Flemish Brabant

Doode Bemde, Neerijse

The Doode Bemde nature reserve is an ideal place to go for a Sunday afternoon walk in the Flemish countryside.

The Doode Bemde nature reserve outside the tiny Flemish village of Neerijse is bordered by the Rivers Dijle and Ijse.

How to reach the Doode Bemde

It can be reached by the 344 De Lijn bus from Brussels’ Schumann roundabout, or the 395 De Lijn bus from Leuven. When you arrive in the village, or if you are driving or cycling, make your way down the Lindenhoflaan to the St. Rochus chapel:

The Doode Bemde near Neerijse

Opposite the chapel there are bike racks to lock up your bike, and plenty of space to park your car. From here a short 4 km circular walk is possible if you follow the junctions 213 – 212 – 102 – 211 – 210 – 213. It’s ideal for children, there are boardwalks that are suitable for prams, and there’s a nice bench overlooking the river halfway around.

A few years ago I joined a group of Belgian biologists on a beaver expedition to this area. Beavers are alive and kicking in Belgium, having been re-introduced in 2000. We didn’t see any, as they tend to hide during the day, but we saw plenty of evidence, including a couple of majestic dams and some well-gnawed tree trunks.

Beavers in the Doode Bemde

Beavers were brought back for two reasons. They used to live here until they were hunted out of existence (the last Flemish beaver was shot in 1848). And they are good for the environment, keeping waterside vegetation levels down, creating open spaces where other mammals and birds can live. Their channels and dams act as buffers against the effects of flash floods.

You can take a short detour (turn right at junction 212) to visit a bird observation hide called the Roerdomp (Bittern).

The Doode Bembe bird observation hide

From the hide you can see over the reed beds:

I was lucky enough to capture a photo of a kingfisher, looking very pretty amidst the Purple Loosestrife:

Kingfisher spotted

The walk leads you back to your starting point via the Kasteel van Neerijse, which has had a chameleon-like life. Originally constructed in 1735 by Baron Charles Joseph d’Overschie, a Dutch brewer, it was used as a hunting pavilion. Later that century his son Jean-Albert undertook an extensive expansion of the castle and the grounds and it became the main residence of the Overschie family, who ruled the village of Neerijse for over a century.

A varied history

During the early 20th century the castle was leased to a religious order. In 1935, it left the Overschie family and was rented to a company that ran a clinic within the grounds. In the 80s, the castle was sold once again and transformed into a hotel. Its latest evolution sees its conversion into luxury apartments.

Being a nature reserve, it’s rich in flora and fauna. So it’s well worth taking some time to have a look around and see what you can see. At this time of the year (August) it was great to see plenty of dragonflies and damselflies to photograph:

Ruddy Darter dragonfly
Ruddy Darter dragonfly (male)
Damselfly in Neerijse
Damselfly
Female ruddy darter
Ruddy Darter dragonfly (female)

Enjoy your walk, and let me know what wildlife you spot.

42 replies »

    • Thank you for posting another interesting walk in our area. I wonder if you happen to know if there are any places to find wild blackberries? We’ve been looking out but not seen any in Vlaams Brabant.

  1. Beautiful pictures. I was thrilled to read that the beavers have been re-introduced in Belgium. I’ve seen pictures where beavers have done incredible things in Nevada (which is mostly a desert state) so where they can work their magic is certainly a natural marvel.

  2. Excellent shots of the dragonflies and the kingfisher, I’ve only seen one a few times in my life, and it’s a very handsome bird. And good to hear they’ve reestablished beavers there, I grew up in an area with a beaver population, and it’s interesting to monitor their building projects.

    • Lovely bird isn’t it Robert, yes, very handsome. I felt really pleased to get that photo; it’s the first time I’ve been able to photograph one. I guess beavers are quite commonplace in some areas of North America, and not the rarities they are over here. Hope you are keeping well.

      • Thanks, Denzil, getting by, it’s been a busy summer at work, and few nature walks, but hoping to get out more in the fall.
        Back in colonial times, the local tribes almost wiped them out, trading pelts with the Dutch/English/French, and fought pretty ruinous “Beaver Wars” with the Hurons, etc. But they’ve been working to restore them for over a century, and they even come right into my hometown — one time, to take down all the red maples the village planted along the canal park. 🙂

  3. Wonderful to see this update Denzil, and so loved your amazing photos.. The Dragonflies and Kingfisher just fabulous and so good to read about the reintroduction of Beavers.. They restore order to nature, if left alone to do so.. 🙂

  4. This is my kind of walk, Denzil and your photos are beautiful, especially of the kingfisher. It’s nice to know the castle is being preserved, the residents will enjoy having this area on their doorstep.

  5. Your photos of this part of Belgium are absolutely enchanting, Denzil. It’s such a pleasure to see this post. My favorite, and boy it’s hard to pick a favorite, is of the kingfisher. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was a painting. The pics of the dragonflies are beautiful. I’m impressed by how close you’re able to get to them. It’s good to know that beavers have come back to Belgium. Many years ago, we camped along a slender river outside of Yosemite National Park. Across from us a beaver family was teaching its youngsters how to swim in and out of their compound, providing us with much entertainment. They’re much bigger than I’d imagined. Compared to Southern California, my home, you live in a very wet country. I envy the rivers and wetlands you get to explore.

    • Thanks as always for your positive feedback Sharon, which I appreciate always. I hope one day to see these beavers and am quite envious of your own observations. Seeing wild animals always gives me a bit of a thrill!

  6. It looks like a lovely walk and that kingfisher is spectacular. I saw some ruddy darters just the other day – I don’t know much about dragonflies and hadn’t remembered seeing red ones before!

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