Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Birthday: Colin Baker, megaliths and erotica

Thank you all for your kind wishes for my birthday yesterday. One of the great things about the interconnected age is that we can easily reach out and let someone know that we are grateful for their continued existence. It did and does cheer me up, hearing from old and dear friends, and also from people where I was not terribly sure if they liked me or even remembered me

Before I go into how exactly I celebrated, I need to thank my brother William for arranging this very special birthday greeting:
Though somehow he didn't spot this picture when doing his research:

Anyway. My birthday trip was out to the ancient East of Belgium, to look at the biggest concentration of megalithic monuments in the country around Wéris. I had been once before, but this time I intended to do a comprehensive sweep of all of the menhirs, dolmens and passage graves in the vicinity.

We stayed overnight Sunday in Durbuy, in a lovely five star hotel which had found a way of complying with health regulations; you went down and collected your gourmet dinner on a tray, watching it being made in front of you while you waited, and then took it up to your room to enjoy. Same with a very large breakfast yesterday morning. It is not the same as non-pandemic times, but it was a very pleasant break anyway.

Our first menhir was on the way out on Sunday, at Haillot, a sub-commune of Ohey, southwest of Huy and directly east of Namur. It's at the end of a short lane in a small village. Anne coquettishly peeked out from behind it. (A friend on Facebook commented: "It's just over one Anne in height.")

Yesterday we took the sequence of megaliths in Wéris from south to north, in order. Actually I don't recommend this. I think you would be better to start at the rather nice museum first thing in the morning, and then go on their self-guided walk around the monuments. Apart from the very last one I describe here, they are all within easy reach of the village centre on foot, and if the weather is good you will have had a great day out. (And then, if there is time, take in the Pierre du Diable at Haillot on the way home if like us you were coming from and returning to the west.)

We knew we were onto a good thing with the very first set of stones, the Menhirs d'Oppagne, 2 km out of Wéris. (50.3174 N, 5.50876 E)
These are nicely set off from the road, framed by a tree. The received wisdom is that they were brought here from elsewhere in the 19th century and re-erected; I'm not sure that I believe that, my instinct would be that there has been a line of stones here for a long time.

The next is one of the two big Wéris sites, 500m from the first set of menhirs, known as the Dolmen d'Oppagne, the Dolmen du Sud or Wéris II.
It has two components - the range of stones, which again have supposedly been assembled from finds elsewhere; and an excavated passage grave, one of three known examples in Belgium - and one of the other two is also in Wéris, while the third was reburied by archaeologists after excavation so there is nothing to see.

Very close by is a solitary roadside menhir, the Menhir Danthine - from behind it you can see the Wéris complex, 350m away.

It's then just over a kilometre to the other big passage grave, know as Wéris I or the Dolmen du Nord, another passage grave framed by a corridor of stones.

We had been before with much smaller U and F, twelve years ago.

400m to the west as the crow flies, though the walk is more like 600m, is a supposed group of megaliths in a wood. They are not very impressive.

750m to the north is another supposed megalith, even less impressive. The road to it is barred for non-local traffic, so it's a decent walk.

However, the last two menhirs are much more serious. The Menhir d'Heyd is down a terrible road for driving, about 4 km from Wéris I, and we were too busy concentrating on the potholes to spot it as we passed. Which was unfortunate, as it's actually rather striking.

And finally, the Menhir d'Ozo, another 2.5 km along the alignment that most of these monuments share, stands proudly in a field (that we did not go into for the sake of the crops).

The alignment is really striking on the map. (The outlier is the unimpressive stone grouping in the wood near Wéris I.)

But that is not all that we saw. Durbuy (the commune of which Wéris is part) is held a sculpture festival in 2019 with odd stoneworks dotted around the countryside, mostly still there. Here's one by Taiwanese sculptor Dwan Yu:

And another by Belgian sculptor Henry Hardy. (This is number 42, apparently, suggesting that there are at least 40 others that we did not find.)
The keen art hiker could probably spend a day or two wandering in the hills between Durbuy and Wéris finding them all.

And finally (though first in the sequence that we actually saw them) we visited Namur on Sunday to look at the Félicien Rops Museum. (It's interesting that there are a lot of single-artist museums in Belgium; I cannot think of any in the UK or Ireland, and only one - van Gogh - in the Netherlands.) Rops was a nineteenth century chap with a dubious personal life, but a real eye for detail and character. His erotic ethings and sketchings are particularly memorable. The museum is not expensive (and also not large). My eye was particularly caught by his "The Fourth Glass of Cognac" (1878), and I'll leave you with that.
Tags: art, doctor who: 06, megaliths, world: belgium, writer: colin baker
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