A pleasant family-friendly 8 km country walk that includes Bertem Woods and a visit to ‘t Vossenhol children’s forest playground.
For this circular walk from Bertem through Bertem Woods to ‘t Vossenhol children’s playground I am grateful to the Ijsetrippers. This is a walking club that organizes a lot of group hikes and has shared numerous routes on their RouteYou page. If you live in the Brussels-Leuven-Overijse triangle and are looking for a walking group, then the Ijsetrippers might suit you. They regularly (sometimes multiple times per week) organize hikes starting from places like Zaventem, Tervuren, Kortenberg, Huldenberg, Bertem, Hoielaart etc.
“Ah,” you say, “so if the Ijsetrippers is such a good group, why haven’t you joined them yourself?” Well, there are people who enjoy walking in a group, and people who don’t. I belong to the latter category. I like to go at my own pace, to stop and look at a flower or watch a bird or take a photo; all the things you can’t do easily when you’re in a group. I’m also aware – from seeing (and hearing) walking groups in action – that group members like a good “babbel” as they go along. I’m not naturally talkative, so the idea of chatting to fellow hikers for three hours doesn’t really appeal to me.
But if it does to you, then go for it. Contact the Ijsetrippers and enjoy their company and the great walks they organize!
This particular walk starts and ends in the center of Bertem. By public transport you need to get to Bertem Oud Station bus stop. This is on the main 316/317 bus line from Kraainem metro station to Leuven so is fairly easily accessible. If you’re arriving by car you can leave it in the car park alongside the bus stop. If you arrive and need some sustenance for the hike, I recommend Yves Guns, which is a bakery located nearby at Tervuursesteenweg 93. Or you can pick up something from the Louis Delhaize supermarket which is right on the corner when you make your first left turn into Verbiststraat.
You can save and print the map below, and get the GPX track from my RouteYou page.
Observant RouteYou enthusiasts might notice that I have changed the direction of walking (and added on 500 km extra through ‘t Vossenhol) from the original Ijsetrippers walk. I recommend doing the walk in this anticlockwise direction rather than the original clockwise direction. This is because if you go anticlockwise you deal with the worst mud first, and the final stretch will give you ample opportunity to walk through long grass and clean your boots. If you do it clockwise you’ll finish by going through the worst mud, and then you’ll end up with mud on your boots and in your car or on the bus. And this is the mud I’m talking about:
Don’t let this put you off though. It’s only a short stretch. And hopefully once the work has been completed there will be a decent path. And what do you need after walking through all that mud? What about a bath? Or 12?
Once you’re past the works, the worst of the mud is over, although from time to time the footpath is a bit muddy. But what do you expect in Belgium in December? We’ve had a lot of rain, and the soil in Flemish Brabant is a very heavy clay soil that holds the water. Soon you’re up onto the hill overlooking the village of Bertem:
Rounding the bend you’ll come across something you probably didn’t expect to see:
On the left is a water tower, and on the right is the Bertem Radio Tower. Apparently there are two radars in Bertem: this primary radar and a smaller secondary radar. They are from Belgocontrol and are used to monitor air traffic over Belgium.
The primary radar covers an area with a radius of 260 km (Paris-Dover-Leeuwarden-Frankfurt) up to an altitude of 60,000 feet (almost 20 km). It provides information about the distance, flight direction and speed of the aircraft. The secondary radar sends out pulses that are answered by a transponder on board the aircraft with information about the altitude, the identification of the aircraft and any alarms. The antenna of this primary radar is about 8 meters wide.
Next stop is ‘t Vossenhol. This is a children’s woodland play area.
A dull, cloudy and eventually very rainy December morning didn’t really show up ‘t Vossenhol to its best. However, I can imagine that on a dry and warm Spring or Summer day it’s an excellent place to bring the children.
There are climbing frames and a maze. And plenty of areas where children can drag and collect branches, build a wigwam, or romp about on the playing field. Not with traditional play equipment, but with naturally created play elements where they can use their imagination.
There are plenty of picnic tables where parents and grandparents can sit and relax. People with disabilities have also been considered. The paved walking path on the playing field is accessible for wheelchair users.
There’s also a field for ball games and walk-through tunnels, a fox den, a semi-open shelter with a green roof, an amphitheatre, and a sand pit.
So something for everyone, and well worth bookmarking for a fine day in the Spring. There’s a car park and a bike stall by the entrance.
Bertem Woods is split into two, with the Bosstraat dividing the two areas more or less equally:
This walk takes you through the western part of Bertem Woods. I’ll soon be visiting the eastern part and will include the route here when I’ve made it.
It’s a small but beautiful forest which has remained virtually unchanged in shape and surface since the Middle Ages. It consists largely of oak and beech trees, but also with quite a few silver birch and sweet cherry trees.
It has an interesting relief of vales and gullies with names such as ‘Vossenkuil’ and ‘Wolvendel’. I heard green and great spotted woodpeckers, saw signs of roe deer, and in the Spring the forest floor is carpeted with wood anemones.
There is one stretch of the footpath that due to the masses of leaves … disappears! So keep an eye on the map and you should be OK. You’ll soon be back on a more noticeable trail!
Once you leave Bertem Woods you will be in a quite lovely agricultural area.
It’s difficult to believe you are so close to a major European city, although if the wind is in the wrong direction you’ll hear the steady hum of the E40 motorway.
The route then takes you back down to Bertem village. It was about this point in the walk that the heavens opened and I got drenched. But I’d had a most enjoyable morning’s walk, and a bit of rain didn’t dampen my spirits.
I hope when you do the walk you’ll have better weather! Let me know how you get on, either by email, WhatsApp or a comment below.
If you want to explore the south side of Bertem, I can recommend this walk, from Tervuren to Bertem.
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