Cool for Kids

A walk in the Mollendaal Forest

Enjoy this walk in the Mollendaal Forest. Start and end in Bierbeek. Ideal for a weekend afternoon family walk.

I’ve been out of serous walking action for a few weeks with an injured back, which is why you haven’t heard from me for a while. By the way, I injured it lifting wooden pallets to make an insect hotel in the garden. Try explaining that in Flemish to the doctor!

This walk starts and ends in the rural village of Bierbeek, south of Leuven. There’s a good bus connection (De Lijn no.8) from Leuven to Bierbeek every 30 minutes. If you arrive by car you can park by the church, from where the walk starts.

Arriving at the church, I was half expecting red noses on the gargoyles, jokes on the noticeboard, and whoopee cushions on the pews. After all, this is the church of St. Hilarius!

St.Hilarius church Bierbeek

But despite his name, St. Hilarius is not the patron saint of humour. He was actually a native of Sardinia and Pope of Rome from 461 to 468. And as his papacy was characterised by disputes, hilarity was definitely far from his thoughts.

The well-signposted circular 8 km walk that starts from the church is called the Schavaaipad. I first completed the walk last autumn, and was immediately waylaid by a splendid walnut tree that overhung the footpath and which provided an early snack, and a bag of tasty walnuts to take home.

Through the fields

The first half takes you through fertile fields full of sugar beet, maize, wheat and barley.

A walk in the Mollendaal Forest

A local farmer proved unusually talkative; normally I find farmers to be the most uncommunicative of country dwellers. His main concern was to make me aware of the presence of the Flemish-French language border that dissects the walk. From  what he was saying, I think he would have preferred the route to stay within the bounds of Flanders rather than extending into “foreign” fields.

The normal farmland birds are present, with good numbers of partridge and yellowhammers. Listen out for the “song” of the corn bunting, which has been described as the rattle of a bunch of keys!

Into the Mollendaalbos

After briefly crossing into Wallonia and back, the walk takes you into Mollendaal Forest.

A walk in the Mollendaal Forest

It’s a good place to take the children; there are two children’s play areas, interesting wooden sculptures to marvel at, and quite a few picnic benches.

Given a sunny day, the walk is a particularly good one for brushing up your knowledge of butterflies. Orange tips, brimstones and peacocks might be easy to identify, but what is that brown butterfly? A meadow brown, a gatekeeper, a wall brown, a ringlet or a fritillary? Now might be the time to take a photo and look it up on the internet!

Cool for Kids

The walk through the Mollendaal Forest is used by local horse riders. Be brave and take a closer look at the ground where the horses have left their dung. You might see dozens of big, round shiny black beetles, called dung beetles.

Dung beetles
Look for dung beetles along the way!

Watch them as they carve up the horse dung into spherical balls and roll them away. No, they are not playing marbles; they are burying them as food stores. The dung beetle enjoyed sacred status in ancient Egypt as the scarab beetle, which appears in hieroglyphic images in tombs.

Altogether, this walk in the Mollendaal Forest is a very pleasant walk for a weekend afternoon.

27 replies »

  1. Good to know the back is recovering, Denzil. If you hadn’t mentioned St. Hilarius I’m sure I wouldn’t have laughed at the way it occurred 🙁 Glad you’re out walking again. 🙂

    • Thanks Jo. Once you’ve slipped a disc, as I did about 20 years ago, you always have to be careful. Unfortunately sometimes I forget and get carried away. Or over-confident in my ability to lift heavy weights!

    • Photos and a floor-by-floor guide will be provided Judy after the hotel is complete, the builders have moved out and the glossy brochure has been printed. Then when the guests move in, I am hoping that one of them writes a good review on Trip Advisor.

  2. I hope the insects appreciate your efforts Denzil. It sounds like St Hilarius didn’t have much of a sense of humour but he does have a nice church. I like all the carvings in the trees. It would be lovely to walk with a group of children as they discovered each one. Take care of that back.

  3. I sure hope your back will be fully recovered, soon. Yes, we need photos of the insect hotel, please. Will they be able to have room service?

    • Guests will be responsible for cleaning and tidying their own rooms Yvonne. However, the hotel manager intends to keep the minibars stocked up. Currently the builders are looking at various roofing options to ensure guests are kept warm and dry in the winter.

  4. And I did miss your sense of humour and your lovely reports; glad you’re back (oops again). I passed Bierbeek on Streek-GR Hageland but I remember there’s an 8-shaped circular walk (Dagstapper Vlaams-Brabant) which has been on my to-do list for a long time. Regards, Guido.

  5. You discover the nicest walks in Vlaanderen, Denzil. They make me want to do them on my next visit to Belgium. I have never heard of an insect hotel, so, looking forward to the details and the photos. I assume not too much heavy lifting is required to transport the guests…

    • The mystery of an insect hotel will be shortly revealed in an upcoming post Liesbet! No transportation of guests is foreseen! They have to make their own way to the hotel. I just need to advertise is a bit better …

  6. We visited Belgium in 2013. We didn’t get to spend much time there and we could only cover Brussels and Antwerp. Your blog is a fantastic resource on life in Belgium. We love walks and trails like these. There’s never knowing what you will come across. Beautiful captures! Thanks for sharing this!

  7. Hi Denzil. This sounds like an interesting walk which I’d like to do. The link to the map is broken, though! Any chance of pointing me in the right direction?

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