Plateau van Caestert
THE ABANDONED QUARRY IN BELGIUM
In this area the Romans already used limestone taken from open air quarries to make building materials. In the early 15th century the first underground quarries were used to gain limestone. During the early 16th century most of the quarries of the ‘Plateau van Caestert’ were built.
The ‘Plateau van Caestert’ quarry features huge hallways which reach heights up to 15m and there are many old and new drawings. The old drawings were made using oil-lamps. The drawings were dated by scientists and are approximately from the 14th-15th century. During my visit I found a drawing dated 1468, but others are probably much older.
In the Dutch part of the plateau a large part, about 70%, of these corridors has been lost by the ENCI quarry. There are still four major corridors that each have their own character: the Northern Corridor, Quarry Zonneberg and Slavante and the Southern Corridor. In the Belgian northern part the three largest quarries are: Quarry Caestert, Ternaaien-Boven, -Midden and –Beneden.
Caestert is a large quarry. It’s approximately 900 by 600m in size. There is a gigantic centre part with hundreds of hallways going in every direction. It was very complicated to navigate in there, we would probably still wander there if we went alone. The centre part was deepened to get marl dust which resulted in two different levels. After that the excavation slowed down and finally came to a full stop around 1850. After that the loose marl material was scratched of the walls and digged out of the floors, creating extra high hallways, to be used for agricultural purposes.
The Caestert quarry is connected to the remains of the now collapsed quarry Zuid. Only a few hallways are left. During the Second World War the Dutch/Belgium resistance smuggled people and illegal stuff through here. The Germans did patrols in the quarries. Because they did not know their way around they needed a guide to help them. The guide happened to be no stranger to the resistance so they never caught any smugglers.. Since the late 1970’s the whole area has been designated nature reservation. Before that the Belgium cement industry was planning on digging away the complete area. For a while it was closed down with walls but soon reopened by the ‘underground’ people. Currently there are rumours that it will be closed up again soon. I visited the ‘Caestert’ en ‘Ternaaien’ quarries of the ‘Plateau van Caestert’ in 2006.