(Re)discovering the Charleroi Metropole region by bicycle

(Re)discovering the Charleroi Metropole region by bicycle

Load up your two-wheeler and prepare to be amazed as you cycle around new woodland and country trails, which no motorists ever get to enjoy.

The coronavirus crisis has unavoidably changed our habits and has prompted us to get back to enjoying the simple pleasures of life in recent months, such as (re)discovering the natural beauty that surrounds us.

Here is a selection of trails to be explored by pedal bike.

Ravel 119, from Gosselies to Châtelet

Nicknamed “La Houillère” (The Coal Line), this 13 km former railway line is the perfect green cycle path to safely make your way right across Charleroi. It just so happens that this stretch of rail track was singled out for praise with the European Greenways Award in 2002, by virtue of the staggering variety of botanical species it supports. Many cyclists use this RAVel to ride into work or simply to get some fresh air and clear their minds, far from any motor traffic.

Famille à vélo
This RAVel is a perfect day out with family or friends (photo credit: RAVel de Wallonie)

Riding along the shoreline of the Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure

This trail takes you on a 35 km ride along some of the biggest man-made lakes in Belgium. Two loops take in some gorgeous plains and woodlands, offering plenty of variation and enabling you to adjust the country ride to suit the whole family.

The more sporty riders can extend their jaunt with the “Véloroute des Lacs” trail, which links Eau d’Heure and ValJoly (in France).

Amis à vélo
Many cyclists ride the length of the shores of the Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure (photo credit: David Samyn – WBT)

Get away from the urban bustle in three strokes of the pedal

From Charleroi-Sud railway station, it is just 300 metres to the towpath that shadows the river Sambre. Just a few strokes of the pedal on “RAVel 3” is all it takes to leave behind the slag heap dominated industrial landscape to reach a much greener and more bucolic scenery, as you head towards Aulne Abbey and the Thudinie natural area.

For anyone who is concerned they will not last the distance and prefer to avoid the round trip, the train departing from Charleroi to Erquelinnes will take you and your bicycle all the way to Hourpes railway station. This allows you to reduce your ride to just the outward journey as far as Charleroi (+/- 16 km). If you do not have a bike of your own, the bicycle point at Charleroi railway station rents out electric bikes.

Vue du soleil couchant
Towpaths, delightful places to escape (photo credit: Jérôme Derèze)

90 km amid forests and fields, from Thuin to Chimay

Ravel 109/2 links Thuin to Chimay. It is the perfect route for anyone who loves longer bike rides. Starting in Thuin, you will be cycling along the tracks of the former railway, taking in woodlands, pastures and fields across a 45 km stretch, with Chimay as your destination.

After a short well-deserved break at the finishing line, and assuming you’ve still got the energy, why not take the alternative route that circles the Lacs de l’Eau d’Heure before heading back to Thuin at the end of the day.

Petit pont en bois
The trail takes in lots of lovely little beauty spots (photo credit: Jérôme Derèze)

The Canal at Seneffe

Set out to conquer the banks of the river Sambre, taking in Château de Seneffe and the remnants of the old locks across the canal. RAVel 2 starts in Ronquières and ends in Seneffe, taking you along a myriad of water points that illustrate the history of the region’s waterways.

Cyclistes roulant le long du Canal
This route takes you from Ronquières to Seneffe along the Canal.

Mountain biking trails, from Fleurus to Chimay

Head onto RAVel 119 and ride in the footsteps of the battle of 16 June 1815. This trail takes you around the various positions occupied by the French and Prussian troops in 1815.

In the southern part of the wider Charleroi region, you get to roam the craggy landscape by bike whichever trail you choose, according to your stamina and whatever takes your fancy.

Signposts (known as points nœuds) help you navigate your way around fields and forests.

These are just a few ideas for bicycle treks around our region. But there are many more trails that deserve to be explored, such as the one in the small town of Erquelinnes, which is home to a regular cycling – mountain biking trail platform and Walcourt, which has some stand-out hiking and biking trails.

Please do not hesitate to send in your ideas for treks to info@charleroimetropole.be to enable other people to discover other natural beauty spots.