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Moss bikes, an off-road adventure
5 mins of escape
Mountain biking in Wallonia with Moss Bikes and a group of friends
The best way to spend a Sunday
On this sunny weekend, I fancied a day exploring the Dinant area, so here I am with a few friends, following the mountain bike trails with a picnic in my rucksack and the wind in my hair (well almost, because the helmet is compulsory!). Our mountain bikes are provided by Laurence at Moss Bikes, and we're looking forward to our day of off-road exploring. From Dréhance, a picturesque little village near Dinant, there's a wide choice of signposted trails to follow: along the River Lesse in the company of kayakers, towards Furfooz Park and its forest trails, or even following the RAVel cycle paths. It all depends on what you're looking for.
As for me, today I want to do the real thing, mountain biking over stones and through mud, with climbs to challenge my thighs! After all, we didn't choose mountain bikes to stay on a monotonous flat road. So we head for Furfooz Park to experience a woodland trail in autumn.
These paths are perfect for exploring nature as you exercise
My travel companions seem to have the same objectives as me, so we're highly motivated for the first few kilometres. But the first climb comes sooner than expected and we're soon suffering from a side stitch. The perfect excuse to take our first break when we get to the top. We drink some water, catch our breath and observe the vast panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
The pains are soon forgotten as we enjoy our first proper descent, all the way to Furfooz park entrance. Flat out, we slow down as we approach the reception area with its trapper-style wood cabin occupied by the park's very pleasant keeper. We stop for some information before heading into the park.
Reliving childhood memories on the bumpy paths.
The trees overhead seem to form a natural gateway, inviting us to cycle into the depths of the forest on a wooded trail that leads gently downhill. I haven't been on a bike for months but the sensations soon return as I'm jolted along the bumpy path with my hands gripping the handlebars. On these forest trails, I rediscover the thrill of the descent as I remember cycling at full speed with my gang under the watchful eye of our parents as they shouted from a distance for us to slow down. What a joy it is today to be sharing that sensation with a group of friends! We can't resist hurtling down at full speed, overtaking one another as if it were a race. The first to arrive at the bottom waits for the others so that we can continue in a pack. Each time, we're all quickly overcome by silence, contemplating our surroundings before moving off again. The temptation is to go flat out along these trails but we simply have to stop in order to fully appreciate the views and other hidden surprises. After a few descents, the cool air tells us we're approaching the River Lesse. A delightful wooded lane lit by the golden hues of autumn leads us to the riverbank.
Slowing down to become part of the scenery that's passing before our eyes!
So we decide to get off our bikes and sit on the ground to drink some water and observe this heavenly spot. My friends are all from the area and know this place well. Yet they never seem to grow tired of it, and I can see why.
With emotion, they tell me a few stories of summers when they've come here to swim in the cold water of the Lesse and enjoy a picnic of sandwiches and crisps. Then they join me in simply enjoying the present moment. I expect they feel very lucky to live nearby and to be able to pop here after work to recharge their batteries and let the Ardennes indulge them.
The castle on the hill
Next, we alternate paths and bridges, pleased not to have to carry our bikes across the water. The kayakers below look as if they're having a great time on the River Lesse, and a few walkers seem to have settled for the afternoon on the stony Ardennes-style beaches. After a few metres and muddy patches, Walzin Castle emerges between the branches, standing tall and proud on its rocky spur 50 metres above the river. My private guides tell me the owners still live there. It must feel like living in a film set! This architectural wonder is a magnificent blend of Renaissance, medieval and neo-Gothic styles. Awestruck, we're not surprised to learn that it's a classified outstanding heritage feature. Without a doubt, this mountain biking excursion offers a fantastic blend of nature, sport and heritage, not forgetting all the laughs along the way! I wish every day could be like this Sunday!
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Rue de Sûre 108, 5500 Dréhance, Belgium
+32 82 22 63 41