Choose a 5 km or 9 km walk and make the most of these 5 tips to enjoy a country walk in the Hageland Valley of Flanders
Regular readers will know that one of my favourite haunts is the Hageland. This is the area (in red on the map below) that stretches to the east of Leuven and takes in the towns of Aarschot, Tienen and Diest.
The name “Hageland” refers to land with dense forest and undergrowth, although much of the area is now under agriculture. However, many sizeable pockets of woodland remain, some of which contain a rich diversity of nature. The area as a whole is fairly undulating, which gives rise to a surprising if somewhat low-key beauty, and is well-provided with an excellent network of both footpaths and cycle paths.
Yesterday I returned to the Hageland Valley near Holsbeek, to the area known as the Dunbergbroek. In the winter this can be quite a wet area, requiring rubber boots, but it soon dries out and is really a lovely area to walk around.
If you are looking for some genuine peace and solitude, I can heartily recommend spending a couple of hours walking through the Dunbergbroek.
It’s criss-crossed by the walking network of nodes. I am going to recommend an easy 5 km circular walk starting and ending at junction 601.
HOW TO GET TO THE HAGELAND VALLEY
If you are in the car, there’s a small parking area at node 601, which you can reach by driving to the end of the Molenbaan, Wezemaal.
If you are on public transport, your best bet is to take the 310 De Lijn bus from Leuven to Holsbeek. From the centre of Holsbeek you need to find node 11 and then follow 16, 108 and 106 to join the circular path around the Dunbergbroek. From Holsbeek the total walk will be 9 km.
Near to junction 601, take time to have a peek at the picturesque old watermill on the Molenbaan, which dates back to 1775.
You may be thinking that 5 km is a short walk that will be over in no time at all. After all, if you get a move on, you could complete it in an hour. However, I recommend going slow and taking your time to really appreciate the nature around you. Here are some ideas to make the most of your walk. All of them are also perfectly suitable for children.
1. STOP AND SMELL THE FLOWERS
Well, not always literally, but from now right through summer, this area is blooming with wild flowers. Some are woodland species; others you can find in the surrounding marshy meadows. So why not take time to look more closely at them, and perhaps photograph them so you can identify them later? Here are a few that I spotted on my walk.
2. HUG A BUG
Again, not literally. But take time to get up close and personal with some of the creeping creatures you might come across.
3. LISTEN TO THE BIRDIES
Spring is the best time of the year to listen to bird song, and the Dunbergbroek is a particularly good place to pin back your ears. I was lucky enough to have learned bird song when I was young, so it’s easy for me to identify what’s singing. But even if you don’t know the species that are singing, it’s still lovely just to listen to them. Here’s a duet between a robin and a chaffinch that I captured.
4. BECOME A PATTERNIST
OK I made that word up. What I mean is, look for interesting shapes and patterns. Nature’s full of them.
5. TAKE A PICNIC
Between nodes 601 and 129, Natuurpunt have very kindly installed a lovely picnic table, under a shady tree. It’s a super place to snack.
So there you are. Five tips to make your 5 km or 9 km walk in the Hageland Valley a lot of fun, no matter how old you are. Here’s some more info on walking in the Hageland Valley.
Let me know how you get on. Why not share your best photographs with me? I’d be delighted to add them to the blog. You could even send them via Whats App:
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Blog reader Tom is the first to send in his photos of the Hageland Valley:
So glad to see you back here, Denzil. I’ve missed your posts. This one was worth waiting for as your delight in nature blooms in every comment and image. That watermill is so full of charm and reminds me of many European paintings. The wildflowers are resplendent in their spring bloom. Out here in California the spring wildflower bloom was spectacular but it rained so many of the weekends that I was never able to get out and see it for myself. I’m impressed by the quality of birdsong you were able to record.
As for me posting photos – i just got my first iPad and am learning to use the camera. So far I’m an ech photographer, so no pics from me. But I’ll be back to see what your other followers show.
Thanks Sharon, you say the nicest of things. One of the benefits of this place is the solitude. In over two hours on a Saturday afternoon I only met two people. One of them – a jogger – stopped to chat. He’s a local and says “no-one knows of this place.” I hope I haven’t ruined his peaceful jogs by introducing it to the multitudes! Best wishes to you.
Now that’s an interesting thought – have you ever been able to determine if your posts have created an increase in attendance at the places you’ve suggested? Would be mostly local folks of course, but it would still be nice for you to know your impact.
No, I was being slightly “tongue in cheek” there Sharon. I think some of the places I mention might get a visit from a few people in the course of a year as a result of reading my blog, but not many. I get nice comments from some of them who do, who make it all worthwhile.
Splendid idea for me and my wife who has trouble walking long distances. Hope to be there soon 😉
It’s all flat too Guido. Easy walking for your wife.
Lovely post. The only sense missing was a description of some of the smells. Glad to see you post again.
I’m not so good at describing scents of flowers. Er… Floral?
How about the wet earth, the freshly scythed grass, scents you do know? Was there bread from a cottage bakery or pungent cow manure?
Ah I see what you mean, Pat. I thought you were referring just to the scents of flowers but I see you mean smells in general. This is a great idea for a post: a country walk paying attention to all the country smells! Clearly something I need to work on. Thanks for the idea.
You would have come to it yourself, Denzil. You are a sensitive, observant author. Glad to help.
I think you might have liked my last walk, Denzil. It took in many of the back lanes near to my home 🙂 🙂
Indeed I did Jo! You have so much biodiversity where you live.
Nice detail of the singing birds! I like the post! Greetings from Argentina
Thanks Rodrigo! Recording birds is also “interesting”: you never know if they are going to stop, as soon as you switch on the recorder!
What a lovely walk! I just moved to Belgium from the US and have been wanting to learn about the birds in Belgium. Your record just re-lit my fire! 🙂
Welcome to Belgium! If I can help in any way with making settling in any smoother, just drop me a line. And I hope this blog will give you some interesting ideas of places to visit.
Lovely photographs and I’d do that walk in a heartbeat if I lived near there!
Thanks Fraggle! Have a good week, and I hope you get time to enjoy your own local countryside.
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5km sounds like a perfect distance to me Denzil. Lots of time free to take in the beauty of those wild flowers and creepy crawlies…
Actually Brigid, keep this between the two of us, but now I’m into my 60s I find myself walking shorter distances and spending more time stopping and staring!
The best way Denzil!
Great post and I love your ideas for a nature walk. So simple but often forgotten by some and not even thought about by others!
Thanks for visiting and commenting! I agree, the simple things are often the most pleasurable.
I like the word “patternist” and will go out of my way to be one from now on. There are so many beautiful designs in nature. We often take far longer to do a walk than the information suggests, usually because we’re stopping constantly to look and take photos.
I’m thinking of patenting it Carol. You could be my first Patternista.
That would be fun. I’ll be on the look out.
What a wonderful “album” and illustration of the pleasures of looking closely as you go along. Patterns, flowers, bugs, a bit of birdsong…and I love watermills.
Thanks Robert. Sometimes it feels SO good to be out and about in the countryside.