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DISCOVERING THE BELGIAN COUNTRYSIDE - REBECQ by Ginny Suter

Ginny wrote numerous articles for Plug-In Belgium and Internationals in Belgium in the late 1990s early 2000's and presented a weekly radio programme for a local radio station in the Brussels Waterloo area.

Rebecq lies just 27 kilometres south-west of Brussels, in a triangle stretching from Braine-le-Comte to Enghien and Tubize. The main road (N6) runs parallel with the River Senne, from Tubize to Rebecq, flowing through the scenic heart of valley.

It's the birthplace of Ernest Solvay, the great chemist who in 1861 developed a process for the manufacture of sodium carbonate (soda). Subsequently he made great improvements to the process, establishing several manufacturing plants world-wide.

One of Belgium's greatest industrialists, he was also a leading liberal politician, arts patron and philanthropist. There is a monument to him in 1938 in front of the town hall. His birthplace is nearby on Rue des Sauniers.

Near-by is the beautifully restored Great Arenberg Watermill where you can see an assortment of impressive machinery and the Porphyry Museum on the first floor. There is also a café where you can taste the local traditional beer which comes from the old Lefebvre brewery. The Bonne Espérance is particular and should not be missed.

The porphyry quarry at nearby Quenast supplied Ernest and his brother Alfred Solvay with the material from which they built up their great soda and ammonia industry.

The small mill of Arenberg on the other riverbank is being restored. Every Sunday during the tourist season, the miller grinds grain according to ancient tradition. You can also see four pairs of millstones in operation.

In 1994, the restoration of the former stables and outhouses was completed and you can now savour local specialities in a unique setting next to the old forge.

There is the 'Little Steam Train of Bonheur', which runs in the afternoons on public holidays and at weekends, crossing the tranquil valley in the heart of luscious countryside.

On the bank of the River Senne, is a building dating back to 1240. It was turned into a hospice in 1308 by Marie de Rethel, widow of Walter I, Lord of Enghien and Prince of Rebecq. Guided tours of the historic buildings and treasures of the Old Hospice, facing the Arenberg Watermills and of the Quenast Quarries are available.

With advance notice, visits to the watermill or bookings for the train, can be arranged for groups on weekdays. During the holiday season, visits can be made to the quarries on Saturdays and Sundays.

Additional information:

The Great Arenberg Watermill The beautifully restored old watermill is open to the public until the end of November. On the ground floor you will find impressive machinery at the side of a café serving local beers and snacks. On the first floor is the Porphyry Museum.

Traditional Beers The local beer comes from the old Lefebvre brewery, at 52 chemin du Croly. The Bonne Espérance in particular should not be missed.

Quarries of Quenast The porphyry quarry at nearby Quenast supplied Ernest and his brother Alfred Solvay with the material from which they built up their great soda and ammonia industry.

Marie de Rethel Hospice On the bank of the River Senne, at 1 Rue Docteur Colson, is a building dating back to 1240. It was turned into a hospice in 1308 by Marie de Rethel, widow of Walter I, Lord of Enghien and Prince of Rebecq. Guided tours of the historic buildings and treasures of the Old Hospice, facing the Arenberg Watermills and of the Quenast Quarries are available.

©Ginny Suter jml Property Services - 1998

Original article appearing in "Internationals in Belgium" Dick Suter was an editor of the magazine and contributor and Ginny Suter was a regular contributor in the late 1990's and 2000's - The magazine had a circulation of 10,000 Please note that this article was first published many years ago and telephone and fax numbers are likely to be out of date and email addresses have been removed.

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Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives

 

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