Hidden Belgium: Oudenaarde battlefield

Hidden Belgium: Oudenaarde battlefield

The Battle of Oudenaarde in 1708 was one of Europe’s great battles. But they don’t tell you much about it in Oudenaarde.

You need to do some research on the internet to track down the rolling fields outside the town where an Allied army led by the Duke of Marlborough defeated the French.

You can begin a walk across the battlefield in the pretty village of Mullem, where all the cottages are painted yellow ochre. It could almost be Denmark.

The French army held this village on a low rise above the River Scheldt. They had a force of 95,000 troops, while the Allied army, made up of troops from Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, numbered just 80,000 men. And the Allied troops had to advance up the hill. It should have been an easy French victory.

The 13km walking route signed ‘Rooigemsebeek’ has nothing to do with the battle. But it just happens to lead across the landscape where the two armies clashed on 11 July 1708.

You can clearly see the land rising up from the River Scheldt and the high ground where the French artillery was based. The landscape is dotted with old brick farmhouses and a windmill. It could almost be a Bruegel landscape.

The battle fought in these peaceful fields was a turning point in European history. There should be a sign. Or something.

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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