Satellite
  • Day177

    Day 178: More Mining Sites

    August 11, 2017 in Belgium ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    More world heritage sites today, all of it mining themed! First stop was another of the coalmines from the industrial era, a site called Le Grand Hornu. This site was a little odd - the old mine buildings were all constructed in grand neoclassical fashion, with lots of columns, archways and hemispherical porticos. We had a look around, but there wasn't an awful lot of the mining heritage still on display.

    These days the site is used as a modern art museum and conference centre, so we had a look around at the current exhibition by a designer from Japan. Not quite what we expected to find in rural Belgium, some hyper-arty and modern furniture designs, but it was quite interesting!

    Wrapped up filming and had lunch in the on-site restaurant, as there looked to be a paucity of options in the area. Food was quite good - I had a huge dish of mussels that I couldn't finish, while Shandos had a salmon tartare with salad.

    Lunch finished, we set off for the third WHS in the area, a neolithic flint mine around the small town of Spiennes. These are a series of mine shafts dating from around 4500 BC - 3300 BC, discovered during the 19th century when a railway cutting was being dug. This was where neolithic peoples would come and mine flint, later shaping it into axes, knives and other tools.

    Since it's in the middle of a large field, we had to walk a fair way from the car, and by the time we arrived we'd just missed the start of a tour. Normally you have to book for these things, but because the group wasn't full the nice lady at the entrance allowed me to join up (and she gave me a discount price as well). Shandos had to stay behind to mind Schnitzel, sadly, as he wasn't allowed inside.

    The best part of the tour was undoubtedly going down into the mines themselves - very tight and small, but surprisingly far under the surface! The neolithic peoples would dig their mine shafts to a depth of about 6 metres, hollow out a gallery to extract the flint, then once it was exhausted they'd fill it with rubble and dig a new shaft nearby.

    It was great to go down there and see things with my own eyes, thinking about how they would have worked in darkness (no smoke residue on the walls from torches/fires), and how they were only digging at the chalk rocks with deer antlers and flint stones for tools. Yikes.

    When we got back top side we had a look around the area - apparently on this hill of a few hundred acres, they've discovered evidence of over 10,000 mine shafts!! Only about 15 have been excavated, and they haven't found any sort of bones, just flint. Fascinating spot.

    Finished off our filming and headed back to the hotel by 5pm. It's been quite nice to finish off early like this, gives us both time to unwind in the evening and either do something productive or just relax!
    Read more