Day hike: From the Lesse to the Leignon (27,5 km)
Date: Wednesday, May 4th 2022
Path: GR129, GR575 + own route
Distance: 27,5 km
A new month, a new day hike. This time I chose a route between the train station of Gendron-Celles and Ciney for a not too physical hike, but with two hidden gems and nice views.
The hike starts at the train station of Gendron-Celles. From there it almost immediately goes up through the forest towards the village of Furfooz, but before reaching the village I turn and follow the GR129 to the road leading to the castle of Vêves. The building with its 15th century origins is one of the many castles in the region and that I encounter today. Actually, I also wanted to add the castle of Noisy to the itinerary, but the abandoned castle - a dream location for urbex'ers - was recently completely demolished.
The village of Celles, after about 7 kilometres, is one of 30 villages in the list of most beautiful villages of Wallonia. It is indeed a beautiful place, where unfortunately King Car takes up a lot of space. There is a lot to see in Celles: the Roman church (11th century), a modern Way of the Cross and a hermitage (19th century) on top of the hill. There is no lack of food a nd drinks in the village either. Celles is also the westernmost place the Germans reached during the Ardennes offensive in the winter of 1944-45. Those who want to can go and see a German tank that shows where the enemy was stopped then. However, that tank is not on the route of this hike.
One of the hidden gems of Celles is situated at only 800 meters as the crow flies from the centre of the village, but it's not easy to reach by car. If you follow the gpx track (download below), you will arrive at the Jean Marcaux sand quarry. The quarry was operated until 1996 and is now an area of great biological value that is accessible to hikers. The palette of colours is simply phenomenal. So sometimes the impact of man also has its advantages. Otherwise this would have been just another piece of forest like elsewhere in the Condroz.
The next gem is about five kilometres further on, in the village of Conjoux. Unfortunately, the whole thing is in a very bad state, but still worth a look: the "Grottes de Conjoux". At the end of the 19th century, the local priest had a Lourdes grotto built for the inhabitants of the region who could not make the pilgrimage to Lourdes. But apart from this one grotto, 15 other grottos were built, each depicting a part of the life of Mother Mary. At the back of the Lourdes grotto, via a small staircase, you can admire the scene of the birth of the baby Jesus and the Three Wise Men. Some caves have collapsed and are no longer maintained. Since the removal of the vegetation, the caves are in a very bad state. The question is how long all this will last.
After Conjoux, the trail continues for one and a half kilometres on tarmac roads and then takes a forest road around the domain of Reux castle. Then a short stretch on asphalt and numerous country roads takes us to the junction with the GR575, near the village of Ychippe. Three kilometres further I'm standing at the foot of the 19th century castle of Leignon, which I could already see from far away. You can't see the castle from up close, as it is completely surrounded by vegetation and walls and is private property anyway. The only possibility to catch a glimpse of it is via the local cemetery. Leignon is also the place where, on 23 December 1944, an American soldier single-handedly stopped a German advance.
The last castle on this hike is Sainfoin in Ciney. It is situated at the end of a straight access road through what is now the Parc Saint-Roch. Today the building itself houses a music school and the outbuildings a crèche and a youth centre. A short kilometre further on you arrive at the Ciney railway station, now under reconstruction, for the journey home.
Do you also want to try this beautiful hike? Download the GPX of it here:
By public transport: Start and finish can be reached by train.