It was grey and drizzly this weekend: perfect for a 2 and a half hour hike in the forest.

Well, maybe not. The rain does add a few challenges if you’re seeking to enjoy a good time in the great outdoors. Especially if you wear glasses and don’t bother to replace them with contact lenses, just for this occasion. In the raincoat pocket they had to go, so my enjoyment was a bit more blurry than usual. At least, I did bother to wear a raincoat. The ground was water-saturated from the recently melted snow, and therefore springy and muddy, but there the challenges end.

Zoniënwoud, a.k.a. la Forêt de Soignes was simply oozing with wintry character! So quiet and peaceful, I almost had it all for myself alone.

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There are two signposted loops starting from the Bosmuseum (forest museum). The green one is where back in October 2017 I went in search of peace of mind, a more colourful but sad occasion, and is 6 km long. The blue route follows the same path for the first 2 km or so, but then veers away and takes you to a longer total distance of 11.7 km.

At one point, a notice announces the edge of an area where nature is allowed to stay its course with as little human intervention as possible. At the rambler’s risk and responsibility. Trees are allowed to topple over and rot as nature intended, and fallen trunks are only moved or cut away if they block the footpath.

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One young tree I saw, pictured on the right, should consider itself to be lucky indeed to be still standing upright. I do wonder, though, if it can work a way around a huge obstruction to its developing into a thick and mature grown-up.  Will it grow around the dead trunk, somehow? Will its growth be strangled? Or maybe the human overlords will change their non-intervention policy, after all, or the policy doesn’t apply in this section of the forest.

Well, that’s one reason why I should repeat this hike every few years or so – to see how this botanical drama will unfold and then report back to you, dear reader.

I had already tried to walk this loop last summer. It was July and the hottest and driest since I’ve been living in Belgium. I remember feeling just a bit concerned as there had been forest fires even in Sweden during that period. Around the 8.5 km point I managed to follow a wrong sign – a blue triangle alright, but with wheels rather than matchstick legs, intended for cyclists, sending me hopelessly off track into a busy road, along which I had walked dejectedly back directly to the Bosmuseum.

I immediately recognised the wrong sign, this time, and walked straight on into the most picturesque section of the blue loop, the area that I had missed the first time round.

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It was still drizzling as I reached my parked car, tired and happy that I had finally managed to finish this walk after last summer’s disappointment.

The Bosmuseum in Groenendaal is where it all starts and finishes. Here’s the location if you live close to Brussels in Belgium and you wish to try it out. Enjoy!

 

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