Hidden Belgium: The ghost town of Doel

Hidden Belgium: The ghost town of Doel
© Jules Johnston/TBT

It is almost a ghost town, but Doel still has about 20 residents. It can’t be easy living there. This deserted town north of Antwerp, which once had a population of 1,300, stands on the banks of the wide River Scheldt, next to a nuclear power station.

The houses were condemned in the 1960s to allow the construction of a new dock, but then the plan was put on hold. Most of the former inhabitants have now left, leaving behind deserted houses, an empty church and a little harbour.

The village has become a favourite location for street artists, including the Ghent artists ROA and Bué the Warrior. It also attracts a few tourists, photographers and urbanists.

The local action group Doel 2020, which has been fighting for Doel since 1997, argues that the town could be saved. And the Flemish government has finally altered its plans so there is no need to tear everything down.

It would be an odd spot to live. The tiny settlement is surrounded by factories, oil refineries and massive container docks. It isn’t exactly the perfect spot to bring up a family. But some people are optimistic.

No one knows if Doel will still exist in a year, but it feels like a place that does not want to die.

Derek Blyth’s hidden secret of the day: Derek Blyth is the author of the bestselling “The 500 Hidden Secrets of Belgium”. He picks out one of his favourite hidden secrets for The Brussels Times every day.

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