MIXITY Walk : Boitsfort

BOITSFORT/BOSVOORDE AND WATERMAEL/WATERMAAL

For many people, the names Watermael/Watermaal and Boitsfort/ Bosvoorde are inextricably linked, but the two halves of this municipality each possess their own distinctive character. Watermael/ Watermaal, originally a farming settlement, is now the more urban half of the pairing, while village-like Boitsfort/Bosvoorde is greener and smaller – even though it had more inhabitants than Watermael/ Watermaal until the 19th century. Now, the tables have turned.

IN THE SHADOW OF THE FOREST

Watermael-Boitsfort/Watermaal-Bosvoorde covers an area of 13 km2, and the Sonian Forest accounts for more than half of this space. In Boitsfort/Bosvoorde in particular, you are never far from the cover of the trees. The village, originally a settlement on the edge of the woods, adjacent to a hunting lodge belonging to the Duchy of Brabant, dates back to the 13th century. Traces of the hunting lodge can still be seen in the village today, and you will pass some of them on this walk. Many people think that the name ‘Bosvoorde’ is derived from the word ‘bos’, the Dutch word for ‘forest’ – but  it’s actually an adaptation of ‘Boutsvoord’, the first huntsman of the lodge, who moved from Leuven to Brussels at the request of the Dukes of Brabant, who owned the Sonian Forest.

AN ABUNDANCE OF WATER

You will encounter a number of ponds and streams on your walk. Boitsfort/Bosvoorde is in the valley of the Woluwe, one of the streams of the river Senne. Three streams merge to form Boitsfort/ Bosvoorde’s ‘big pond’, which is located almost right in the centre of the municipality. It is here that the Woluwe oWcially starts its 10-kilometre northward trajectory towards its estuary in Vilvoorde. Your walk in the Brussels Region takes in beautiful parks, marshes and nature reserves, allowing you to see the clean waters of the Woluwe at various points. In Boitsfort/Bosvoorde, the Woluwe and its streams have created a hilly, undulating landscape, which you will feel in your legs during your walk – but the outstanding views you will enjoy in return are more than worth it.

LARGE PROPERTIES

Boitsfort/Bosvoorde is a very popular, green and serene residential area. This was certainly the case in the 19th century, when vast swathes of rich citizens built large country retreats on the edge of the forest. From the 17th century onwards, Boitsfort/Bosvoorde was easy to reach by coach from Brussels via the paved chaussée de La Hulpe/Terhulpensesteenweg. Between 1822 and 1843, when the Sonian Forest was in private ownership, large sections of the forest were sold and divided into plots. In the years that followed – particularly between 1866 and 1910 – large properties and villas were constructed on the land.

THE TRAIN AS A DRIVER OF RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT

A train line connecting Brussels with Luxembourg opened in 1854. The line passed through  Boitsfort/Bosvoorde,  which  also  got its own station, providing an even easier way for residents in the municipality to travel to the city. From then on, Boitsfort/Bosvoorde was not only a hub of aristocratic activity, but also an attractive location for the middle and working classes. Shops and companies started to spring up, and the 1920s saw the expansion of the municipality with the garden cities of Le Logis and Floréal, which are now protected sites.

FAR AWAY YET CLOSE BY

By the 19th century, there were a  number  of  ways  to  travel from Boitsfort/Bosvoorde  to  the  centre  of  Brussels. However, it remained a small, somewhat isolated village on the edge of the forest throughout this period. That all changed between 1900  and 1910, when the road known today as avenue Delleurlaan was opened. The road was intended to connect chaussée de La Hulpe/Terhulpensesteenweg and avenue de Tervu(e)renlaan via boulevard du Souverain/Vorstlaan. The construction of avenue Delleurlaan, often referred to as the ‘Boitsfort/Bosvoorde bend’, was ordered by King Leopold II, who envisaged creating a ring road around the village. Thanks to the easier access provided by the road, the municipality has become a popular residential area for the middle classes and a location of choice for businesses.

INTERNATIONAL AND LOCAL

The   population of Watermael-Boitsfort/Watermaal-Bosvoorde is very ‘Belgian’, and the foreign citizens who set up home here primarily come from other EU countries. There is one hotspot of international activity in the municipality: The International School of Brussels on the site of the former Bischoffsheim castle. It is also home to a few embassies and headquarters of global companies, as well as a small Japanese community, whose children attend the Japanese school in Auderghem/Oudergem, close to the municipality border.

HORSE RACING

The old Boitsfort/Bosvoorde racecourse is not actually in Boitsfort/ Bosvoorde, but just over the border in Uccle/Ukkel. There were   a number of racetracks in and around Brussels when betting on races was still a popular pastime. Although there have not been any races here for around 20 years, the site now houses a golf course. The buildings, which date from the 19th and first half of the 20th century, were recently renovated in preparation for the site’s new purpose: It is being turned into a recreational park that will also act as a gateway to the Sonian Forest. The project is known as Droh!me (www.drohme.be).

STARTING POINT: TRAIN STATION BOITSFORT (TRAIN - TRAM LINE 94)