Ronan J O’Shea
Tue 7 May 2019
Only in bike-mad Flanders could they create an installation like Limburg’s Cycling Through Water, part of an art trail designed to regenerate the region – and be seen from a bicycle
A ring-necked duck swam by at eye level, the water rippling beside me without spilling over the high metal sides of the Cycling Through Water bike path.
This 212-metre concrete path is 1.5 metres deep and slices a pond in two, allowing cyclists to pedal straight through it. From a distance, the position of the path creates the illusion of people magically gliding through water. I pedalled along, steering with one hand, the other dipping into the water. Then I nearly fell over – a dyspraxic Moses.
Opened in 2016, Cycling Through Water runs through a pond in the De Wijers nature reserve at Bokrijk-Genk, a small park that is home to an arboretum (one of the largest plant collections in Belgium), a botanical garden and children’s playground, plus an open-air museum with historical buildings from across Flanders, displaying traditional rural life in the region.
Part optical illusion, part bike path, Cycling Through Water has proved to be a hit with tourists and locals, and is set to be followed by similar paths around the province of Limburg, including Cycling Underground (currently under design), Cycling through the Heath (open early 2020) and Cycling through Trees, which opens this July.
Cycling Through Trees plays on Limburg’s mining heritage. Like a canary to gas, pinewood was used in mining tunnels – cracking under pressure, it made for a natural alarm bell. Now, towering pines will surround a 700-metre-long cycling canopy near the town of Hechtel-Eksel, 20km from Bokrijk, coiling up from ground level until visitors are 10 metres high, cycling between the pines.
The morning after my Moses moment, a faint scent of cherry blossom filled the air around 15th-century Colen Abbey, on the outskirts of Borgloon, a small city of around 10,000 people. I’d cycled around 2km outside the city with my guide, Lydia. In the distance, grapevines lined the hill and to my right I saw a white horse grazing on dewy grass. In the midst of this pastoral scene was a large wooden artwork called #Untitled 158 by Scottish artist Aeneas Wilder.
A doughnut-shaped pavilion of wooden slats on stilts, #Untitled 158 offers a different perspective on the surrounding countryside. Light filtered inside, the quiet of the Limburg countryside interrupted by the creaking sound of my feet on the wood. Standing next to the vertical slats, the outside world became a natural slideshow as I looked at the hamlet of Kerniel and the white horse. “It’s a place that invites you to meditate on life,” Lydia said.
Sculpture from the saddle: a cycling and art tour of Belgium | The Guardian
Ronan J O’Shea Tue 7 May 2019 Only in bike-mad Flanders could they create an installation like Limburg’s Cycling Through Water, part of an art trail designed to regenerate the region – and be seen from a bicycle A ring-necked duck swam by at eye level, the water rippling beside me without spilling over the… [Read More]