Hidden Belgium: Palingbeek nature reserve

Hidden Belgium: Palingbeek nature reserve

The nature reserve De Palingbeek has woodland trails, farm animals and views of rolling countryside. But this estate near Ypres has a tragic history. Some of the fiercest battles of the First World War were fought here, leaving behind concrete bunkers, flooded craters and two small cemeteries hidden deep in the forest.

The most striking is Hedge Row Cemetery, a silent, mysterious place that can only be reached on foot along a muddy forest trail. The original cemetery was destroyed by shellfire and the graves were laid out after the war in a circle.

Three former army packs are lined up along the cemetery wall containing objects that soldiers once carried, like gas masks, handkerchiefs and even makeup.

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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