Cool for Kids

On foot through the Hageland Valley

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.

Walking in the Hageland Valley
Starting from Molenbaan, Wezemaal

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.

Molenbaan Wezemaal
You can park your car at walking node no. 601, Molenbaan, 3111 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.

Walking in the Hageland Valley
Starting from the centre of Holsbeek

Near to junction 601, take time to have a peek at the picturesque old watermill on the Molenbaan, which dates back to 1775.

Molenbaan Wezemaal
The mill was restored in 1987

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.

The chaffinch starts the duet, then the robin responds … and both birds repeat.

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.

30 replies »

  1. So glad to see you back here, Denzil. I’ve missed your posts. This one was worth waiting for as your delight in nature blooms in every comment and image. That watermill is so full of charm and reminds me of many European paintings. The wildflowers are resplendent in their spring bloom. Out here in California the spring wildflower bloom was spectacular but it rained so many of the weekends that I was never able to get out and see it for myself. I’m impressed by the quality of birdsong you were able to record.

    As for me posting photos – i just got my first iPad and am learning to use the camera. So far I’m an ech photographer, so no pics from me. But I’ll be back to see what your other followers show.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Sharon, you say the nicest of things. One of the benefits of this place is the solitude. In over two hours on a Saturday afternoon I only met two people. One of them – a jogger – stopped to chat. He’s a local and says “no-one knows of this place.” I hope I haven’t ruined his peaceful jogs by introducing it to the multitudes! Best wishes to you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Now that’s an interesting thought – have you ever been able to determine if your posts have created an increase in attendance at the places you’ve suggested? Would be mostly local folks of course, but it would still be nice for you to know your impact.

        Liked by 1 person

        • No, I was being slightly “tongue in cheek” there Sharon. I think some of the places I mention might get a visit from a few people in the course of a year as a result of reading my blog, but not many. I get nice comments from some of them who do, who make it all worthwhile.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Welcome to Belgium! If I can help in any way with making settling in any smoother, just drop me a line. And I hope this blog will give you some interesting ideas of places to visit.

      Like

  2. I like the word “patternist” and will go out of my way to be one from now on. There are so many beautiful designs in nature. We often take far longer to do a walk than the information suggests, usually because we’re stopping constantly to look and take photos.

    Liked by 1 person

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