Hainault silt plateau – Overview
Located in northwest Wallonia, the Hainault silt plateau covers the villages scattered across the Haine Plain.
Like other silty areas, the Hainaut silt plateau presents a gentle and uniform relief of plains and low plateaux crossed by flat-bottomed valleys. Only the hills of "Pays de Collines" northeast of Tournaisis stand out in this region.
Use of the land in the Hainault silt plateau, largely ploughing, creates an open-field landscape. That method of organizing rural areas is characterized by the almost exclusive production of crops and absence of enclosures around the fields. Outside some large isolated farms, most of the housing is grouped in village communities. An initial belt of meadows generally surrounds the village with additional pastures in valleys floors, shaped by the watercourse. Further afield, we can see large expanses dominated by a giant patchwork of fields and farmland. Areas of woodland are relegated to the steeper slopes and soils of lesser quality. This concentric structure has formed a star-shaped network. Roads and paths broaden out from the village centre to facilitate the ploughing or enable travel to other areas.
"Pays de Collines" is still an exception to the system with smaller villages and housing largely dotted across a landscape where meadows, lined with hedgerows, take the place of crops. That type of spatial organization is referred to as bocage, which is sadly being lost today.
Sources: FRW – CPDT
©Photographs: Mark Rossignol