This route starts and finishes at Le Grand Large in Mons, for a 132 km round trip through Hainaut and the border area with Walloon Brabant.
We will depart from Le Grand Large, an important canal junction that connects Northern Europe and France by water. After a loop through the moody center of Mons, the route heads for La Haine and the Canal du Centre, two watercourses that color the first 40 kilometers of the ride via a few creep-by-cut-through roads.
At the end of the nineteenth century, four hydraulic boat lifts were built on the old Canal du Center, each of them gems of industrial archaeology, and the route passes through some of these locks. However, the major eye-catcher of the route and by extension the entire region is literally a beacon in the landscape: the imposing boat lift of Strépy-Thieu.
Towards Feluy and his castle you can turn the engine a few times on his right ear. However, be careful, because agriculture is an important source of income in the border region of Hainaut and Walloon Brabant. Read: there is often mud on the road. In the kilometers after Feluy you have to keep your wits about you anyway, because here the route looks for narrow winding roads that take you through some very charming godforsaken hamlets.
When you climb out of the valley of the Ancien Canal, you get the wind that blows over the fields in your face again and the next beacon on the route draws your attention: the tower of the inclined plane of Ronquières. From here on, the route changes and the narrow, technical steering roads are exchanged for wider roads of better asphalt quality. Soignies (Zinnik pour les Flamands) is a provincial town that is perfect for a lunch stop; those who like a good walk can indulge themselves in the gigantic forest of Stambruges. A few nice curves lead the route over the Nimy-Blaton-Péronnes Canal. Back at Le Grand Large you can stroll around the marina, or put on your swimming trunks for a visit to the subtropical swimming paradise with sauna.
Strépy-Thieu ship lift: Construction of the largest boat lift in the world began in 1982. In 2002, the first cement vessel entered the 135-metre long lift barge to be lifted 73 meters higher on the new Canal du Centre. The four old boat lifts on the old Canal du Center that are skipped by the Strépy-Thieu lift have been recognized by Unesco as an industrial world heritage site since 1998.
Castle of Feluy: Dating back to 1380, Feluy Castle played a pivotal role in multiple wars and conflicts. Both on the way to Waterloo and on the way back, the troops who defeated Napoleon stayed in the castle of Feluy. Today the castle is used for seminars and parties of all kinds.
Inclined plane of Ronquières: Anyone who has been on a school trip to the Inclined Plane of Ronquières can now raise their hand. In the past, ships had to pass through sixteen locks on the Charleroi-Brussels Canal, since 1 April 1968 the Inclined Plane of Ronquières has taken over this task. The 85 meter long barges bridge a difference in height of 68 meters on a length of 1,432 meters.
Castle of Belloil: A castle that proudly bears the nickname ‘The Versailles of Belgium’ deserves to be included in this itinerary. The route goes all the way around the castle, so you already get a very good view of the imposing building and the beautiful gardens. If you want to study it up close, you have to pay.
Text Bart De Schampheleire Photography Peter Naessens