zaterdag 6 augustus 2016

Another brick in the wall

It's already one month after we returned from holiday, and not having done any serious walking in the meantime, we are at risk of getting out of practice.

As we have another short holiday coming up at the beginning of September, we need to step up, so last Sunday we decided on a short walk ... down memory lane.


The memories in question are Jos's and the lane a brick road which he must have walked and cycled countless time in his youth.

Jos's parents (left) and Jos with his sisters (right)
Jos grew up in a hamlet of the town Boom (and no, it's not pronounced as you think it is: the double "oo" here sounds something like the "o" in the English word "bone"), which in its heyday was a major centre of the area's brick making industry, with over 150 factories extracting the rich clay and turning it into bricks and pantiles.


Centuries of brick making created a landscape of clay pits, tall chimneys and drying sheds.



The hamlet where Jos grew up consisted of a row of workman's cottages with outside toilets, commonly known as "de wildernis", which I guess needs no translation as it means exactly what you think it does.


The clay pit closest to his home was Jos's playground, and its drainage canal was transformed into the Mississippi when he pretended to be his hero, Davy Crockett, complete with fur hat and water bottle from "Scherpenheuvel" (a Belgian holy shrine).

The Mississippi
Jos aka Davy Crockett, with his sister-in-law Marguerite in the 1950s

In the late 1960s, the row of houses had to make way for further expansion of the clay pits, but the industry fell into decline during the 1970s and 1980s, leaving a scarred landscape.

Remains of drying sheds, locally called "luzzes"

Ruined factory, where Jos got his first job as an electrician

Now, nature has taken over the former industrial sites and clay pits, and transformed them into a wilderness in the true sense of the word, a haven for plants and wildlife, criss-crossed by paths for walking and exploring.



At the top of the brick road there is an orientation table pointing out the major landmarks, from where, on a clear day, the 5 uppermost spheres of the Atomium in Brussels, 23 kilometers away, can be seen glinting in the sun.

The Atomium in the distance


Along the brick road, there used to be an art installation, constructed from vivid red metal, telling the rich history of the area and highlighting the career of Piet Van Aken, a famous local author who wrote about the brickyards and their appalling working conditions.


Recently, the artwork has disappeared and so far we haven't been able to find out what happened to it.


We regularly walk in this area, which is beautiful in all seasons, although in the winter months and after heavy rains, some of the paths are virtually impassible, the heavy clay sucking at your boots in an attempt to root you at the spot.



This was actually the first time we visited in the summer months, preferring it with the fresh greens of spring or autumn's rich palette of colours.


One of the now water-filled clay pits still contains the remnants of an ancient dredger, leaning precariously, its blue paint peeling, as if to meet its reflection in the rippling water.


I love how nature is claiming back what is hers and would like to end this post with a favourite quote:

“What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and wildness? Let them be left,
Oh let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.” 
Gerard Manley Hopkins

22 opmerkingen:

  1. You remind me of the little mermaid in that last shot :) Isn't it fascinating how different parts of the countryside lend themselves to certain industries? And how stuff that might be well-known in its own country is complete news to foreigners. That was one of things I loved about teaching English as a foreign language; hearing about all those hidden details of other people's countries. All these photos are beautiful. I particularly like the row of cottages and Jos as Davy Crockett! Xxx

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    1. I actually thought of the little mermaid too when I saw myself in that photograph. I'm not sure if former clay pits are the right place for a mermaid, though. xxx

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  2. I love all of Jos's old photos and your accompanying notes. All so very interesting. I like you love the fact that Nature is reclaiming her land. What a lovely walk you took your followers on, thanks for taking us with you.

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    1. The pleasure is all mine, Sue! And isn't it fascinating that nature is erasing almost all traces of what we humans have created, once things are left abandoned? xxx

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  3. That was fascinating, especially looking at Jo's old photos. It must have been a very poignant walk for him xx

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    1. It was indeed a very poignant walk for Jos, and looking through all the old photographs brought back lots of half-forgotten memories. xxx

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  4. ahh - that great poetry of hopkins again! sigh....
    wonderful to see jos´ childhood photos! they seem like from a totally different world now - but i remember such circumstances were still remaining in some corners in my own childhood/youth....
    a few summers ago we wandered with our "faltboot" kayak down a river in vorpommern - and on both sides of that river there were flooded clay pits - now little paradises for plants and animals under and over water - magical! but there was no atomium in sight at the horizont :-)
    love your walking attire! <3 <3 <3
    xxxxxx

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    1. I couldn't resist using that quote again, Beate, especially as the word "wilderness" has a double meaning here. xxx

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  5. Such a transformation in the place! I take it Jos didn't decide to play Davy Crockett again...?

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    1. You'd be surprised, Mim. Although he wouldn't go as far as actually play Davy Crockett again, he did buy another hat at a flea market last year ;-) xxx

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  6. I now have the theme song to Davey Crocket TV show ringing in my ears!

    The real Mississippi has spots like that too-where nature has re-taken the former industrial areas.

    Thank you for the tour, and information about brick making. I love coming to your blog as I always leave having learned something new.

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    1. I'm glad you love coming to my blog, Goody, same as I love coming to yours. But now I've got that theme song in my head as well ... xxx

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  7. Really great images I love the history of hte place

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  8. Oh Ann, this was (is) such a heartwarming sweet, wonderful post. I'm a passionate family genealogist, so not only did I love it from a vintage perspective, but I appreciated it from that family history angle, too. Thank you (and Joe) for sharing these awesome images and stories with us.

    Tons of hugs,
    ♥ Jessica

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    1. I love writing this kind of post, a fact I only discovered when I started blogging. It's a real pleasure to share them with you! xxx

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  9. Jos's childhood memories and photos are wonderful, I love his Davy Crockett hat. Part of the Black Country was given over to brick manufacture, too - now, like Boom, mostly derelict and forgotten. xxx

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    1. Jos says he knew that hat was going to be admired ... All that dereliction, it's a bad sad, really, and towns like Boom are now rather deprived as a consequence. In spite of the childhood memories, Jos says he wouldn't like to live there now. xxx

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  10. What a wonderful journey of nostalGIA!

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  11. What lovely old photos! I can never get enough of gazing at old pictures.

    I knew about the Boom thing, through the cyclist Lars Boom and Tom Boonen, as their oo's are short, despite this, I love saying Lars's name, Lars BOOOOOM! But then I am easily amused!

    And I now also know, through robot testing on blogger, what bridge, house number and various stretches of water are in what I guess, is Flemish! What next I wonder :)

    xxx

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    1. How good of you, Melanie! We can soon converse in Flemish then ;-) I love looking at old pictures too! xxx

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