Visiting Mont d'Halluin, Halluin, France: trees, inclines and the proximity of Belgium and the language boundary

Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Mont d'Halliun is situated at the higher levels of the municipality of Halluin
Mont d'Halliun is situated at the higher levels of the municipality of Halluin | Source
District of Mont d'Halluin in Halluin, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France
District of Mont d'Halluin in Halluin, Nord, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France | Source
Historic arms of Flanders used by the Nord-Pas de Calais region
Historic arms of Flanders used by the Nord-Pas de Calais region | Source

A geographical extremity, but also a heartland

Situated within the Halliun municipality in France's Nord department, Mont d'Halluin does not seem at first glance a particularly pronounced hill. However, this is Flanders: noted for its generally flat land, every hillock or slight incline has sometimes taken on significance which might be lost on other more undulating parts of the world. In World War One, for example, in Flanders, the very existence of a slight incline might have to be taken account of for its military advantages or otherwise.

This tree covered hill or incline has characteristics other than its strict height which make it notable. One feature is the spire of the church of Saint-Alphonse, built on the hill, which may be seen for kilometres around. Another is a manor house and ground, known as the Manoir-aux-Loups, which has a noted arboretum. On 5 hectares, species of conifers and deciduous trees may be seen at the arboretum which was developed over many years by Percy S. Cane (1).

Interestingly, both north of the municipality of Halluin and to its east also lies the border with Belgium, and this border also delineates the official language boundary between French and Dutch (since the Belgian territory immediately beyond it is found wholly within the Dutch speaking Flemish region (2) ).

In fact, at Mont d'Halluin, there are already signs of the proximity of the Dutch-speaking area. At the entrance to the Manoir-aux-Loups, for example — lying withing walking distance of the Belgian border at Rekkem, in West Flanders province — one may discern the words 's Wolvenstede as well as Manoir-aux-Loups. Near Mont d'Halluin, there is more than one local road with a French name, which continues under a similar name in Dutch over the Belgian border.

Mont d'Halluin is thus situated in territory of transition which is nonetheless deep in historic Flanders (I have included, right, a representation of the historic arms of Flanders used by the Nord-Pas de Calais region of France). The municipality of Halluin is a curious place: it is highly urban in character (the urban area continuing over the border into Belgium at Menen) but its rural part exudes a peace and stillness which testifies to an historic fact: it is unambiguously in rural Flanders, and I have had some memorable walks in the area.

January 29, 2014

Notes

(1) See also (in French): http://parcmanoirauxloups.fr The full name of this establishment is Parc Arboretum du Manoir aux Loups.

(2) The Belgian Flemish region needs to be understood as distinct from historic Flanders, which includes a large area of northern France and even an area of the Zeeland province of The Netherlands. Interestingly, in French, the singular term la Flandre usually refers to the Belgian Flemish region, while the plural les Flandres refers generally to Flanders in its broader, historic and geographical sense, as in the name of the main railroad station in the French city of Lille: Lille-Flandres.

Map location of Halluin, France, within Lille 'arrondissement'
Map location of Halluin, France, within Lille 'arrondissement' | Source

Also worth seeing

In the Downtown area of Halluin , the church of Saint-Hilaire is a conspicuous, neo-Gothic building by Charles Leroy.

Menen , Belgium (distance: approx. 2 kilometres) has a very interesting town hall, built from the 16th to the 18th centuries; a significant feature is its octagonal tower.

...

How to get there: Brussels Airlines flies from New York to Brussels Airport (Brussel Nationaal / Bruxelles-National ), from where car rental is available. Brussels is the nearest large airport to Halluin (distance: 115 kilometres). The Belgian railroad company NMBS/SNCB maintains a service between Brussels and nearby Menen. Some facilities may be withdrawn, without notice. For up to date information, it is advisable to check with the airline or your travel agent. For any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities, please refer to appropriate consular sources.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada

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