We start this walk at the gates of the Abbey of Averbode and it’s interesting to pay a little visit to this historical place before or after your walk. The Abbey of Averbode (1) dates back as far as 1134, when the abbey was founded by Arnold II, count of Loon. In the 17th century the abbey owned 5500 hectares of land and provided priests for 27 parishes The oldest remaining building is the impressive gatehouse of the 14th century. Also don’t forget to take a look in the beautiful abbey church (1664) which is a beautiful example of a combination of Baroque and Gothic style. If you want to learn more about the rich history of this abbey you can always visit the visitor centre and shop.
Now about the walk. It’s about 9 km long and more or less follows the signed “aardgas-natuurpunt” walk. You can also follow the route on the map that you’ll find bellow. It’s recommended to wear some good footwear. The 530 ha area around the abbey belonged to the noble family of de Merode and was sold to Natuurpunt (Belgian nature conservation organization) in 2004. Since than the area has been open to the public and extensive works have started to repair the natural value and landscape. Large areas have been deforested to restore the old heath landscape. I will tell you a bit more about it later.
So when you leave the abbey turn left and cross the busy N165 road. Follow a small path that when the road turns will bring you into the forest. Here it’s best to follow the Aardgas-Natuurpunt signs when you meander through the woods. When you walked about 2 km you’ll see the landscape opens up and you get a nice view over the heath and mere landscape. When you leave the wood and turn left you will walk straight into this fascinating landscape. Don’t hesitate to climb the bird view platform (2) to try to spot some water birds. In summer by dawn, you can hear the strange noise of the nightjar who has its breeding place around this area. Now continue your walk until you come to at a crossing of paths.
At this crossing you can admire the little chapel of the Holy Apollonia, better known as the tandpijnkapelletje (toothache chapel), where people come to pray to get rid of their toothache. Behind this funny fact is the rather gruesome story of Apollonia, who by an uprising against Christians in Alexandria got her teeth pulled out in a violent way. For this reason, she is regarded as the patroness of dentistry and those suffering from toothache. Here we turn to the right and a bit further you are walking in between the forest and the heath landscape. You turn left into the forest and will encounter another mere a bit further, once past this one you turn to the right. Soon you’ll cross the big Averboodse baan (N165) and continue into the woods. Now keep on following the route on the map. When you arrive at the clog museum you have to cross a road again…or you can have a drink in the museum café.
Keep on walking in the woods, then pass a more recent open space. Cross the heath landscape and pass in between two meres (4) ( the Gorisven and Rietvijver). This recently restored mere landscape was very quick a big success. Quite fast the rare Palmate newt found its way to the meres together with a whole lot of other species. It’s a nice place to take a little break and enjoy the surroundings. From here on we dive back in the forest and walk back in the direction of the abbey. When you cross the Herseltsebaan you climb up into the Mariapark, which can be best described as a religious themed park. Here you walk in between big statues of the 7 sorrows of Mary, all set in different antique building styles. Once you crossed the park you are back at the entrance of the abbey. In front of the abbey you have the famous “lekdreef” (lick drove), referring to the ice cream venders that line this drove. Sound like the perfect end of this walk. If you liked this walk and want to help to protect nature in Belgium, maybe you can support Natuurpunt (only dutch) or Natagora (only French)
Start : Gate of the Averbode Abbey, Abdijstraat 1, 3271 Averbode, Belgium
Distance : +/- 9km