Member for 3 years 2 months
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Outdoor and human
Riding at nature's pace
The enchanting forest of Anlier offers a magical ride to mountain bike fans
5 mins OF ESCAPE
So everybody has tried mountain biking and everybody's been mountain biking in a forest. But have you ever taken the time to really explore the paths of Anlier forest in the Haute Sûre Nature Park? No? Then you absolutely must add this excursion to your bucket list, whether you live in Belgium or come from further afield. Whatever the season, these forest paths are a true peace haven. I came here in autumn and really fell in love with this place but I'm sure I'd find it just as appealing in winter. Because this is one of the largest forest ranges of the Belgian Ardennes, with 7,000 hectares of majestic trees sheltering a host of animal life which, with a little patience, you'll have the opportunity to observe. Anlier forest is definitely worth a visit. Perfectly located on the ridge between the river basins of the Meuse and the Rhine, the forest seems to have tapped into these water sources to offer, in exchange, a joyful abundance of nature. As more and more of the world's forestland gives way to the concrete jungle, the greenery of Anlier forest offers a veritable breath of fresh air. But before we go, which way?
Whichever way we look, the paths seem to lead into a fairyland
Whether coming from Martelange, Fauvilliers, Léglise or other lands, you enter this green lung on the never-ending lanes that stretch across the forest as far as the eye can see. Off the timidly winding asphalt, a whole network of tracks invite you to disappear into the fabulous long shadowy tunnels created by the branches. So we're spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding where to start. Looking out of the car window, I'm tempted by every one of the forest entrances, wishing we could stop every metre to take photos of this beautiful landscape. I place my trust in the driver who, familiar with the area, finds the perfect spot to park the car.
Here, Nature is the mistress of the house and we are her guests
We park on the verge, take our bikes out of the boot and we're rearing to go at last, or rather, to cycle. We immediately get the overwhelming impression that we're in an enchanted land, and I have no trouble imagining the elves, werewolves and other fantastic creatures that must be hiding in the forest's every nook and cranny. The almost mystical Anlier forest is certainly something to marvel at. It inevitably sparks the imagination. Here, after just a few kilometres, you become aware that tranquillity is king and mother nature is his queen. There's nothing to disturb the peace, other than people like us, cycling, walking or horseriding in the forest. Whichever mode of transport you choose, Anlier forest leaves you as wide-eyed as a child excited by all this space to explore. On mountain bikes, we cover plenty of ground and enjoy a few thrills, but exploring on foot or horseback must be more conducive to contemplation and mindfulness of all those little details the forest can reveal, like the play of light filtering through the branches or the pretty patterns of the fallen leaves, not forgetting all the fungi.
As for me, I'm happy riding along on my mountain bike at my loyal mount's usual pace, accompanied by the singing of birds and the rustling of leaves under my wheels on this beautiful autumn day. Because life is abundant here, pursuing its merry way all around us in the heart of the forest, keeping its distance from our human paths, yet close enough to be heard.
We feel like guests and, of course, very lucky to be here. We should remember to thank nature, every day, for what she continues to offer us in spite of how much we impose upon her. Over the kilometres we've covered in the saddle, under the comforting shadow of these giant hardwood trees, we may not have come across any of our imaginary creatures, but we've seen many other wonders, such as ruins hidden under the leaves and a host of different plant species. All it takes is a little time to discover such treasures on foot, by the side of the path or under a tree. In any case, by the end of the day I'm a true believer in sylvotherapy, or wellness through forest bathing, a practice that's particularly reputed in Japanese culture. Yes, trees and nature have powers that soothe the mind and generate tranquillity. So if you're stressed, tired, exhausted even, there's nothing like going for a revitalising walk in your nearest forest! And if you love cycling and want to pursue your exploration of the forest and other landscapes in the area via this means of locomotion, certain sections of the RAVEL network ("Réseau Autonome des Voies Lentes" or autonomous slow lane network), can be found in the vicinity, covering more than 1,400 kilometres! Better start pedalling!