A few years ago I started my kayak journey on the Little Nete. I took my first involuntary dive in its murky but clean water. Which I then followed all the way to the Northsea. Now I think the time is right to find out where all this water comes from and why this river is amongst the cleanest of the Belgian rivers.
Paddling upstream from the Kastelse Kayak club to the watermill of Retie about halfway up, you pass the first of the many Netes who provide the Nete with is clean water. The Looiendse Neet is a very small river, not much wider then a brook. Straightened like most of the small rivers here to accommodate the agriculture which is a very important business in the Kempen. Following this sidetrack upstream it splits in the small Neet, the Metsenneet and the Plasnete. Basically a lot of the small brooks in Retie, Arendonk and Mol and its townships have been given a name ending on Neet or Nete.
Turning back to the main river passing the watermill in Retie it changes its name to White Nete. Half a kilometer further upstream the Black Nete splits of the White Nete. These two rivers differ like night and day.
The White Nete has been straightened and is at some places wider then the little Nete. There are no meanders to speak of, only reed patches and fallen trees block the river passage. There is a water purification station located on this river but the strangest thing you have to see to believe. On google maps you can still see the old riverbed, now it has been moved to the north and it has new, small meanders while on the banks is enough room for a bit of wildlife. I am guessing it's been done to accomodate the excavation of white sand, the reason why there are so many lakes in and around Mol. I think it's good that they have made meanders and nature gets a bit of breathing room, but on the other hand, removing a river from its original banks for commercial purposes? Then again, in the old days it just would have been excavated and nature would have to find its own way. There is a case to make for both sides I guess.
The Black Nete meanders like crazy, isn't much wider then a small brook, flows through a tiny nature reserve, a patch of forest and dips under a busy road. Paddling on it is a fun experience, providing if the water level is high enough. A few turns beyond the road there is a small island where the Werbeekse Neet joins the Black Nete. This is the penultimate split of the black Nete, only the Nonnennete branches of once it passes the centre of Retie. There are a lot of small concrete bridges, most of them are to low to paddle under.
So, how many netes did you count? I know there are used to be seven, because Retie is called the town with 7 Netes, However, after merging some townships with Retie, that number kept climbing. Officially we keep speaking about 7 because of its magic connotations but as I said, there are at least 11. I keep searching for the remaining ones and will add them in the map embedded above. I've paddled on four of them and got to make haste to find and paddle the rest. They are so small that it's only possible to paddle on them during the winter.Of course, there's always next year...