The abandoned village of DoelNovember 6, 2017 in Belgium
On Park4Night Will had found an unusual overnight spot. It was downstream on the River Scheldt, nearer the coast than our last stop and very close to the Dutch border. Doel is a town that stands in the shadow of a nuclear power station, below the water level of the tidal river used by cargo ships to access the port of Antwerp, Belgium's second largest city. All but a handful of houses are now abandoned and their walls used as canvasses for graffiti artists. We felt drawn to stay at such an unusual place.
As we approached, the area became hyper industrial. Coal mountains sat on docksides, parked lorries lined the lanes, trains full of new cars lay waiting to be transported to dealers. Temporary chicanes and speed bumps announced our arrival to the run down settlement that was once home to a thousand or so people. Windows and doors were boarded up with sheets of silver metal. The van fitted into a bay just off the road, on the church car park. The graveyard and grass outside was well maintained and it was clear from the Chrysanthemums that people had visited relatives just a few days previously.
Watching from inside the van, we saw nature had begun to take back the vacated spaces. There was an ever present background hum of heavy industry, but cutting through this, Jackdaws cawed from roof tops and we noticed a few hopping in and out of a crack in the side of an attic. Two tailess cats ate from plastic cartons left out on the road and later climbed the Elder tree to try and catch a Jackdaw. Cars occasionally came and went, mostly containing sightseers such as ourselves who wandered the quiet streets taking snaps. Upon investigation we found an open café and three inhabited houses, two attached to empty homes either side and one stately looking detached building behind an iron fence. These were all free of graffiti. As well as the house owners, there was evidence of squatters, with paths tramped through overgrown grass and metal sheets bent back from doors.
Running along one edge of the crosshatch pattern of streets was the huge levee bordering the river. Climbing up crumbled concrete steps and walking along its ridge, we had a view of long barges powering up the channel, their size put into contrast by the leisure boats in the small marina adjacent to the dyke. Accross the river were industrial gas holders and wind turbines. To the left, an old but well maintained traditional windmill, dwarfed by grey concrete cooling towers of the nuclear power station. To our right were outlines of cranes, dock loaders and tall pylons. It wasn't the countryside setting we normally gravitate towards but it was certainly intersting!
Walking back through the abandoned streets we thought what a good setting it would make for an episode of Dr Who or a horror movie. We sat with a cuppa, scaring ourselves with made up stories involving a graveyard, a nuclear leak and abandoned houses containing who knows what! Back in real life, just after 7pm all was dark and quiet outside when we heard a bang on the back of the van. Will went out to investigate as Vicky peered nervously from within the doorway and spotted one of the tailess cats running for cover. We reckon it had jumped up on the bike rack to test it out as a potential hunting platform.
An otherwise quiet night brought with it the first frost of winter, its tiny sparkling crystals covering Martha Motorhome. A large sun was rising over the misty river, tinting the chimney emissions in the east with a burnt orange hue. Its rays found pockets of clear water and reflected brightly off them, silhouetting the industrial infrastructure of the port. Vicky enjoyed a good half hour with the camera that morning!Read more