Scheutbos, where the countryside meets the city

In the first of a new series on lesser known, but nevertheless interesting parks, monuments and buildings in Flanders and Brussels we visit Scheutbos, a park and nature reserve on the western edge of Brussels. The park that until around 20 years ago was a favourite spot for fly tippers is now one of the few places in the Brussels-Capital Region where you can see cows grazing. A multitude of other flora and fauna can also be seen in the park and nature reserve that lies in the shadow of the high-rise blocks along the Louis Mettewielaan in Sint-Jans-Molenbeek.

Park and nature reserve

Scheutbos covers a surface area of around 50 hectares. Despite its name (bos meaning woods in Dutch), only a small area on the northern and southern fringes of the park is actually woodland.

Around 6 hectares have been given over to landscaped parkland that provides the perfect place for a picnic, to go sunbathing in the summer or to let the children burn off some excess energy.

Due to a relatively large difference in altitude between the southern and northern part of the park, the northern part of the park provides some great views over the south and west of Brussels.

The remaining 44 hectares are a nature reserve consisting of meadows as well as some marshland and woodland. The nature reserve is a protected landscape managed by Natuurpunt Vlaanderen (Nature Point Flanders), while the 6 hectares of parkland is a regional park managed by the Environment Agency of the Brussels-Capital Region.

A bit of history

From the 8th until the 12th century the area now known as Scheutbos was used for the provision of firewood to the surrounding villages and farms. By the 12th century most of the trees had been felled and the area had almost entirely been given over to agriculture.

During the Middle Ages an important battle took place in Scheutbos. In 1356 the Count of Flanders’ forces beat forces from Brussels in the Battle of Scheut.

The Battle of Scheut resulted in the capital (around 4 kilometres to the east) being occupied by the County of Flanders' forces for 2 months until they were driven out by an operation led by Everaad t’Serclaas.

Over 300 years later the French Marshall François de Neufville de Villeroy positioned his forces’ cannons in the higher reaches of Scheutbos in order to carry out the bombardment of Brussels between 11 and 13 August 1695.

From the 19th century until the last decennium of the 20th century, the westward growth of Brussels saw the area that was originally Scheutbos shrink considerably.

The area that is now the park was used as a rubbish tip and for a part by people setting up unofficial allotments. However, this all changed in the 1990’s when the Municipality of Sint-Jans-Molenbeek handed over in trust what was left of the Scheutbos site to the Brussels Regional Environment Agency. Scheutbos was saved.

A wealth of flora and fauna

A host of birds such as wood pigeons, wood-peckers, thrushes, crows, blackbirds, magpies and gold crests can be found in Scheutbos.

There are also wood mice, orchids and pollard willows in the park and nature reserve. Since 2006 a record has been kept of all the plants, trees, birds and animals that live in Scheutbos.

By 2013 their number had grown to 2,119 different species. This shows a great biodiversity that is almost unique for an area on the edge of a city.

Natuurpunt uses 5 Galloway cows for the maintenance of the meadows in the southern part of the nature reserve, while a local farmer’s heard can often be seen grazing in the northern part of the reserve.

How to get there

Scheutbos is easily accessible by road and there is access to the park via the Louis Mettewielaan. The Brussels public transport company MIVB’s buses 86 and 49 (stop Machtens) drop you off next to the park.

There are plenty of shops and a few cafés in the vicinity for those that fancy something to eat,a coffee or something stronger after their walk.