For a walk around Averbode, try this route which takes in the Abbey, the local health and woods, and some interesting religious statues.
Well I was wrong. In my last post (Rosdel) I suggested that October 4 was going to be the last warm day of the year. I was two weeks too early with my prediction.
This weekend Belgium is enjoying an extremely unseasonable heatwave, with temperatures already up to 23C by noon. So there was no excuse but to head off somewhere for a Saturday morning hike. I chose Averbode Bos & Heide (Woods and Heathland).
Averbode is mostly known for its Abbey, which dates back to 1134, and by the 17th century had grown to incorporate farms, fields, woodland, mills, heath, and local chapels.
The abbey housed a bakery, cheese dairy and brewery for many centuries, and these have been recently revived with the launch of the Averbode brands of bread, cheese and beer. I didn’t come across any stalls selling the stuff though, which is a pity because I could have taken an Averbode bread and cheese sandwich and bottle of beer for my elevenses.
The attractive inner court (above) won a prize recently, the Belgian Public Space Award, with the jury declaring the Abbey Square as “distinguished example of exquisite minimalism.” Which I guess means nice and simple.
I then came across the shrine to Mary in the Averbode Mariapark.
And throughout the park were various statues illustrating Biblical stories.
The shrine isn’t quite my scene, as I prefer the direct approach to God, but I am sure the statues looked pretty impressive when first constructed in 1935. Leaving the religious part of Averbode behind I set off into the woods and heathland and was mightily impressed by the expanse of this beautiful area.
It includes several types of habitat that make it interesting ecologically: sand dunes, dry heathland, wet heath, grasslands, beech, oak and pine forests, and sandy plains.
It’s such a large area that it would be easy to get lost here, but thankfully the numerous paths are extremely well signposted.
I didn’t see anything exceptional from a wildlife point of view, but there was plenty of birdlife: crested tits, green and great spotted woodpeckers and sparrowhawks being the most notable, and I am always pleased to see red squirrels. Much of the area is managed by the Flemish nature conservation organisation Natuurpunt.
Here’s a map of the area: Map of Averbode. I parked in the large car park by the Abbey, and then followed this route: 100-98-107-292-104-286-285-101-281 where there was a good bench for a rest. Then it was 279-273-81-79-205-73-274. From here the easiest route is back to 100 but I went 76-99-80-245-89-90-100. Altogether it was 9 km but if you look at the map you can easily make it shorter as the whole area is criss-crossed with footpaths.
PS Since writing the above I have put the map on RouteYou here.
So altogether a highly recommended area to visit. Plenty of space for the kids to run around too; there’s even part of the woods dedicated to a “speelbos” – a woodland playing area.
And I’m quite pleased to have got a bit of a suntan even in the middle of October!