Take a long walk or a short cycle ride from Arquennes to Ronquières, along the picturesque Ancien Canal, and visit the incredible Sloping Lock (also called the Inclined Plane) of Ronquières.
I’ve written about the outstanding engineering feat called the Sloping Lock (or Inclined Plane) of Ronquières elsewhere on this blog. That post covers its history and how it works. It really has to be seen to be believed. In my view it’s one of the “Must See” sights of Belgium. You could travel there and just visit the lock. But here I want to share with you a couple of possibilities to visit Ronquières on foot or by bike.
The route indicated in the map below starts and ends in the village of Arquennes and is just short of 18 km. So it’s ideal for a day’s hike. I start in Arquennes because the stretch of the L’Ancien Canal Charleroi-Brussels, from Arquennes to Ronquières, is absolutely beautiful. However, if 18 km is too much, you could start from the village of Ronquières and just complete the northern circular bit of the route. This will come in at a more manageable 9 km. If you are a cyclist you could complete the whole 18 km in a free morning or afternoon. Or you could extend it to go further south down to Seneffe, either along the Ancien Canal or the newer one.
If you are arriving by car there is parking space on the N27 Chaussée de Nivelles here, just before or after it crosses the Ancien Canal. Or you could park in Arquennes village and walk/cycle down to the canal. By public transport, TEC bus 72 goes along the Chaussée de Nivelles (get off at Arquennes Pont de Warchais). TEC buses 71, 72 and 74 stop at Arquennes village (get off at Arquennes Place).
Along the Ravel from Arquennes to Ronquieres
The route along the Ancien Canal is part of the Réseau Autonome de Voies Lentes (RAVeL), which was established in 1995. This network of old canal towpaths and disused railway tracks winds through much of Wallonia. Currently, it extends to 1440 km of pathways. It’s perfect for cyclists as well as walkers, and the majority of the parts I have walked along are also fine for children’s buggies/strollers.
The Ancien Canal between Arquennes to Ronquieres is delightfully picturesque. It was built in 1862 and its 12 locks are now dysfunctional – the canal long since ceased to be navigable. However, the lock-keepers’ houses are all inhabited and it’s fascinating to see how their occupants have modernized the buildings while maintaining their original appearance. For example, every one still has its own sign proudly mounted on the outside wall indicating the lock number (Ecluse no. 25 and so on).
Running alongside the canal is the River Samme. The whole area is heavily wooded and includes the nature reserve of Ronquières. Look out for kingfishers, great crested grebes, and teal, which are small ducks with cute yellow bottoms and beautiful green eye-stripes.
Rounding one bend in the canal brings you face to face with the imposing Château de la Rocq. This fairytale castle was built in 1390 by Eustache de Bousies, Lord of Feluy, to honour his son Wautier, who was a renowned warrior. The 30-hectare estate now hosts business meetings, wedding receptions and garden parties.
I did this walk 15 years ago, and amazingly I dug up some photos:
More recently, my blogging/hiking friend Herman Vandecauter did the route by bike, and I’m delighted to share some of his photos.
As you can see, part of the enjoyment of this route comes from looking at the many diverse boats that are moored along the canal.
The Inclined Plane of Ronquières
Herman also took some fascinating series of shots of the Sloping Lock. Firstly, the infrastructure of the place:
Then he shot a boat arriving on the “bathtub” from the south:
Then Herman was on hand to watch a boat arriving on the canal from the north and entering the lock:
Fascinating isn’t it? As I mentioned on my other post, it’s an ingenious way to transport a boat over 1.5 kilometres over a height difference of 68 metres. A barge arrives and enters a giant bath-tub, 12 metres wide and 4 metres deep and weighing 5000 tons. Then it’s pulled along a 12-metre wide railway track thanks to a 5200-ton counterweight!
I hope you enjoy your walk or cycle in this delightful part of Hainaut province. If you’ve not yet subscribed to Discovering Belgium, just add your email below to get all new posts by email:
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