Children's activities

The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers

Even a small area of unspoiled nature can hide a wealth of plant and insect life. The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers are a perfect example.

If you travel by train from Brussels to Leuven, at around halfway you may catch a brief glimpse of water from the window on your left-hand side. There’s just a few seconds to notice a few ducks dabbling. Or a heron standing like a scarecrow in the shallows. But as soon as the water appears, it’s gone.

You may not have realized it, but you’ve just seen the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers, or Erps-Kwerps Ponds. I must have passed them scores of times while on the train home from a meeting in Brussels. And every time I’ve said to myself: “I really must check those out.”

Well, finally I have.

WHAT AND WHERE IS ERPS-KWERPS?

Thankfully it’s not the name of a new disease (Erps-Kwerps-20 virus). Nor something invented by two Czech mathematicians (the Erps-Kwerps equation to measure turbulence). It’s a village. Actually it used to be two villages (Erps and Kwerps) but in 1977 they fused. It’s now part of the municipality of Kortenberg.

A quick note on pronunciation. Erps-Kwerps is not pronounced as chirps or perps, but more like squares or stairs. Here is an audio clip to help you. Unfortunately the speaker is speaking the (to my ears) harsher Dutch from the Netherlands rather than (at the risk of offending my Dutch friends) the softer and more pleasant Flemish spoken in Belgium.

The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers are accessed from the Lodewijk van Veltemstraat. There’s a car parking area just down the road. Or you could chain up your bike to the noticeboard. (You could even wheel your bike to the Vijvers). Or you could walk there from Erps-Kwerps train station. Here’s my photo reportage.

The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
The entrance to the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers is on the Lodewijk van Veltemstraat.

The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
The path down to the Vijvers has a great boardwalk so it’s suitable for young children and baby buggies.
Bird hide
At the end of the path is a bird observation hide.
View from bird hide at the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
Here you can open the flaps and gaze out across the vijvers. At this time of the year the water level is pretty low but I saw a Great Egret and half a dozen Herons.
The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
My main interest today though was not the Vijvers as such but the path around them, which as you can see is alongside the railway.
The Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
I had read that it was a suntrap for butterflies and other insects, and due to its location, free from agricultural herbicides and insecticides. So I went along armed with my macro lens and mega expectations.
Latticed Heath moth
I was not disappointed. One of my first sights was this smart butterfly. At least I thought it was a butterfly until I got home and identified it as a Latticed Heath moth (Chiasmia clathrata). Apart from its beautiful wings, I love its stripy abdomen as if it’s wearing a woolly jumper.
Speckled Wood butterfly in the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
This was more familiar to me. The Speckled Wood butterfly (Pararge aegeria), a common sight in shady, damp areas. Just look closely at the markings on those wings and their (almost) perfect symmetry.
Large Skipper butterfly in the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
And I was pleased to see this butterfly: the Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus). At first glance it appears very moth-like. Especially with those out-size eyes and fat furry body. But it’s definitely a butterfly.
Large Skipper butterfly
The Large Skipper lays its eggs on various types of grass, upon which the caterpillars feed. This adult was feeding from a Tufted Vetch.
Long-winged Conehead in the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
I’m not sure if this Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus fuscus) was eyeing me up, or vice versa! It belongs to the family of bush crickets.
Common Bluetail damselfly
Common Bluetail (Ischnura elegans) damselflies always bring a touch of glamour to their surroundings, with their transparent wings and gorgeous colours.
Honeybee on thistle in the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
This honeybee was gainfully employed on a thistle.
Burdock flower
This is the flowering head of the Burdock (Arctium minus), much used in the past for the ancient rural drink called Dandelion and Burdock. It’s actually made from the roots of these plants.
Burdock seeds
The “burs” of Burdock are more easily seen on the seedheads, where they cling to passing cattle or humans’ clothes to aid dispersion.
Teasel in the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers
Another plant with burs is the Teasel (Dipsacus sylvestris). It was used to comb hair or in the textile industry to raise the nap on cloth.
Yellow loosestrife
Yellow Loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), is so called because of its ability to reduce anxiety and “quieten savage beasts”. Its dried leaves and flowers have been found to contain tannins, flavonoids and benzoquinones. 
Ragwort
A bouquet of Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Too much in a meadow can be a problem as it’s poisonous to horses and donkeys.
Blackberries
I’m sure the COVID crisis has made time fly this year. The flowering season of so many plants is already coming to an end. Although the blackberries weren’t quite ready to pick.
Rowan
The Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) berries are already beginning to turn.
Hawthorn berries
As are the haws, the berries of the hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna).
Cuckoo pint
The Cuckoo Pint (Arum maculatum) is displaying its juicy red berries, which should be avoided as they are poisonous.
Red leaves
And some plants are already showing their autumn colours.
Acorn
While the acorns are already well developed.
Dead leaf
But even a dead leaf in the bright sunshine is a thing of beauty and fascination.

This is just a glimpse into this place. I could show you more photos; I took 160 in total. But my aim isn’t to show you everything you can see, but to give you a taster; to tweak your interest in the Erps-Kwerps Vijvers and encourage you to go there yourself.

It’s not a place to go for a long walk. From the entrance to the bird hide it’s only 600 meters. It’s a place to be still. To watch and observe. To crouch down and enter the world of plants and insects that we often simply pass by. But you will need to slow down. A quick cursory glance won’t suffice. You’ll need to stop, wait and observe. A valuable lesson for us all – adults or children.

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And here’s another place worth visiting in the neighbourhood. This too is a place to sit and observe, and enjoy the wonders of this glorious world around us.

15 replies »

    • I’m just glad that I didn’t have to buy film for all those shots. But you’re probably too young to remember those cameras Robert! 🙂

  1. Love that! Exactly my favourite kind of place. Funny to see similar wildlife to that here in the UK. I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one that takes vast numbers of photographs on their outings!

    • One of the major and surprising differences Theresa that always astounds me is the Swallowtail butterfly, which is an occasional visitor to gardens, whereas just over the Channel it’s extremely rare.

  2. Lucky you, glorious butterflies! Their distribution is strange isn’t it? Probably down to habitat loss here – we only reliably get them here around the Norfolk Broads, and I have a feeling that’s as a result of reintroduction. I used to see them in Southern Spain, but never in great numbers.

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