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Industrial heritage along the Dender

Industrial heritage along the Dender

Industrial heritage along the Dender in Aalst

The Dender River takes you from an industrial landscape in Aalst full of textile mills, malthouses and silos to a green oasis dominated by drawbridges and locks.

Textile mills along the Tragel street

The arrival of the railway in Aalst in 1853 and its location along the Dender acted as a magnet for industry in the 19th century. Along Tragel Street, the facade of the cotton spinning mill 'La Georgie' and the water tower of the Filature et Filteries Réunies (FFR) cross your path.

From 1886 onwards, FFR spun, twisted, bleached and dyed all kinds of textiles. However, the company closed its doors in 1989. The buildings were given a new purpose as an event location.

The left and right banks are connected by the "Zwarte Hoekbrug" (dutch for Black Corner Bridge), a name that refers to the mountains of coal that used to be piled up there.

Along the other side of the Dender, you can see the remains of the spinning, dyeing and weaving mill "Roos, Geerinckx & De Naeyer." In 1950, things came to a standstill, and the cotton blanket manufacturer had to close its doors.

Is it a castle? Or a station?

With its battlements, medieval tower and galleries, the train station of Aalst, designed by architect Jean-Pierre Cluysenaar, immediately catches the eye.

It is the only remaining so-called "city train station" of his hand. Those of Ninove, Dendermonde, Geraardsbergen and Lokeren have been replaced by new constructions.

The zone between the train station and the Dender is packed with industrial heritage. Here, you found textile factories, a yeast factory, the fish market and a tramway that ran to Brussels until 1962.

Father Daens statue

From the Werfplein on the left bank, the statue of Father Daens looks out over the disappeared industry of yesteryear. The Flemish priest was a leader of the socio-political battle of the workmen in Aalst in the nineteenth century.

His gaze passes over De Wolf-Cosyns's malthouse from 1883. Today, the warehouse has been converted into lofts.

Industrial island

Daens' statue leads us to the (former) island of Chipka, between the muted twists and turns of the old bed of the Dender (now the Burchtstraat) and the canalized Dender. From 1886, you could dip in Aalst's first public open-air bath, but that was long ago.

Today, the island is occupied by the Tereos plant, which processes wheat into starch and sweetener ingredients.

When you follow Leo Gheeraerdtslaan, the Dender is flanked on your right by the buildings of Tereos. The letters 'GR' still adorn its facade, referencing one of the former names, Glucoseries Réunies. To your left are eight huge silos where the grain is stored.

'Save yourselves'

A remarkable facade can be spotted at the Zeeberg Bridge, named after the Zeeberg brewery that was active there until 1975.

The inscription on the facade says 'Save yourselves' because the mill and warehouses were once run by a cooperative that stood up for the interests of farmers after the First World War.

A forest of chimneys

From the towpath along the Dender, you pass a bush of chimneys. The first is the Interstroom factory chimney, which provided Aalst companies and families with steam heating from 1990 to 2007. This is followed by the chimney of the Union Cotonnière d'Erembodegem along the railway and further on one of the L'Eolienne weaving mill.

Sas van Teralfene

The canalization works on the Dender required the construction of new bridges and locks. Teralfene's lock is one of them. It is still operated manually today but will become redundant due to the construction of a new lock complex in Huissegem. Further on, you cross another lock, that of Huissegem, which will also be renovated.

After starting your bike tour in industrial Aalst, you gradually seem to enter a different world. Between Erembodegem and Okegem, there is little evidence of industrial activity anymore, and it is already green.

Near Denderleeuw, an iron railway bridge above the Dender connects the stations of Denderleeuw with Liedekerke, cyclists and walkers can cross the stream via the Schiptrekkersbrug, a name that refers to the men, women, children and horses pulling ships full of coal, bluestone, bricks and grain crops with cables along the towpath.

In Okegem, the cycle loop turns around, and you return to Aalst along the other side of the Dender.

While returning to Aalst, you will cross the Wellemeersen, which, together with the Kapellemeersen, is one of the last flood areas along the Dender.

Out of nowhere, a 250-meter-long wooden bridge appears in the middle of the Meersen area, taking you above the tracks of lines 50 and 50A between Ghent and Brussels.


The cycle tour ends along a large industrial building along the Kapellekensbaan in Erembodegem. Since Louis Paul Boon wrote the novel of the same name, that street name has sounded like a bell. In his book, he described the hamlet of "ter Muren," in which Ondineke, the chapel, and Schotte's factory wall played the leading roles. Schotte Tannery was active until 1996 and then turned into an industrial jungle.

Very little of that dilapidated Schotte factory is recognizable anymore. The old tannery was given a new life as a sports center. The factory chimney, the restored wall and the gatehouse are reminders of the industrial past.

On the other side of the road, you'll see the Bonneterie Bosteels-De Smeth, better known for its nylon stockings 'Du Parc', which gained international fame.

'Du Parc' also underwent a spectacular transformation and is home to various recreational facilities. You reach the end point of the cycle tour via the Dender.

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