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“La Houillère” bike track – a travel into social history

By simplyhuman on 2013.10.24 In bicycle bike photography

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Bringing Your bicycle in the “black land” (Pays noir) around Charleroi isn’t an obvious option for the foreign FS_0913_LAHOULLIERE_ 4visitors in Belgium. Indeed, the bike tracks RAVel are very well used by local cyclists, mainly for leisure and escaping from the busy roads of our overcrowded land.

But “La Houillère” has something special: starting from the Brussels-Charleroi canal, the bike track is in fact an old mine railways (Houille means coal) which links some of the old coal mines to the canal and the river Sambre.

Describing it like that, it looks more like an urban exploration tip than an activity for outdoor enthusiasts. But the coal mines have shut down 40 to 60 years ago and the nature has taken its rights back giving to this escape a strange feeling of green trench through a black city.

The track can be started anyway along the canal for a quiet flat ride. Locks and barges will come to be a distraction in the very rural yet landscape. Approaching Charleroi, the industry becomes more present: huge electric power station, scrapyards, loading docks,… it’s time to cross the old railways bridge and go up in the woods.

 

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The track is romantic in a way with stone bridges coming over the way, the green light through the leafs of the trees and old closed stations. But this aspect won’t hide the social issues Charleroi is facing: an huge old working class city from the XIX and XX th centuries. The factories have closed, the coal mines are shut down but the poor quality buildings and infrastructure remains and the poverty has risen to a very high level.

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Along the track, the “Halte du Ravel” awaits You. This is a social restaurant serving affordable food to the inhabitants of this poor area, amongst other services. You will be well served and participate to this ethical and citizen projects.

The last part of the ride will lead You down to Châtelet, by the river Sambre. You will have crossed a 200.000 inhabitants city nearly without crossing a single street! The very industrial railways station and the surrounding area will astonish You after a 25 Km ride on the green track.

 

 

Charleroi is worth a visit. The city has not a good reputation but it’s truly dynamic and alive. The Museum of photography is one of the best in Europe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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simply human

My name is François Struzik and I work as a professional photographer.

I use to focus on serious and sometimes not very funny issues.

I travel most of the time for work and sometimes just for the pleasure to discover other places. And then I love to bring my family.

We visit very often Great-Britain but we stay a lot in Sweden too. In other words, we love to be outdoor!

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