The Sloping Lock of Ronquières
The sloping lock of Ronquières is a must-see – not only for the lock itself, but for the magnificent view out over the region and the “One boat, one life” interactive tour, the only one of its kind. And of course, you’ll get the opportunity to see the lock from the inside, on board a boat as it takes you across!
Visiting the sloping lock of Ronquières
Once you’ve collected your tickets, take the panoramic lifts for a quick trip up to the glass-walled walkways and information boards. This is the perfect place to watch the barges and caissons go up and down the lock. Next, you’ll get an audio headset at the start of the “One boat, one life” interactive tour, and an introduction into the unique life of the boatman. Finally, right up at the top of the tower, a breath-taking view of the lock and the surrounding region awaits you. When the weather’s fine, you can see all the way out to the Lion of Waterloo and the Atomium in Brussels.
The NPO Voies d’Eau du Hainaut organises regular guided boat trips from the base of the sloping lock up to the big lock at Ittre – a lock that takes barges up a massive 14 metres!
On Sundays, during the tourist season, you can cross the sloping lock of Ronquières by boat, and take the mini-train back again.
Walks around the sloping lock of Ronquières
There are a number of foot- and cycle-paths that go by the sloping lock, especially the signposted trails set by the Independent Slow Traffic Network (RAVeL). You can follow the tracks along the sloping lock, following a path of around 1.5km with educational boards offering information about the lock and how it works.
The longest sloping lock in the world
This lock uses 2 water-filled caissons, each measuring 91m by 12m and weighing between 5,000 and 5,700 tonnes, which are fully independent of one another. Barges enter these and are taken up and down the lock.
These rolling bathtubs carry barges across the 1,432m which separate the bottom and top of the sloping lock.
Thanks to this lock, barges can save a considerable amount of time compared to crossing a traditional series of locks. However, the real advantage of this structure is how much water it saves the canal – a major disadvantage for water-hungry conventional locks.
The 150m tower stands as a proud symbol of Belgian engineering. It dominates the sloping lock, built astride a fully artificial canal and enabling large-capacity boats to travel between Belgium’s natural rivers and waterways.
The Charleroi-Brussels Canal
At the end of the Second World War, Belgium started the process of enlarging its system of canals to accommodate 1,350 tonne barges. For the Charleroi-Brussels link, there were a whole raft of routes and solutions proposed, especially to overcome the 68m height difference near the little village of Ronquières.
In the end, the sloping lock was approved, saving a considerable amount of water compared to a traditional series of locks. Work began on the 15th of March 1962 and the lock opened for use in April 1968. Originally used to provide transport for the coal industry, the Charleroi-Brussels Canal is now a transit route running towards France, the Netherlands and Germany.
The water bridge at the sloping lock of Ronquières
Supported by 70 two-meter wide columns, this bridge is 290m long, 59m wide and can support a load of approximately 100,000 tonnes of water. It is used to house barges as they wait to cross the lock. You can’t help by feel overawed by this immense concrete bird, standing with its wings outstretched.
Whether you’re on your own, with the family, out with friends or part of a tour group, the ASBL Voies d’Eau du Hainaut offers all sorts of different ways to get out and enjoy the sloping lock of Ronquières.
Route Baccara 1 w
(GPS: Braine-le-Comte 7090)
Motorway E42 sortie 18 - Autoroute E19 sortie 20 - Direction Ronquières
TEC line: bus 63 - bus top Ronquières - rue de Chenu – Attention: no bus on Sunday
Station of Braine-le-Comte
Bus 63, direction Nivelles, stop at Ronquières - rue de Chenu (20 min.) - Attention: no bus on Sunday