Reynvaert route

This hilly cycling adventure through the Hageland starts and ends in Diest. The Reynvaert route takes us past the famous pilgrimage site in Scherpenheuvel, the Abbey of Averbode and the beguinage of Diest, a beautiful piece of UNESCO world heritage.

Reynvaert route




Start: Diest

The Reynvaert route. Reynvaert. Where does that name come from? Is it the name of a count from days gone by? Or that of a lush nature reserve? Or perhaps that of the region we are cycling through today? Three times no. Reynvaert is another name for the tansy. In the small town of Diest, it is a centuries-old tradition to pick the young shoots of this herb during the spring. These are then used in a kind of pancake. So, because our adventure starts and ends in that same Diest: the Reynvaert route.

Our cycling adventure begins at Provincial domain De Halve Maan, a large recreation park with playgrounds, an outdoor swimming pool, an altitude course and much much more. But this is not where we seek our relaxation today. We have enough with our two wheels and the stunning scenery. We set off! 

After only a few hundred metres, we come to the first fun attraction: The Linden mill. This wooden windmill, which dates back to the 18th century, was moved several times before finding a permanent home on these city walls over 60 years ago. After this picturesque scene, we pedal further on a traffic-calmed road alongside the beautiful Webbekoms Broek nature reserve. It is as if we are pedalling through a scene on a postcard.


Book, film and pilgrimage

We continue to cycle joyfully through the greenery, towards the municipality of Scherpenheuvel-Zichem. This is famous for (at least) two reasons. We can see the first one looming in the distance: the Basilica of Our Lady in Scherpenheuvel. This is one of the oldest domed churches in the Low Countries and has been the most important pilgrimage site in Flanders since time immemorial. Our journey takes us right past this icon. At the top of the steep hill, we stop to admire the basilica.

We then cycle on towards the borough of Zichem. This place is etched into Flanders’ cultural history. For it was the setting for author Ernest Claes’ famous picaresque novel De Witte. The film adaptation, from the 1980s, is also iconic in Flanders. 

After getting to know the two claims to fame of Scherpenheuvel-Zichem, we pedal on. We wind delightfully on through the countryside, between the unspoiled nature and quiet residential areas. In both Zichem and Testelt, we come across a romantic spot: a water mill on the river Demer. After this, our surroundings begin to change again. It is becoming increasingly forested and sandy. Whistling, we cycle through the Averbode Bos and Heide nature reserve, and all the while, the kilometres and time gently pass by. 


An abbey with many faces

After this period of relative calm, passed in a virtuous silence, we come to another piece of heritage: Averbode Abbey. This was founded in the 1130s and is still active today. Nowadays, the abbey buildings are protected but, at the same time, they still bustle with life. This place was also the birthplace of the tasty abbey beer Averbode and the publishing house of the same name, best known for its children’s books and magazines. Intrigued by the history? Experience Centre Het Moment provides a fascinating insight into the life of the abbey community. 

After this special place, we permit ourselves a nice interlude. It is impossible to resist the lure of the ice cream stalls in the Iekdreef. This has two major benefits. The ice creams are delicious and that little injection of sugar gives us the energy we need to move on to the finale of our adventure. For this, we head back into the greenery.  


Via the Demerbroeken nature reserve, we arrive at Zichem station. The cycle path next to the railway line takes us to the centre of Diest, a lovely town full of history. Pedalling past the Grote Markt, we twist and turn through the narrow streets and end up at the historic beguinage. This place is part of a collection of 13 Flemish beguinages, officially recognised by UNESCO as world heritage sites. It is worthwhile stepping off the bike for a moment. We stroll through the baroque beguinage entrance and enjoy this special, serene place.  


Finish: Diest

And so the final chord of our journey resounds here. Barely 400 metres away is our finishing point. But we will postpone that for a little while. There is still much to discover in Diest. This adventure may continue for some time.   



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