Our Belgian campaign: the Lion Mound
Posted by Martin on February 9, 2012
Here’s another set of postings where I’m behind schedule. In the first set of photos from our visit to Belgium last year, I concentrated on Plancenoit. Today, I’ve finally got round to the second location – the Lion Mound. The first picture shows the steps up to the top of the mound – a mere 226 in total. From the bottom it doesn’t actually look too daunting but Peter F. and I don’t mind admitting that after a hearty lunch in the inn over the road washed down by a glass or two of the local Waterloo beer, we felt our ages by the time we gained the summit!
However, the exertion is well rewarded with a view of the battlefield that genuinely merits the description panoramic. You can see La Haie Sainte to the East very clearly and (if it weren’t for the trees being in leaf) you’d also also be able to see Hougoumont to the South. With the aid of a map, binoculars and a good sense of direction, it’s also possible to pick out other salient features of the battlefield. Perhaps most interestingly, from this high vantage point (which didn’t exist at the time of the battle, of course) the infamous ridge that Wellington used to his advantage in deploying his lines doesn’t look very fearsome at all. However, later in the day, we had the opportunity to view the topology from the other direction and then it certainly did look imposing. Especially if one calls to mind the wet muddy conditions and the prospect of British musketry on the day of battle.
The sad thing is that several of the sites on the battlefield are falling into disrepair. While we were at the top of the Lion Mound, Peter F. mentioned the Gettysburg battlefield that he has visited in America and how well-preserved it is as a visitor attraction. Waterloo is definitely a poor relation by comparison. The photo above shows the rear of La Haie Sainte farm and it looks a bit shabby. Later, we drove past the front side on the way to La Caillou and, frankly, it wasn’t much better. However, I enjoyed a tinge of nostalgia from recognising how obviously the old Airfix Battle of Waterloo Farmhouse is based on La Haie Sainte.
Time and other obstacles prevented us from getting close to Hougoumont. Paul Meganck informed us that the farm has relatively new owners who are less tolerant of battlefield tourists, so we gave it a miss to concentrate on locations where Paul’s company was a passport to a friendly welcome. So it seems fitting to close this posting with a view southwards towards Hougoumont. It’s obscured by the trees behind Peter F’s right shoulder but if you look very closely you can just make out some low walls which I suspect define the location of the orchard.
In the next instalment, we’ll venture inside the Panorama building…