Photos Ra 2904 Credit B. DelannoyPhotos Ra 2904 Credit B. Delannoy
©Photos Ra 2904 Credit B. Delannoy|B. Delannoy
Along the Lys river on foot or by bike

Fancy a stroll along the lys?

Along a river whose trickle and verdant scenery offer those who walk it rest for the spirit. Along a river whose course has shaped the land, and which offers centuries of history to those who know how to observe it. Where we used to hang out when we were kids, even coming back soaked, our legs full of nettle stings, and where we return today with our children.

This river,

It's the Lys

Long 214 km from its source in Lisbourg to Ghent where it flows into the river, the Lys crosses the south of the Pays de Saint-Omer between Dennebrœucq (DennLYS parc) and Aire-sur-la-Lys. And it’s undoubtedly here that it experiences its most beautiful variations: over hill and dale, rural and wild, then canalized and cyclized.

It’s from Aire-sur-la-Lys that the river is navigable. More precisely from the Bassin des quatre faces. A beautiful 20 km ride is on offer. In Aire-sur-la-Lys, you’ll find a large network of cycle paths, notably along the river, both towards the mouth and the source. Aire is also the place to learn about the importance of waterways in urban development



A prestigious heritage

If Croesus drew his fortune from the Pactolus, it’s easy to believe that Aire drew its money from the Lys.

The town has indeed preserved a prestigious heritage from its golden age. A veritable economic artery for a region in full development from the 12th century onwards, the Lys elevated Aire to the rank of major regional trading centers in the 12th century. Ancient port on the Place du rivage, old quays where you can imagine crowds of merchants bustling around the boats, house doors opening onto the river or fortified water gate: you can understand just how important the Lys was for Aire. Then the Lys veers off the path and… disappears. The landscape becomes more rural.

The landscape becomes more rural.

Take some

In your face

We enter the hamlet of Moulin-le-Comte and discover its château: the former employer’s house of the Schotsmans flour mill, renovated by a family from Brussels in 2012 to become chambres d’hôtes. Messrs Van Der Elst father and son are quality hosts

“We receive a lot of customers who are keen cyclists. We have a room for storing bikes and carrying out minor repairs. They all really enjoy the ride along the Lys”.

The establishment is indeed located on its banks, three paddlewheels actually adjoined the building when the flour mill was active.We soon find ourselves back on the Lys, more bucolic this time. Upstream from Aire-sur-la-Lys: no navigation. However, we find a path that follows its course. On one side the river and its wooded banks, on the other the fields, then in the background the hamlets and their bell towers, and in the middle this path dedicated to the pleasure of fishing and walking and the sensation of resting while moving. Soon we leave the Lys once more to follow the paths of the GRP de la Lys. This takes us througha small grove and on to Mametz, the village with three steeples.

A beautiful wooded setting

Between these 2 mills

Mametz also boasts a fine mill heritage. Two mills are still in use today. Firstly, the double Crecques mill, of which only the 2 buildings remain. If you meet the owner, who is patiently restoring the site, he’ll surely tell you that he’s mad to have acquired this mill, but that it was his love for this site, which has obsessed him since childhood, that pushed him into this adventure.

Then, not far from the Sauvagine pond, you’ll catch a glimpse of a majestic paddle wheel. Don’t miss this opportunity to take a break in this unique place. It’s simply called “le moulin de Mametz”. It has become one of the Pays de Saint-Omer’s most famous campsites. Push open the door of the campsite café, which is open at weekends, and you’ll discover the intact workings of the mill beside the counter. Mr. and Mrs. Lecat know the history of the place by heart, and will no doubt ask your opinion on the question: why does this mechanism work so silently? The Lys seems to have a calming effect, and the whole campsite seems to be bathed in serenity.

Between these 2 mills, the Lys offers a beautiful wooded setting and a sublime atmosphere. Press correspondent, greeter and French friend*, Bruno Delannoy loves showing people around this area: “I love the Lys. I love its still somewhat wild course upstream of Aire-sur-la-Lys, the lapping of its flow, the fisherman’s cork, the paths that border it. Particularly the one that accompanies it, along the Etang de la Sauvagine at Mametz. The shade of the trees, the wild flowers, the ruins of the mill, a bird taking flight, it’s happiness in stock away from the world, rejuvenation guaranteed.

I also love its quiet path through town, along the old quays once dominated by the portefaixes. It’s as if the river has quietened down. I imagine the boats heading back out to sea…” .

And it’s indeed time to take the road back, along a rural path, with a real sense of ease. All with the proud towers of Aire-sur-la-Lys, the belfry and the collegiate church, in the line of sight. We’ve already seen children falling asleep on the seat of their parent’s bike, as if still lulled by the movement of the Lys.

The Lys

In a nutshell

A major communication axis since the High Middle Ages, the Lys still bears witness to the time when it, like the Aa, was an economic artery of the Pays. The Pays de Saint-Omer is water country. The Marais Audomarois and the Aa and Lys rivers have shaped the landscape. Formerly used for transport and power, the rivers of the Audomarois region are an excellent way to discover the Pays de Saint-Omer.

They allow you to appreciate both the verdant landscapes of the Audomarois and its fascinating history illustrated by a remarkable heritage, while enjoying the soothing presence of water away from the hustle and bustle of the road. A bucolic atmosphere, the impression of a path dedicated to relaxation, to resting while being in motion.