Hesbaye – Overview
The vast Hesbaye area takes root north of the Sambre and Meuse Valley, similar to the Hainault and Brabant silt plateaux, whose main characteristics it shares.
This region of low plateaux presents a flat or gently undulating surface, with large expanses of crops stretching out into the distance. Only the Orneau, Mehaigne, Burdinale and Geer running downstream create some more marked slopes in the Hesbaye plateau, giving the valleys a unique landscape.
The silt layer, which is thick and well drained, maintains the high quality of the land. This underground richness results in a clear preference for arable over livestock farming on the surface. The wide expanses form a giant ploughed patchwork across an open-field landscape. That system of organizing rural areas is defined by the almost exclusive presence of crops and absence of enclosures around the fields. Apart from a few large farms dotted outside the villages, the bulk of the housing here is grouped together in close village communities carefully positioned outside the rich soils that support the crops. Relegated to a supporting role, the pastures are limited to the wetter areas along the relief and on the outskirts of the housing. Woodland, which is also uncommon, survives in the steep slopes of the valleys or soils of lesser quality.
Sources: FRW – CPDT
©Photographs: Mark Rossignol