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Mollekensberg Herent and its sunken lanes

The official translation of a ‘holle weg’ is a sunken lane, and Gemeente Herent has produced an attractive little leaflet called ‘Holle wegen wandeling’ which takes you on a 7-km walk along the sunken lanes of Herent and Wilsele. The region is known as Mollekensberg Herent.

It wasn’t a particularly pleasant morning – cloudy, windy, and cold – but I was in need of some fresh air after a hard working week, so decided to go sunken lane walking. I’d done half of the walk in the summer, hence some of the photos give a rather different impression to current reality. If you are planning to do this walk soon, wear rubber boots: it’s very muddy in parts!

It’s a circular walk (here’s a map of the route) so you can start anywhere, but I chose the Molenweg bus stop on Rijweg (choose your bus below) …


…where I parked my bike……and set off:

Mollekensberg Herent

So this is what a sunken lane looks like, in the summer:

Mollekensberg Herent and the sunken lanes

and rather less pretty in the winter:

The sunken lanes

Basically they are ancient field paths that over the years have become deepened by rainwater, animal tracks, and later by tractors. They lie below the level of the surrounding fields and are characterized by steep banks, often full of vegetation. They are great areas for wildlife, thanks to all the nooks and crannies, roots and trunks of trees.

The first stop of interest is the Mollekensberg, a public park, with plenty of space for kids to run around and even make a camp fire. When I was there in the summer a modern-day shepherd appeared with three well-trained sheepdogs and a flock of mixed sheep.

Herding the sheep
Herding the sheep

Maybe the shepherd was from the Bereklauw, which the walk passes through. It’s an alternative lifestyle community.

Mollekensberg Herent
Mollekensberg Herent

Then the path leads back into civilization and Wilsele village with the pastorie, dating from 1661 but restored in the 1960s…

Mollekensberg Herent

and the church of Maria the Ascension, which dates from the 13th century although has been restored on multiple occasions since.

Church of Maria the Ascension Winksele

By this time I was feeling peckish, so instead of wasting time searching for the village baker’s, I decided to ask the first person I came across. Unfortunately it turned into one of those times that make me despair about ever integrating into Belgium. I came across a man walking his dog. In my best Dutch I asked him where I could find the local baker (‘bakker’).

“Wat?” he replied rather bluntly, as if he was talking to a complete imbecile.

“Ik ben op zoek naar de bakker,” I repeated.

“Wat? Nee, sorry,” he said, and began to edge away.

“De bakker!” I repeated, wondering how on earth I could say such a simple word and be completely un-understood. I thought I would help him out. “De bakker, om brood te kopen. Brood!” (To buy bread. Bread!)

The penny dropped, or at least the euro cent. “Ah de BAKKER!”, he exclaimed, pronouncing it EXACTLY as I’d been pronouncing it. And proceeded to give me directions to the nearest baker’s:

Bread shop Winksele

Adequately fortified, I left the small village of Wilsele, but not before coming across an interesting village shop. Not a butcher’s or newsagents chemist’s but…

Tattoo parlour

I resisted the temptation to go inside. On second thoughts, maybe I could have “Discovering” tattooed down one arm, and “Belgium” down the other?

Or even more useful, “Ik ben op zoek naar de bakker!”

That’s my walk along the sunken lanes of Mollekensberg Herent. Let me know how you get on if you pass this way too.

18 thoughts on “Mollekensberg Herent and its sunken lanes”

  1. Belgium is so pretty in the summer but I would like to see it in winter too, simply because the snow would be lovely. Did the man pretend not to understand because he thought you were English? We had an experience in Brussels with a woman who thought we were English and would have nothing to do with us. Then I said we were Australian and it was like I had flicked a switch and suddenly we were her new best friends. Quite rude really. I’m glad you were able to find sustenance in the end!

    1. I think he was just unprepared to actually listen to someone who was clearly not from his own country/region/village. Maybe I should have said I was Australian!

  2. In much of southern and eastern England a sunken lane is also a hollow-way – so maybe we don’t need translation for that phrase either!

    I wonder which way the expression travelled, possibly from Flanders to England when the countries were linked by the wool trade?

  3. Interesting and amusing blog entry, Denzil; I’ve learnt a lot now about sunken lanes and hollow-ways (i.e. about the expressions) 🙂 I think your guess (he was just unprepared to actually listen to someone who was clearly not from his own country/region/village) is right. We are definitely not used to English speaking people making an effort or bothering to speak our language. Your accent will always betray you and people will be wondering what it is you were saying in English 😀 I must say I quite enjoy – no, I very much enjoy – reading what ‘expats’ have to say about our country. Also great quality pictures by the way 😉 Regards and my best wishes for you and your family in 2015!!

    1. Yes it was clearly my accent Guido. I learned Dutch when living in the Netherlands (and where Dutch people hearing me speak Dutch thought I was German). And then when I moved to Belgium I brought my Dutch language “skills” with me – and many of the Flemish people I talked to thought I was Dutch, due to the accent I had picked up in the Netherlands! Thanks for your kind wishes. I wish you much walking and blogging pleasure in 2015.

  4. Hi Denzil,

    I’m an American who has been living in Leuven for a year and I just love your blog. It gives us so many great ideas for how to explore Belgium on our weekends – thanks. Anyway, I wanted to write in because your story about trying to talk with a Belgian made me laugh out loud — I’m so glad I’m not alone! My husband and I have really been making an effort to learn Dutch, but scenarios like this happen all the time! Glad it’s not just us!

    Keep up the nice work, and thanks for sharing!


    1. Hi Cheryl, thanks for your comment, and I am so glad you enjoy the blog. Keep up the Dutch lessons, despite the occasional humorous experience!

  5. Bedankt! And please you keep up the good work too! You inspired us to check out some nice walks by villers la ville last weekend. Thanks for sharing all this great info with us!!

    1. Thanks for your positive comments Cheryl; I’m glad you’ve managed to find some places to visit. Villers-de-Ville is certainly an interesting place to visit, with some lovely walks in the nearby woods.

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