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The Ardennes in all directions
Culture and Hiking
AND A RIVER RUNS THERE
A hike for unwinding in the enchanting valley of Our
5 mins OF ESCAPE
From its source all the way to the border with Luxembourg, the River Our has beautifully shaped the unspoilt landscapes of this region. Offering a contrast of reliefs between high ridges and deep valleys, it is a choice destination for hikers!
A year's hiking includes some exceptional days that deserve to be earmarked in our travelogue. This early October day was one of them... Early in the morning, I head off to explore the isolated region of the upper Our valley. From the very first steps, the magic operates. The road out of Ouren winds across the countryside as if choosing its own path, and seems to invite me to stop on every bend to admire this enchanted valley. On exiting the village, I follow the hiking node signs, leaving the road to follow the valley, upstream along the riverbank. This steep little valley is protected from the prevailing winds, giving it a warm, southern feel. I notice its contrasting reliefs, between the gently rolling plateaus and the sheer valley walls. It's a steep climb but the view from the top is beautiful, nothing but a succession of hills and steep valleys stretching way beyond the border. This is the Eifel, another forest range which begins where the Ardennes forest ends.
I really love this peaceful valley and the easy living it offers!
I take a narrow footpath that descends steeply through the broom bushes and undergrowth. From a wide clearing in the middle of the forest, I can make out a prairie where irrigation canals were widely used in the 19th century. The Ardennes valley floors, which were lacking in minerals, were regularly fed by these canals.
At the end of winter, warmer waters from the nearby streams helped to thaw the ice-covered prairies. Thanks to this agropastoral technique, it was possible to harvest the hay earlier in the season and many of the Ardennes plains still possess an exceptional biological wealth even today.
I really love this peaceful valley and the easy living it offers! Along the way, the uncultivated wet prairies are a nesting ground for the whinchat, the meadow pipit, the reed bunting, the western yellow wagtail and the Eurasian marsh harrier. An abundance of life that leaves me in awe.
At Stubach, I stop for refreshment at an excessively nice place: the Zuraltenmuehle. Mildly aching, I nevertheless have to shake off my sleepiness and leave behind this magical moment of wellbeing: the walk isn't over yet. And it's going to be fascinating!
The upper Our valley
The surroundings continue to change throughout this hiking trail, which reveals traces of various agropastoral activities that have left their mark on the countryside over the centuries. The deciduous trees, on the other hand, are descendants of the original forest whose species are still present in the steep, narrow valleys of the small tributaries of the Our. They are difficult for forest workers to reach, but not for hikers!
So, the little valley carved out by the stream leads me into the wilderness of the Ardennes. Nothing disturbs the silence during my long climb. What strikes me throughout this exceptional itinerary is the omnipresent feeling of being in virgin territory. This extreme eastern part of Belgium where I find myself has been made accessible but is a long way from any of the major roads. To the east and south, the world is ruled by the Ardennes and Eifel massifs.
Crossing borders at will
The luminosity of October filters through the leaves, offering strong contrasts that dazzle me: at my feet, the path is dotted with bright patches that light my way. I'm still in the forest and feeling as if I'll never get out. The wildness of this place is confirmed when I pass a beaver lodge. Now and again I leave the well-marked main path to follow a trail used by foxes or deer. I feel like I'm the first person to walk on this secret path which continues to plunge, down into the Our valley, between steps and scree, roots and wet patches. Finally, I find myself by the river. At the bottom of the valley three borders meet, those of Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg. The gently winding river leads me back to the village. After crossing the River Our, I enter a prairie of tall grass dotted with flowers. In the distance, the waning sun lights up Ouren and enhances the wonderful landscape of this little-known corner of the Ardennes, which is an absolute joy for hiking fans.
Our waterside restaurant recommendation
In Stupbach, the restaurant is located on the right, just a few metres from the German border. On this idyllic spot you almost want to dip your toes in the river while your're eating! The cuisine reflects the diversity of the region, with local French-inspired dishes based on produce from Eifel farms and trout from the River Our. The menu also includes some lighter options.
Tel. +49 (0)65 59 223
Try this experience
The eastern Cantons are covered by a brand new network of hiking node signs. Create your own downloadable itinerary with the help of the hike planner, available on ostbelgien.eu. For this hike, we followed these hiking nodes: 17, 20, 24, 82, 11, 78, 80, 35, 81, 25, 14, 10, 18, 33 and 17.
Start at Ouren, for a 20.3 km itinerary and a long day of beautiful hiking.