Date: Sunday, May 30th, 2021
Path: Own route
Distance: 13,7 kilometres
For a change, I went to the region of La Louvière last weekend. Of course, when you hear that name, you do not immediately think of beautiful landscapes and nature, but the opposite is true. The region is leaving its industrial past behind and you can clearly see that.
The first part of the hike follows the old course of the Canal du Centre (also called "Canal du Centre Historique") that was put into service at the end of the 19th century to connect the Brussels-Charleroi Canal with the Mons-Condé Canal. Four hydraulic boat lifts were built to overcome the difference in height (about 70 metres). This hike takes me along three of these lifts. Because the capacity of the relatively small lifts was too low, at the end of the 1970s it was decided to build a much larger elevator and a wider canal. The imposing ship elevator of Strépy-Thieu, which lies about one kilometre northeast of the old lift number 4 and is visible from the old canal, was finally commissioned at the beginning of the 21st century. Now the Canal du Centre Historique is only used for pleasure cruises. The old lifts are still in use. That they are well maintained can be seen after almost four kilometres, just before boat lift number 3, where you can visit the engine room. A little further on you come to the village of Houdeng-Aimeries. There you cross the canal on a wooden bridge that is still operated manually by the bridge keepers to let little boats through.
From here you leave the canal and head towards the terrils, the slag heaps containing waste from the coal mines. The entire region around Mons, La Louvière and Charleroi is littered with hundreds of terrils that bear witness to the intense mining activity in these parts of Wallonia. We head towards Bois-du-Luc, one of the oldest coal mines in Belgium, with its slag heaps and miners' village. The houses are all identical and still inhabited. The village and the mine are among the most important mining sites in Wallonia. The next terril I visit is the Terril Albert 1er in Saint-Vaast. It used to be more than 100 metres high (and 200m above sea level), but it is losing volume every year. Instead of walking straight up the terril, I choose the path around it. And here and there, you get some beautiful views. The road to the top is fairly steep, but has been made accessible to walkers. From the top you have the whole region at your feet, although the view is limited by the trees.
Via some residential quarters and "cités" I finally make my way to La Louvière-Centre train station. At the other station of the city (La Louvière-Sud) I couldn't immediately see a bar or a shop on the map, and in the scorching heat of the day a refreshing drink was more than welcome.
Do you also want to try this beautiful walk? Download the GPX of it here:
By public transport: Start and finish can be reached by train. For Thieu you need to change trains in Mons. La Louvière is directly connected to Brussels.