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An adventurer in the Ardennes
A host of raw memories at Monthermé
Hiking with friends in the Ardennes Regional Nature Park
4 mins OF ESCAPE
I am a Belgian citizen of French origin and have always lived in the city. So when I think of the Ardennes, it inevitably conjures images of an area where Mother Nature reigns. I dare even say that the experience of walking in the forest is an inevitable one in Ardennes. This region is so rich in wildlife. I went with a small group of friends to wander around the village of Monthermé. A 15-km walk that's full of interesting features and takes about three hours.
Relaxing and effortless
We meet on a car park at a place called Les Woieries, ready in our trainers to tackle any path. The adventure begins with what to me is quite a scary downhill section with plunging views, as we head for the forest with its enveloping mixture of green and orange hues. Resinous trees and oaks, ferns everywhere, holly and blueberries! Although my heart's pounding, I must say it's been easy so far, walking through the forest past Saint-Antoine de Padoue, the Hauts-Buttés marshes and, finally, the Roc La Tour. Indeed, this return to nature is a real breath of serenity. I'm enjoying the refreshing breeze that filters its way through the greenery and caresses my skin. No need to be in great physical shape or to have an innate sense of direction. Our every step is guided by yellow signposts that are easy to find. As for wild boars, no worries. All we'll see of them is their excrement dotted with blueberries!
From berries to wild animals
After stepping over a few incredibly bright red toadstools, I'm in for yet another surprise. Too busy hunting for blueberries, I didn't expect Renaud, behind me, to find a massive bone. This trace of a previous life was lying in the shallow waters of a small stream that we just crossed. It probably comes from a dear or a wild boar... A chance for my friend to fool around while I take a photo.
A break for history and culture
We continue on our path towards a long row of resinous trees, our footsteps accompanied by the song of birds. The weather isn't exactly glorious to be honest. The sky is grey and it's quite cold, but the holly berries and ancient oaks provide a warm atmosphere, reminding me in a way of a time of year that I'm particularly fond of: Christmas. But holly and fir trees aren't the only things that warm my heart. On our way, we stop at the little church. From the outside, the building is elegantly plain. But once inside, we come face-to-face with over 2,000 ex-votos, expressions of hope and gratitude! The walls of the Hauts-Buttés church are covered in them. I'm impressed. The plaques commemorate an intense past filled with the dreams, hope and suffering of ancient followers. I'm also fascinated by the beauty of the colourful stained glass features. Time moves on and we hurry on our way, eager to come across the "Konik Polski" horses that graze in partial freedom not far from the church we've just visited.
Lost in the Ardennes
We continue our pleasant walk, through woodland and, later, have to leave the path and cross a road to reach the memorial to the bravery of the Ardennes Maquis. It's now raining. It seems Mother Nature has decided to add a dramatic touch, and even a tinge of nostalgia. It all comes together. The monument is that of the Citronelle mission dating from the Second World War, organised by the interallied état-major and the central intelligence bureau. We stop to contemplate in honour of the French Resistance under the German occupation. With rain lashing down, I decide to take another look at the itinerary. I'm a bit confused by the end part and my friends find it hilarious that we're in this fantastic situation! The last three-quarters of an hour are rich in emotion! We return to the car, soaking wet but very happy with our walk. Because getting lost in the Ardennes and walking under a downpour is all part of the adventure. A real return to the roots, in every sense.