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Nethen "The Walls" (9 km)

Eglise de Nethen The starting point for this walk is the church of St-Jean-Baptiste. Built in the 18th century (the main body dates back to 1768) in brick and white stone, it is of a well-balanced, neo-classical design, with no visible sign of the fact that it was enlarged around 1860 after the disappearance of the church in Wez. Inside there is an Adoration of the Magi, a copy of a painting by J Gossart (16th century), a Lamentation of Christ, a painting in the style of Caravaggio, etc. The furniture is Regency, Louis XV and XVI (rood-screen, door leaves, pulpit, confessionals). The gothic baptismal font is in blue stone.
Before leaving the church, take a look at the Chateau van Zeebroeck, which stands on the other side of the road. This huge building, previously called Ferme Demariage, underwent considerable extension in the 19th century with the addition of a large gate-lodge with arched doorways and a slate roof. The main part, also renovated last century, is a wide building with twelve windows on each of the two levels with dormer windows above.
Notice also, still opposite the church, three beautiful houses (late 18th century).
On coming out of the church, turn left and follow Rue de Hamme-Mille. Walk along beside the village green; next to the church there is a large clump of conifers, which stand on the medieval mound of Nethen; this used to have a look-out tower or a keep. The mound dates back to the 15th century and is a classified site. On returning to the church at the end of the walk you can see the mound clearly from the other side of the church.

The sand quarry
Cross the River Nethen. On the bend on the right-hand side take a couple of minutes to go down a very short path to see a small water source “la Fontaine Saint-Jean”. Back on the main road turn left into a small road, which turns into a narrow path as it rises steeply to a pine wood. Turn right just inside the wood, following the walk sign, along a path which goes along the top of the old sand quarry. Enjoy the view from the top of the sand quarry over to the other side of the valley with its fields, copses and houses, and the wood of Pécrot. At the road le Tienne Vincent, turn left. After 300 metres this becomes le Chemin de la Trace, which leads to Meerdael Wood on the northern side of the village of Nethen. This is a pleasant track with a beautiful view on the left over fields to the walls of the Domaine de Savenel, which we are going to walk round, and in a hollow the Farm of the Twelve “Bonniers” (a bonnier is an old, Belgian measure of land).

The estate of Savenel, with the château in the centre, consists of about 150 acres of woods, fields and wet meadows; in addition to the château there is an old barn and a few other buildings. It is completely surrounded by a high brick wall around three kilometres in length. Although a tower or keep may date back to the 13th century, the estate as we know it today dates from the 17th century, when the Carmes Déchaussés (barefoot monks) from Leuven bought it to serve as a Retreat, a place of prayer, contemplation and meditation in solitude (a “Saint Desert”). They stayed there from 1688 until 1795, when the French occupation, which had annexed the Belgian provinces after the revolution, forced them to leave under the law of the New Republic.
Most of the monastery buildings were pillaged and then destroyed. The wall, built at the beginning of the 18th century, survived and still surrounds the property today. This is the wall that we follow on this walk.

The forest of Meerdael
Only a small part of the forest lies in the commune of Nethen. As we walk round the Savenel estate, we can fully appreciate all aspects of its beauty – the undulating landscape, the trees, mostly beech, and many paths.
At the end of Chemin de la Trace continue straight on after the last house and enter the forest just where there is a large, old oak tree with benches surrounding its enormous trunk. In the forest turn half-left into a straight path. In a dip 300 metres on take a small track on the left; then 100 metres further on turn left again into a track that goes down-hill. At the bottom it joins another forest track (note the large tree on the right with the number six painted on its trunk); turn right, pass a field on your left (the estate walls run along the far side of the field), and follow the path round the field. At the top re-enter the forest. After 200 metres turn left into a beautiful sunken lane which leads to the estate walls and follows them down all the way to the bottom of the valley and the ‘porte’ (gate or doorway) Saint Pierre. This old gateway is built in a very English style, unusual in this village; turn right just before the gateway along a track which runs alongside the wetlands of the river Nethen.

Variation possible here – see below.
After entering the wood, turn left into a path which leads to Rue de Weert-Saint-Georges. Turn left again back to the village centre, following the Chemin de Savenel as far as the estate entrance (which is private) – take a moment to enjoy the view through it up the avenue of lime trees. Turn right into Rue du Couvent, and then left towards the church.

Variation (7 km)
To see more of the village continue along the track from the ‘porte’ (gateway) Saint Pierre as far as the campsite. This is an attractive track along the edge of the forest, but can be wet and muddy in places. Turn left through the campsite, cross the river Nethen and the road ‘rue de Weert-Saint-Georges’, and head towards the old farm ‘de la Houlotte’.
Here at the bend in the road there are two possibilities:
- either take the road to the right, which passes through the small hamlet and wood of Beaumont, offering beautiful views over the ponds of the Dyle valley and the village and beautiful church of Sint Agatha Rhode, before rejoining the plateau above Pécrot;
- or turn left; the path runs along the edge of a garden before continuing as a narrow track across the fields as far as Rue du Peigne d’Or. Ignore the Chasse Privée sign on the edge of the wood. Continue straight on along the road; at the junction turn right into Rue du Bois Brûlé, which leads through a wood to the plateau above Pécrot, as above. (Be sure to turn left at the first crossroads after passing on your right the only house in the middle of the wood.)
Once on the concrete road (the main road between Pécrot and Nethen) there are again two possibilities : - either turn left to walk back down to Nethen; but turn shortly into a track on the left which becomes the Ruelle du Curé, a attractive, cobbled road, which leads past the parkland of the château van Zeebroeck and the old presbytery, and on up to the road where the church is.
- or cross the main road between Pécrot and Nethen and continue straight on between woods on the right and fields on the left. At the road, le chemin de Florival, turn left, gently downhill, and return to the centre of Nethen.
This variation offers the opportunity to enjoy the other side of the Nethen valley and its woods, sunken lanes and open fields.