June is the flowering month of the flax flower. For several years now, this burgeoning splendour of blue flowers has been the perfect moment for Museum Texture to organise a series of cycling tours. So grease up your calves and, with your smartphone in hand, jump on your bike for a 38-kilometre ride along past and present flax relics.
The Flax of the Lys
The Leie region is the heart of the flax industry. That was already the case a good hundred years ago, and it still is today. Because of the many flowing waters, the Lys was the ideal place to retturf flax, a method in which the fibres are soaked off the woody core. Moreover, the softness and temperature of the Leie water ensured the best root conditions.
During the inter-war period, the first hot water roasting plants came into use. Because they artificially generated the ideal conditions for river retting, flax growers became less dependent on the Lys. A steam engine heated the water that was sprayed through copper tubes in the floor into the concrete root chamber. Today, these rotters can be found here and there in the landscape.
By the way, did you know that the activity that characterises the Leie region today often has its roots in flax? Vanden Avenne cattle feed company in Ooigem, for instance. In 2021 the fifth generation is at the helm of what is one of the largest cattle feed factories in Belgium. The brown fleece that remains after the oil production from flax seed, is ground into concentrated feed. So nothing goes to waste.
Two wheels and numerous flax fields
The ErfgoedApp tells you much more about the fascinating relationship between flax and the Leie region. The cycle tour takes you past eleven flax fields and flax relics in the landscape. Cycle along the junctions and discover extra facts and stories at special places. You will be notified when you are close to such a spot.
The flax plant grows quickly. There are barely 100 days between sowing in March and harvesting in July. Each flax flower only flowers for a few hours. It opens in the morning and is fully open by 10 am. From 2 pm onwards, it begins to close and gradually withers. So getting up early is the message!
You can pick up the 'Flax safari in the Leiestreek' cycling route for free in Texture from Friday 18 June onwards. Fancy a bike ride along the flax fields in the Meetjesland or in the Flemish marshes and polders near the coast? Then take a look at vlasveldeninvlaanderen.be.
Spot the flax fields in your neighbourhood or in your own garden
On vlasveldeninvlaanderen.be you can find all flax parcels in Flanders with a convenient click on the map. This year we counted 1,150. Maybe there is one in your neighbourhood?
You cannot plant flax in the same field two years in a row. So the location of the flax fields is different every year.
Want to know more about that brave little plant? Every visitor to Texture receives a free bag of flax seeds. So you can sow your own mini-flax plant at home. Share photos of the growth and flowering of your own flax experiment with #IedereenVlasboer and tag @TextureKortrijk.Arnaud Van Robaeys already did it for you. He reports weekly from his flax field in northern France with #lesaventuresdelinette. Follow the irresistible adventures of Linette, our smallest reporter in the field, on the Texture Facebook page.
And remember: C'est juin qui fait le lin! All on a flax safari!
- Turn on GPS on your mobile device.
- Download the tour at ErfgoedApp.
- Open the app and allow the requested notifications.
Starting and ending point of the cycle route: parking lot Market, Stationsstraat, Ingelmunster.