Choose a 5 km or 9 km walk and make the most of these 5 tips to enjoy a country walk
Regular readers will know that one of my favourite haunts is the Hageland. This is the area (in red on the map below) that stretches to the east of Leuven and takes in the towns of Aarschot, Tienen and Diest.
The name refers to land with dense forest and undergrowth, although much of the area is now under agriculture. However, many sizeable pockets of woodland remain, some of which contain a rich diversity of nature. The area as a whole is fairly undulating, which gives rise to a surprising if somewhat low-key beauty, and is well-provided with an excellent network of both footpaths and cycle paths.
Yesterday I returned to the Hageland Valley near Holsbeek, to the area known as the Dunbergbroek. In the winter this can be quite a wet area, requiring rubber boots, but it soon dries out and is really a lovely area to walk around.
If you are looking for some genuine peace and solitude, I can heartily recommend spending a couple of hours walking through the Dunbergbroek.
It’s criss-crossed by the walking network of nodes. I am going to recommend an easy 5 km circular walk starting and ending at junction 601.
If you are in the car, there’s a small parking area at node 601, which you can reach by driving to the end of the Molenbaan, Wezemaal.
If you are on public transport, your best bet is to take the 310 De Lijn bus from Leuven to Holsbeek. From the centre of Holsbeek you need to find node 11 and then follow 16, 108 and 106 to join the circular path around the Dunbergbroek. From Holsbeek the total walk will be 9 km.
Near to junction 601, take time to have a peek at the picturesque old watermill on the Molenbaan, which dates back to 1775.
You may be thinking that 5 km is a short walk that will be over in no time at all. After all, if you get a move on, you could complete it in an hour. However, I recommend going slow and taking your time to really appreciate the nature around you. Here are some ideas to make the most of your walk. All of them are also perfectly suitable for children.
1. Stop and Smell the Flowers
Well, not always literally, but from now right through summer, this area is blooming with wild flowers. Some are woodland species; others you can find in the surrounding marshy meadows. So why not take time to look more closely at them, and perhaps photograph them so you can identify them later? Here are a few that I spotted on my walk.
2. Hug a Bug
Again, not literally. But take time to get up close and personal with some of the creeping creatures you might come across.
3. Listen to the Birdies
Spring is the best time of the year to listen to bird song, and the Dunbergbroek is a particularly good place to pin back your ears. I was lucky enough to have learned bird song when I was young, so it’s easy for me to identify what’s singing. But even if you don’t know the species that are singing, it’s still lovely just to listen to them. Here’s a duet between a robin and a chaffinch that I captured.
4. Become a Patternist
OK I made that word up. What I mean is, look for interesting shapes and patterns. Nature’s full of them.
5. Take a Picnic
Between nodes 601 and 129, Natuurpunt have very kindly installed a lovely picnic table, under a shady tree. It’s a super place to snack.
So there you are. Five tips to make your 5 km or 9 km walk in the Hageland Valley a lot of fun, no matter how old you are.
Let me know how you get on. Why not share your best photographs with me? I’d be delighted to add them to the blog.