Member for 3 years 11 months
AN immersion in Countryside sports in the Saint-Hubert forest
At the heart of the Ardennes, the land of stags and legends
2 days away from it all
During the summer school holidays, I took my family to spend two days in the Ardennes: an ideal destination for sport, nature and discoveries. My husband , Cédric, my two sons Gauthier (aged 15) and Bastien (13) and I set off to try e-mountain biking (with assistance from an electric motor) and fishing at the Etang des Bains.
We tested e-mountain bikes
Our trip began at Redu, the book village, where we had an appointment at 10.30am with Marie from Upper Lesse Bikes, our guide for the day. She was waiting for us at the car park in front of the church, with our helmets and fully charged e-mountain bikes! The atmosphere there was calm and peaceful. After some short instructions on how to use the electric assistance on the e-mountain bikes, we set off on a sporty 30km route.
We quickly left the village behind and entered a forest, full of the pleasant scent of pine. We followed a narrow, winding track, over roots, stones and mud. It wasn't always easy to keep going in a straight line! As we came to the first hill, I switched on the maximum electric assistance to keep up with my husband and sons, but, as we all know, after every climb there's a descent. My sons were already far ahead of me. With no need to pedal any more, I released the brake and sped off at top speed! In fact, it was so fast it made my eyes water so much I could hardly see anything! So I stopped and wiped my eyes and set off again, to find them waiting for me, laughing, a bit further on.
I released the brake and sped off at top speed!
The forest's colours are magnificent! The route ran along the River Lesse and now and then we crossed bridges over it. In the forets, after the lovely descent, we even had to cross some small streams on the bikes at full speed, getting a bit wet in the process!
A well-deserved break
Half-way along our trail, we stop at a small hunters' chalet, where Marie has hidden a delicious picnic made up of local produce: home-made apple juice, beer, salami, cheese and a delicious saffron cake. A real treat!
For foodie readers, here's a list of the local produce in our picnic: home-made apple juice; Rulles and Lupulus beers; goat's cheese from La ferme des Sureaux at Maissin and La ferme du Bijou at Orgeo; salami from Kevin Maboge's butcher's shop at Libin and a saffron cake made by Laurence, at Safranloy, which produces saffron and other aromatic herbs at Anloy.
Thanks to the advent of e-mountain bikes, the valleys of the Ardennes are no longer insurmountable obstacles. We fell completely in love with the e-mountain bikes. The electric motors are a really useful aid that allowed us to have fun as a family. Even if it requires a bit less effort than traditional mountain-biking, e-mountain bikes make trails like ours accessible by everyone!
We fell completely in love with the e-mountain bikes!
A veritable passion
By now it's 1.30pm and our stomachs start to rumble with hunger. After a stop at a chip stall in Libramont, we continue with our day by heading to the Freux fishing centre.
Spread over a huge park, including many lakes and ponds, the Freux Sports Fishing Centre is an ideal spot for my sons to indulge their passion. The unique setting is particularly relaxing.
The many ponds and lakes permit each fishing fan to choose one that suits his or her favourite way of fishing: fly-fishing for rainbow trout and carp, cast-fishing, angling and bait fishing (for carp, tench and roach) and large carp fishing by 24-hour session, which we choose.
Around 3pm, we arrive at the Etang des Bains, a peaceful retreat covering 5.38 hectares. We set up camp there for the night. My sons put up their tent close to the edge of the lake and my husband and I put up our tent a bit further away. Oh bother! The foot pump we've brought with us doesn't work! Having to blow up our lilos with our mouths leaves our heads reeling!
We set up our camp for the night
Once the tents are up and the lilos inflated, the boys set up their fishing gear: rods, hooks, live bait, boiled bait, landing net and landing mat … finally all is set to start fishing.
On the other side of the lake, they spot a small rowing boat that they hurry off to fetch it so they can spread some bait a hundred metres or so from the bank.
The lake has been stocked with mirror carp, leather carp and common carp, and the biggest weigh over 20kg. There are also sturgeon. It's Gauthier who catches the first fish, a magnificent carp!
After the effort, some comfort
While my sons continue to fish, we take advantage of the quiet location to enjoy some local specialities: raspberry jam and hay jelly, cheese, salamis and some local beers. Ah! What a pleasure it is to eat a simple meal like this!
You will find the produce we ate at Délices à Tartiner at Redu, the Prison farm at Saint-Hubert, the Baltus butcher's shop at Tenneville, the L4 brewery, which has just opened in Libramont, and at "La Chatte" and the Tchèts brewery in Flohimont.
Discovering the local fish
The magnificent setting of the Freux Fishing Centre is also home to a fish farm called The Freux Trout that dates back to 1889. We went there to meet Francis Dupont who raises organic fario and rainbow trout there with passion and expertise. He explains to us how fish farms in particular are suffering from the effects of the drought, because trout need lots of oxygen to live and feed. Ideally, the water temperature should be between 13°C and 18°C, any higher and they start to suffer, and they will die if it exceeds 24°C. The day of our visit, we only see one trout because the water temperature is 21°C and Francis is worried! Everything has stopped! We can't even feed them because, to have a chance of survival, they have to stay in the deepest part of the lake where the water is colder. And Francis can't do anything, because it's impossible to lower the temperature of 50,000 cubic metres of water by 5°C!
The fish farm here at Freux produces 12 tonnes of trout per year! To sell his fish, Francis has chosen to work with the Mathonet-Gabriel fish-processing company in Malmédy and with the Ecodis-Grodent transport and distribution company, but visitors can also buy them at the fish farm.
As the sun begins to set, my husband and I decide to explore the surrounding countryside. As we are walking quietly along a narrow dirt track, we catch sight of two magnificent does quietly grazing only a few metres from us.
Back at the camp, the boys are sitting at the edge of the lake calmly waiting for a fish to take the bait.
It's now time for bed. We each go to our tents to enjoy a good night's sleep in the countryside with no noise at all in our surroundings… Except that, around 11.30pm and again around 1am, we hear the "beep-beep" of the alarms on the fishing rods, announcing that a fish has bitten! The excited boys wake up and rush to wind in their reels to land their catches, but they have no luck: the fish have got off the hook and swam away to the depths of the lake. The rest of the night passes peacefully and we were woken by the birds singing in bright sunshine at around 7.30am.
Breakfast in the sunshine
There's a small bakery just two minutes' walk from the lake. Very useful! We were able to enjoy a lovely breakfast before packing our bags.
Ah yes! All good things come to an end. We set off on the road home with our heads full of memories.
Although just a few kilometres from home, these two days in the Saint-Hubert forest got us completely away from it all. A really enjoyable experience that I would recommend to anyone who likes sport, nature and adventure.
Want to enjoy this experience?
Saint Hubert Forest Tourist Information Centre
Freux Fishing Centre