Walking along the Dutch-Belgian border
Written by: Sonja Barentsen
Walking along the Dutch-Belgian border. According to Sonja Barentsen, there’s no better place to do this than in Zeeland. There’s a dense network of hiking trails in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen and it’s nigh impossible to get lost. Or is it? In this blog, Sonja takes you on a walk along the border!
Walking in and around Philippine
It’s early morning in Philippine and it’s still very quiet, so there’s no problem parking the car. Once that’s done, it’s just a short distance before we find the sign that tells us we’re on Zeeland’s network of hiking trails. This marks the start of our 11-kilometre walk, much of it on unsurfaced tracks and footpaths along canals and watercourses.
The best thing about walking in the vicinity of Phillipine is that the border - which has its unique story to tell - is never far away. For example, in Isabellahaven, a hamlet whose rural idyll belies a troubled past. The information panels here tell us about the so-called wire of death, an electrified wire that ran along the border in WWI to stop people escaping from Belgium to the Netherlands.
Just beyond Isabellahaven is a delightful bridge that crosses the Leopoldsvaart, on the other side of which lies Belgium. Just as we are about to cross the bridge a car drives up, beckoning us on. We wave to the driver to thank him, at which point the window is lowered and a Flemish gentleman in his eighties begins to engage us in conversation.
An unusual encounter during the walk
He talks about his work as a farmer and later he tells us about the wire of death. He explains what vestiges are left of that war in today’s landscape. His proclivity to mumble under his breath and at a speed which his pronounced Flemish accent makes hard to understand doesn’t spoil our fun however. If we have understood him correctly there’s a replica of an old guardhouse around here. We’re curious to find out more. “It’s not difficult to find. It’s quite close by in fact,” he informs us.
But he isn’t finished with us yet. “If you turn left a little further on, and then take the second turning on the right ... no, maybe not, because first comes that house close to the road and then, of course, you have to cross over diagonally. All the same, if you don't take the first left, but a little further on after that house, but not the first house, but the second house in that row, you can’t fail to see it, but on the other side of the road, right? There used to be a house there with a car park. And then take the third right, sorry, the second and if you keep walking for a kilometre you’re nearly …” It goes on in this vein for a while.
But he’s a helpful soul and we don’t have the heart to tell him we’ve hardly understood a thing. When he finishes by saying, “So that’s how you get there,” we take this as a sign to bid our farewell and hope that we are heading in the right direction. Otherwise we might get another friendly explanation and lose an hour of our walk. When we’re safely out of hearing, we look at each other. “Did you understand any of that?” We continue following the same route as originally planned. And yes, you’ve guessed it, we don’t pass the old guardhouse.
When we reach Philippine at the end of our walk, the village is teeming with people. It’s lunchtime and the whole of Flanders has relocated en masse to eat fresh mussels here. Thanks to the trail signs, the village is easy to find. At least the waymarkers never say, “Sorry, I meant the other way.”
Discover Zeeland by foot
Zeeland’s network of trails links up many hiking trails. These vary in distance from a small circular walk to walks of several days to make a complete walking holiday. Read more about the network of hiking trails in Zeeland here. Discover Zeeland by foot Would you too like to discover Zeeland’s network of trails? We’ve listed some of them here: