The Plat Pays or the Flat Country... Dear old Jacques probably never set foot in the Borinage. I can tell you that for sure! Yesterday I tried climbing the Héribus slag heap at Cuesmes, and my calves haven’t forgiven me yet... Every time I come to Mons, I’m shocked by all the slag heaps that are dotted around the region’s landscape. So yesterday, I put on my trainers and went to look at them a bit more closely.
Une randonnée dans une nature sauvage
A practical tip for drivers: you can park your car in the car park at the bottom of the slag heap on Rue Hector Delannois in Cuesmes. From here, a paved path runs up the little hill that nature seems to have reclaimed. On the right, the railway was no doubt useful when the area was used for mining. Trade between Hainaut’s coalfields and French businesses was very important in the 19th century.
But much more important than history, my goal yesterday was to tackle this funny looking hill.
In the greenery around the bottom of the slag heap, Maxime and Jordan spray their graffiti on the walls of an abandoned former football changing room. They know the site like the back of their hand. This “brutal”, wild nature inspires them. They show me the way. At the end of the lane, I have to turn left. A path, followed by steps take me to the top. “You’ll see, the view of Mons is unbelievable,” they assure me.
Le sommet en point de mire
I step up the pace. I make my way into undergrowth filled with birch trees and gently start the ascent. To begin with, it’s quite flat. Then gradually I can see the colour of the earth begin to change, from red to black, then back again from black to red. It’s a peaceful spot. It looks as though I’m alone. On my own facing this mountain made by men. The shale is still visible. But there is no noise. The miners have been gone for several years now. The birds have taken over. I can hear the leaves rustling on the ground. I can imagine the game is having a field day.
But I can see the steps already. All of a sudden the slope seems to become steeper. I catch my breath and screw up all my courage. We’re off. One, two, three, four then five… the steps lead to the summit. Nature hasn’t taken long to reclaim its property: you have to be careful of the brambles. But how wonderful to be able to experience this wilderness.
La chaîne Boraine et Mons en panorama
At the top, I have to say that I wasn’t expecting such a fantastic panorama. The skies aren’t clear, but I can immediately pick out Mons’ Belfry and Collegiate Church to the north. To the west, a series of slag heaps rises up, the Crachet de Frameries and the Levant slag heap, which I have also promised myself I would explore. To the east, Mont Panisel, a druid place of worship apparently! I’m gobsmacked. What incredible luck that such a site has been preserved and made accessible to members of the public. What better way to discover the Mons region? At the summit, a mining trolley bears witness to the history of the Borinage. Centuries spent digging into the earth. Today, this particular activity is well and truly over, but there is still plenty to remind us. All you need to do is open your eyes. It’s all at your fingertips.