Turfput hiking route

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Turfput hiking route

10,2 km
28% Verhard

Donklaan 123, 9290 Berlare

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Route description

The Donkmeer in Berlare is one of the oldest tourist attractions in Berlare, courtesy of the diligent labour of local peat cutters, without whom this lake would never have been there. We follow their trail through Berlare Broek, a gem of a natural area along a forgotten meander from thousands of years ago.

Starting point

Donk Lake reception gate


The Reception Gate on the shores of the Donkmeer is the ideal base for exploring the surrounding area. The visitors' centre playfully introduces you to Berlaar's nature and history. You will learn more about the origins of the Donkmeer and meet the rare birds and fish in and around the old Scheldt meander. Next to the Reception Gate is Donkmeer Festival Hall, where Festivaria's summer musical shows take place on the water every two years.

Node 9-15

Berlare Broek

turfputten Berlare (1).jpg
Berlare Broek (1).jpg

The Turfput, just like the Donkmeer, is a remnant of peat extraction in the region. The 24-hectare well was dug from the 18th century and subsequently filled up with water. Today, the Turfput serves as an area of nature. 

Even more peat pits can be found in Berlare Broek, an elongated strip of about six kilometres along the historic Scheldt meander that includes the Donkmeer. Most of the area consists of forest with marshy sections in between and more than fifty ponds. A few years ago, a violent storm raged through the forest. You can see this especially well in winter. A great many trees lost their crowns.

Knooppunt 11-10


Gratiebossen Berlare.jpg

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Gratiebossen ('Grace forests') extended between Berlare, Lokeren and Zele. They were to be avoided in those days because of the gangs of robbers who lurked there. Some notorious forest-dwellers were Jan Praet from Zele and his gang, who robbed unsuspecting passers-by 'without grace or mercy', which immediately explains the name of the forest area. Today, only a fraction of the original forest has been preserved, and gangs of robbers are long gone.

Node 1-2

Duck cage


On an island in the Donkmeer lies a special piece of history. The Duck Cage is a historic relic, with its oldest mention dating back to 1678. Until shortly after 1930, large numbers of ducks were herded here in winter and caught for the kitchens of wealthy citizens. The structure was owned by a noble family until 1952 and has been remarkably well preserved. The Duck Cage site was revamped in 2019 and expanded to include a picnic area, a willow tunnel, a bird-watching hut and a path through the wet part of the forest, which is home to a heron colony that is quite vocal at times.

Node 2


Bootjes Donkmeer Berlare.jpg

The Donkmeer is the most notable remnant of the region's former peat extraction. Surrounded by taverns and cafés, it has been a popular hotspot with day-trippers from the wider area for years. Tourism took off here at the beginning of the last century, courtesy of the steam tram from Ghent to Hamme, which had just come into operation at that time. You can take a boat out there, be ferried to the Duck Cage or slip your feet under the table at one of the numerous catering establishments for a pancake or a plate of eel, the local speciality par excellence.

Camping on the lake

foto 1 TV.jpg

Staying over after your hike? A golden tip is Vlotjes Kamperen. Scattered on Lake Donk are 5 rafts, each about 25m2 with a tent and a large terrace. You experience from the front row how nature calms down at night and wakes up again in the morning. Highly recommended!


Donk Lake reception gate