Oasis (3): The Avijl Plateau
A place to breathe: one of the allotments of the Avijl Plateau (© Ivan Put)
This summer, BRUZZ is on a mission to help you discover some of the little-known small areas of untouched nature in Brussels. Want to awake your inner explorer? The 8.7 hectares of the Avijl Plateau in Uccle are entirely at your disposal.
Those who use it are in the know: one never arrives at the Avijl Plateau by chance; only the green-fingered or particularly adventurous locals know about this hidden corner of paradise with its meadows, allotments, and wild spaces, which are home to many species of birds, trees, and flowers.
Who would have thought that only a stone’s throw from the bustle of Sint-Jobsplein/place Saint-Job, there was a little piece of countryside, sheltered from all signs of urban activity? Naturally, this is something you will have to see for yourself. But first let us tell you the way, because just finding the entrance is practically an impossible feat.
Starting from Sint-Jobplein/place Saint-Job (number 92 tram, number 43 and 60 buses), climb the Sint-Jobsesteenweg/Montagne de Saint-Job – whose rustic, village-like character will put you in the right frame of mind – until you get to number 133. Here, you will find the youth centre called L’Antirides – you cannot mistake it. A few metres further on your left, a wooden board concealed in the thick vegetation signals the entrance to the site.
Setting the tone, there are notices pinned up by the Association Protection et Avenir d’Avijl (Association for the Protection and Future of Avijl): “Un cœur à sauver, plus que jamais!” (“A heart that needs saving, more than ever!”). You see, the heart and soul of Sint-Job/Saint-Job, acquired in 1970 by the borough, is at risk because of plans for the construction of housing, which threaten to remove the unlisted quarter of the Plateau’s green space.
Now is the time to lose yourself in the natural labyrinth of Avijl. The pathways are more or less easy to navigate depending on how adventurous you are feeling, and how tolerant you are of nettles. They offer an array of different routes. Allow your instincts to guide you. Very soon, your footsteps lead into the middle of the continental jungle: tall trees and flowering bushes representing a great variety of species are combined with wild plants to create a beautiful medley of visuals and scents.
Here and there, the sun’s rays light your way through this untouched forest. After strolling happily for ten minutes or so (you are surprised to find yourself whistling with the birds), you are face to face with a pair of horses, occupying a magnificent golden meadow. At this point, the city seems so far away.
At the edge of the meadow, you spot the numerous little allotments, the main feature of the Plateau. The borough rents these out to local inhabitants. They are captivating. Each patch of earth seems to reflect the personality of the person who rents it, from the chaotic spaces which have been invaded by poppies and the surrealist sculptures that function (or don’t...) as scarecrows, to those allotments that are extremely well-maintained by their fastidious gardeners.
A place to breathe
Along the way, we come across Simon, a youthful thirty-something and great nature-lover who invites us to enter his allotment, which he shares “with a lady who doesn’t have time to take care of it,” he explains, his hands in the earth where he has planted “strawberries, raspberries, broad beans, tomatoes, courgettes, etc.”, trying out various permaculture techniques.
“I come here almost every day; I feel good here. There is always something to do. People in the neighbourhood need this place to breathe, and for me, it’s vital. We have been fighting to prevent the construction works for thirty years. Unfortunately, the borough does not take alternative solutions seriously enough, or the value of these allotments in terms of quality of life and unpolluted air.”
After visiting a few more allotments, you return to the shade of the woods, where you slowly make your way towards the exit. Taking your time, to prolong your enjoyment.
Special thanks to Cilou de Bruyn and Fabienne Antomarchi.