathered after a service for a coffee, glass of wine or pintje. Talking of pintjes, I see that on August 22-23 2015 there is a Beer Festival in Archennes.

By the way, if you are wondering how all these huge village churches in Belgium look so well-maintained and in good state (whereas their equivalent buildings in English villages are falling into a state of disrepair and are constantly asking for money from their congregations and the general public to repair them), the answer is simple. Church buildings here are maintained by the State, not the Church.

Anyway, from Saint Pierre you follow the road to the left of the church in the direction of “Les Monts”, following these signposts:

P1050149Unfortunately, as I said, the signposts are few and far between, and as you can see from the picture above, there’s no indication of the direction to take at junctions. Hence TAKE A MAP!

The first part borders the grounds of the château d’Archennes, although it’s difficult to see much of it from the road, and it’s private property which can not be visited. Apparently it boasts a lovely garden laid out in English style. The rhododendrons were looking good.

Excitement ahead! The path crosses the railway, with an indication to beware of steam trains. Unfortunately, reality was a little less exciting:

The path continues along the side of the railway, and the hedgerows were packed with comfrey in full flower, which was very popular with the bees.

P1050168A bit further and the path then goes under the railway …

P1050170and then crosses a wide stream (or a narrow river) called the Traig. While resting on the bridge I heard the call of a kingfisher (a short, sharp whistle) and then was delighted to see it as it flashed downstream and under the bridge. I love seeing these gorgeous birds, which even on the dullest day bring a touch of glamour with their bright blue and orange plumage. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a photo of one (courtesy Andreas Trepte).

Common_Kingfisher_Alcedo_atthis

The path then climbs up through a heavily wooded area, where I was happy to see buzzards, a sparrowhawk, green and great spotted woodpeckers, and various species of butterfly.

As befits a wooded area, forestry seems to be a big industry here, with wood piles of various sizes:

Finally I reached the top of the hill to find … fields and fields of potatoes, stretching into the distance!

P1050206Frites are big business in Belgium. Apparently there are 5,000 frites vendors in Belgium, and every Belgian consumes an average of 75 kg of frites per year. That’s nearly 1.5 kg per week! So obviously that’s a lot of potatoes. In Archennes I seemed to have stumbled across the great source of at least some of these potatoes.

Two final points of interest. Amidst the potato fields, a small well-manicured patch of grass made me initially think it was a 1-hole golf course for bored potato farmers. But the sign explained it was an area specially set aside for model aircraft hobbyists.

P1050197And then I came across this intriguing sign (Archennes is part of the larger Grez-Doiceau municipality).

P1050192Any suggestions as to what the picture means?

The path then meanders back to the church, which you can see peeking out from the woods.

P1050215Finally, for those of you who speak Dutch and want to explore this area more fully, I can recommend my blogging/hiking friend Guido who maintains an excellent blog and who has described two longer walks in this area here and here.

27 comments on “Archennes: Fields and fields of Belgian frites!

  1. Lovely region – I do indeed recognize lots of places in your pictures including the golf course for bored farmers 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Lucky you, with beautiful birds like that Kingfisher, to admire. I think they’re related to our Kookaburras, which aren’t quite as pretty.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Although I have never seen one that close Yvonne. But to see them shooting low over the water is a wonderful sight.

      Like

  3. Lovely area, gorgeous shot of the Kingfisher, ate some frites yesterday, and I don’t have a clue about the sign. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely, this is near our future home, so will surely do the walk. Oh and on the sign I found this : http://pcdn-grez-doiceau.be/news/qu-est-ce-qu-un-pcdn

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the link, that explains the PCDN, and I guess the symbol reflects the “repair nature” idea? You are moving to a lovely area, as of course you know!

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  5. Well written, looks like a very nice walk indeed.
    Like the links to your friend Guido’s blog also, I recognised several places that we visit during our photo-shoots.
    I asked to nature guides about the sign, when they reply I’ll let you know.

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    • Thanks for your positive comment Jacques and for your investigation work. Looking forward to your discoveries.

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  6. I really enjoy going along on these walks with you Denzil. It’s such a pretty area.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. did somebody say frites because now I’m REALLY missing belgium! 😉 beautiful photos!

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  8. Is this a woodpecker? What an incredibly beautiful photo! Wow!

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    • No it’s a kingfisher, and yes, it’s gorgeous isn’t it. Normally I just see them streaking away; I’ve never seen one this close.

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  9. Any suggestions as to what the picture means?

    After some deep investigation and thanks to the help of a few nature guides and people who were involved with the PCDN from the beginning I could find out this information:

    Interpretation of the logo – the “restored” nature – of the PCDN (Plans communaux de developpement de la natureplus® GNOP in Dutch).

    The first year (1995) was dedicated to create more nature reserves.
    Unfortunately the creation of such kind of islets did not prevent biodiversity loss.
    And it was found that their isolation was a drag as the preservation (for lack of genetic exchange) didn’t help the development of nature.

    The use of this logo was the result of the second year of conservation.
    This has given rise to the notion of ecological network (s), with central areas (RN and other) development zones (non RN) and connecting elements (roadsides, waterways, etc…).
    The ecological network was mediated by the second NCSA (National
    Capacity Self Assessment).
    The logo PCDN represents nature “repaired”, nature networking.
    The pieces of the leaf are the central development zones and the pin is the ecological network.

    Now they are using a new logo.
    http://www.grez-doiceau.be/macommune/services-communaux/urbanisme-environnement/environnement/1pcdn-logo-texte-vecto.jpg/image_preview

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    • Thanks so much for your reply (Detective-Inspector) Jaques! I had a feeling it was an old logo, but I guess when you think about it it does convey the “repairing nature” aspect. Mind you, the new logo also looks fairly dated. I thought the concept of using cuddly, smiling animals in logos died out years ago too! Still, the work they do is important, and doesn’t depend on the logo.

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  10. Hi Denzil,

    I took a bunch of friends on this walk on Tuesday. It was excellent. Your directions and map made it all easy, and we were able to do it all without vehicle, starting and finishing at the train station.

    Thanks so much for sharing, and making our wonderful day out possible!

    Regards,

    Richard

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    • I\m so glad you and your friends enjoyed the walk Richard. And thanks for letting me know too. It gives me so much pleasure to know you have found the blog posts interesting and useful.

      Like

  11. I spotted a Kingfisher just yesterday… Nature is so lively.

    Liked by 1 person

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