zondag 18 september 2016

Voices heard in fields of green

Our little break in the Westhoek (literally meaning "west corner"), which is how the most westerly part of Belgium is called, passed like a dream.

It's hard to believe that only just over a week ago we were riding our bikes along the many winding lanes surrounding Poperinge, tempting to be explored.


Strictly speaking, they were not our bikes: they were on loan from our lovely host Johanna, who has become more like a friend over the years.


So, on our second day, we set off for a ride, taking a picnic (of course) as well as a cycling map of the area, so that we wouldn't get lost in the maze of country lanes.

Our first destination, along a rather bumpy and mainly unsurfaced road, was a little chapel we had been hearing about. It is called - rather tongue-twistingly - Ons Heerens Boompje, which literally translates as Our Lord's little tree.


There is a legend attached to it, of course. One fine day, a little wooden statue of Christ wearing a thorny crown was found near to where the chapel is now. Out of respect, the statue was brought to St. John's Church (St. Jan's Kerk), where the miraculous statue of Our Lady of St. Jan, which I blogged about in my previous post, was already being kept.


The next day, however, the little statue had disappeared and was later found in a bush.
After this had happened a second and a third time, a little chapel was erected near the bush where it kept disappearing to.

It's what is called a "fever chapel", where people come to pray for the relief of fever and pain.

The bushes and trees surrounding the chapel are hung with ribbons of fabric, and indeed whole garments of any shape and size, since legend has it that this would make fever or pain go away, being taken over by the miraculous statue.


On our way back from the chapel we spotted the domain with our little thatched cottage in the distance.


We continued our bicycle ride, which meandered between fields, encountering further chapels along the way. It is said that there are well over 200 chapels in the area around Poperinge, some of them quite neglected while others are lovingly maintained.


Of course, we had to stop at practically all of them and take photographs!



Many farms and old houses have little shrines (chapelettes, if you like) with statues of the Virgin Mary, sometimes accompanied by some kind of flower arrangement.


We even chose a shady chapel for our picnic.


On the return journey, we came across this folly in a field.  It dates from 1870 and was originally the orientation point of the maze belonging to Couthof castle. It is locally called the gallows (de galge), a symbol for the judicial powers of the lord of the castle.


A couple of days later, we took out the bikes again for a trip to Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery.


From 1915 until 1920 the hamlet of Lijssenthoek became the venue for the largest field hospital in the Ypres Salient. This explains the fact that some of the men buried at the cemetery died long after the war had ended.


Today, the cemetery is a poignant place of reflection, where Frenchmen, Americans and soldiers of the Commonwealth, alongside German prisoners of war, are commemorated under 10779 uniform headstones.

Uphill in France
Shortly after leaving the cemetery, we neared the French border, where we had a little uphill struggle along a street with Belgium on our left and France on our right.

Poperinge in the distance
Then we freewheeled back to Poperinge, where we finished the day with a well-deserved Belgian cappuccino (with whipped cream on top instead of the usual steamed milk) on one of the Market Place's terraces.



22 opmerkingen:

  1. I love your posts, they're so beautifully and poignantly written! Beautiful dresses, biking, and beautiful scenery. What more could you ask for?

    happy thrifting ;)

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  2. hhmmm - that cappuccino looks gorgeous!
    fabulous post! cruising around in a lush green landscape dotted with little villages, chapels and shrines sounds like a very relaxing day! love that you bike in a dress!!!
    interesting the part about the cemetery......
    hugs! xxxxxx

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    1. Thanks Beate, and of course I had to bike in a dress. I chose a very comfortable stretchy one, though. xxx

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  3. What an absolutely beautiful place to stop for a picnic. The harvest crop growing behind you made me smile and reflect on the fact that autumn is as good as here again. Thank you for sharing more lovely highlights from your latest trip with us. I so enjoy your travel posts (and all of your other great posts, too :)).

    Many hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

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    1. Aw, thank you Jessica.I actually love this time of year, when it is still summery, but not quite so hot, with a chill in the air in the mornings. xxx

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  4. Oh that folly is lovely! Thank you for sharing :)

    I love all the little chapels. There are similar standing legends in this country too (rebuilding a church or similar because of the movement of materials or other things) xxx

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    1. I had a feeling you would appreciate that folly, Melanie xxx

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  5. As I'm sure you know, we also have a West Country here in the UK, which is rural and lovely like yours in Belgium. A holiday of gentle bike rides and picnics sounds truly wonderful and all those little chapels and follies look really charming, plus it looks like you had much better weather than your U.K break. Hope you feel ready to come back and face 'real life' now. Xxx

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    1. I have been to the UK's West Country and enjoyed that very much. Ours isn't quite so spectacular, though. No secluded Cornish coves, no Dartmoor. And yes indeed, the weather was much better than in Wales. Just perfect! xxx

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  6. Oh, what a lovely couple of peaceful and reflective days you had. I love it when you said you cycled down a road with Belgium on one side and France on the other. We never experience anything like that being an island, it's quite a wonder! xx

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    1. Thank you Cate. It was quite strange cycling down that road. One side had houses with French cars parked in front of them, while the other side all had Belgian cars. Of course, we are now telling everybody we cycled to France! xxx

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  7. What an interesting read Ann, your break sounds wonderful. Bike riding is great (as long as it is flat!) and how charming to discover all those chapels and chapelettes along the way. Reckon you deserved that big cappuccino. x

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    1. Flat, or even better, downhill, Fiona. I liked the downhill stretches best, especially after that climb! xxx

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  8. How nice that the countryside is navigable by bike (our rural roads would be tough to manage without several tire repairs along the way). The shrines are lovely to see.

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    1. There are rural roads like that here too, Goody, the one to the fever chapel was quite tough. But these cycle maps tend to avoid them and only takes you along nice tarmacked ones. xxx

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  9. What a delightful little trip you've kindly shared with us. I love those shrines you discovered and how you look so glamorous on your bicycle.
    I got mine out of the shed recently and I was hopeless, I think I've forgotten how to cycle! xxx

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    1. I admit I was a little wobbly at first, Vix. It had been years since I rode a bike. I've got my bike in our shed too, but it needs clearing before I can even get it out! xxx

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  10. So many little chapels! And such a pretty landscape. It looks like a great place for a break. Loving your frock too!
    Thank you for your kind comment - I really appreciate it. xx

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    1. Thank you Curtise. I loved all the little chapels and of course, riding our bikes, it was easy to stop and take photographs. We'd already seen quite a few of them when we were in the car. xxx

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  11. A few lovely days, and kudos to you for cycling in a dress!

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    1. Thank you! This dress was just perfect for cycling, as it got a bit of stretch and was very comfortable. xxx

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