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Walking the flax fields of Bossut-Gottechain

Flax fields of Belgium

Located just north of Grez-Doiceau, the villages of Bossut and Gottechain are connected by an attractive 9 km walk.

I start with a question. What agricultural crop could turn the fields around Grez-Doiceau blue? Answers by email … or by reading this blog post. Even better, you could go on this walk in June.

Here is a map of the walk. As always on this blog, you can click on it to enlarge. Or you could download it as a PDF. Or get the GPX track from my RouteYou page. Or all three.

You might also be interested to download this excellent description of the walk in English, which I found on the Grez-Doiceau website: Gottechain walk description. It gives some useful historical background to many of the places mentioned in this blog post. Starting point for the walk (no surprise) is a church. In this case it’s the Eglise Saint-Remacle de Gottechain. If you are on four wheels, you can park in the car park alongside the church. If you are taking public transport, the nearest bus stop is Bossut-Gottechain which is about 500 meters away from the church.

Bossut-Gottechain walk
Plenty of parking space in the church car park, or it can be reached by TEC bus 32 from Waver.

Once you’ve found the church, you need to take the footpath to the left of the steps:

Bossut-Gottechain walk

And then follow these signposts:

Bossut-Gottechain walk
If you see many of these signs, you’ve got better eyesight than me. (In other words, take a map!)

The route first goes through a “sunken lane”:

Bossut-Gottechain walk
Although I prefer Dickens’ descriptions of these places: “dingly dells”

You will then come out onto the plateau with some gorgeous views.

Bossut-Gottechain walk

And some lovely poppies:

Bossut-Gottechain walk

The path then passes two large farmsteads: Le Petit Royal and Le Grand Royal. “Royal” here does not mean regal, but is an old Wallon word meaning “furrow”.

Bossut-Gottechain walk
Bossut-Gottechain walk

Around these farms I heard the tri-syllabic of the quail, as immortalized by the oboe in Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Here’s an audio file of the quail so you know what I’m talking about, or listening to. I love hearing quail in the fields. They are so small and shy, and keep themselves hidden in the corn, that they are virtually impossible to spot. I’ve never actually seen one in the wild. So hearing their call is the next best thing.

Actually the fields around these fields were full of birds calling or singing. Here are two more of my favourites: the yellowhammer and skylark. I love listening to the skylark in particular, as it soars high in the sky pouring out its unending and seemingly joyful celebration of being alive.

The skylark is the topic of a poem by George Meredith, The Lark Ascending (1881), of which a few excerpts are:

“He rises and begins to round,
He drops the silver chain of sound
Of many links without a break,
In chirrup, whistle, slur and shake,

A press of hurried notes that run
So fleet they scarce are more than one,
Yet changingly the trills repeat
And linger ringing while they fleet,

For singing till his heaven fills,
’T is love of earth that he instils,
And ever winging up and up,
Our valley is his golden cup.”

The poem inspired Vaughn Williams to write the beautiful piece of music by the same name.

The path then passes through the village of Bossut. In both villages there are a number of impressive houses and lovely cottages. But, you say, where are these blue fields? Well, firstly, as you have already seen, there are plenty of fields of green in this area:

Bossut-Gottechain walk
Bossut-Gottechain walk

Interspersed with them are the fields of gold:

Bossut-Gottechain walk
Bossut-Gottechain walk

And finally, fields of blue!

Bossut-Gottechain walk
The flax fields of Bossut

You see, I wasn’t joking. And the crop?

The flax fields of Bossut


I was actually lucky to see these fields in flower, as the flowering season is very short: each flax plant blooms for one day only. When ready, the flax plant is uprooted – not mown – and stacked to dry before the seeds are removed. The fibres are then used to make high-quality linen. The seeds provide oil for dyes, paints and cosmetics.

For centuries flax has been grown and transformed into linen throughout Belgium. It’s apparently very environmentally-friendly as it requires no irrigation and very little chemical treatment. Every part of the plant has value, eliminating any waste. It’s biodegradable and can be commonly recycled.

So, even in a short, local country walk, you never know what you will come across. It might be a blue field, a bird song, a photo opportunity:

The flax fields of Bossut

or the world’s largest picnic table:

The flax fields of Bossut

Enjoy your walk, and feel free to drop me a comment on your experience.

13 thoughts on “Walking the flax fields of Bossut-Gottechain”

  1. Thank you for the link to the song of the quail!

    I have seen fields of flax, in south-west Manitoba, where there are many Belgian immigrants. It is truly a lovely sight.

  2. Pingback: Lathuy: Blue no more | Discovering Belgium

  3. Wow, that was a great walk. Quite a long one, too with plenty of different things to catch my eye. That must have take hours by the time you stopped and took all the pictures. I loved hearing the bird calls. That’s another great reason to open a link in a different tab. I could listen as I read. There’s nothing worse than enjoying a song while you read, and you finish reading and start to comment, and that turns the song off. 🙂

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