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The time i cycLED through the ardennes forest
4 MINUTES READING
The combination of sport and the great outdoors is always a great way to blow away the cobwebs and recharge your batteries while escaping from the everyday humdrum. To explore the Ardennes forests, we decide to take two mountain bikes to roam the dense woods of the area and discover the local fauna and flora. And this is how we ended up renting two bikes in the vicinity of Haybes.
A vast playing ground
We hop on our hot wheels and take off to explore one of the many signposted paths. I don’t know if you are aware of this, but the forest that covers the area is huge and we enjoy this vast playing ground, crisscrossed with a wealth of cycling paths. Today we decide upon a loop of a couple of kilometres, but there are longer loops, so you can enjoy a longer cycling adventure if you want.
Needless to say, judging by the hilly reliefs the area offers, an athletic outing awaits us.
Cycling through the forest is both thrilling and soothing
A perfect setting
As we head off for our bike ramble, we make the most of the fine weather to discover the pretty village of Haybes that looks simple stunning in the morning light. The village is built on the banks of the river Meuse and an almost surreal quiet reigns here. In short, the perfect time and place for us to pedal along this pretty stream and explore the area's untouched and rugged landscapes. Pedal stroke after pedal stroke, we head deeper into the countryside and, after a rather steep climb, arrive in the heart of a forest. Here, we are protected by the forest canopy and enjoy the shade and cool air, which makes a welcome change to the temperatures rising outside the forest on this balmy summer day. Our first impression is one of sheer magic, we admire the rays of sunlight that occasionally pierce through the foliage and add a touch of enchantment to the forest. To add to the charm, as we cross the forest, we hear softly murmuring waterways. So it is in this idyllic setting that we continue the first leg of our journey.
We have no trouble at all following the GPS trail, but I must admit we find it hard to stay on the right path. Not because we get lost, but because we often decide to stray from our path because we find ourselves tempted by the many magnificent forest lanes that cross our path. We are keen on discovering every inch of this beautiful forest, so we tend to head off in all kinds of different directions to discover gorgeous landscapes without a sound to disturb the serene atmosphere that reigns here. For miles around, the only audible sound is that of our bicycles travelling through the forest. Every now and again, we take a moment to stop and admire our surroundings and explore secret spots. Also, on this rather flat part of the forest, cycling is more fun and less athletic, and that makes a welcome change!
A physical activity that allows you to discover nature from a different angle
We cycle along slowly, setting our own pace and make the most of every moment to recharge our batteries.
After all, we are in the perfect place for doing just that. What we also find rather interesting during our journey is the many different types of landscapes we travel through. We started off near the river, then continued through a dense forest dotted with gorgeous clearings where the abundance of ferns and trees creates an enchanted, bucolic atmosphere. The paths tend to get narrower and that is when we really get closer than ever to nature. Some of the places we cross have a really special atmosphere, and our breathtaking surroundings are sublimated by the sun, whose rays illuminate the greenery that flourishes in these vast, open spaces. Even though the area was blighted by drought in the early days of summer, the forest ecosystem remains as verdant as ever and delightfully cool!
Blazing down forest trails on a mountain bike offers plenty of thrills
Down we go!
Once we’ve managed to climb the uphill part of our ramble, we embark upon the downhill ride, taking us back to the village through the forest with downwards stretches that are steeper than others. After the physical exertion and energy expenditure, we enter a phase which is more mind-stimulating with wealth of thrills to boot. It’s actually quite easy to gather speed during the downwards ride and at times we need to swerve between the trees. This part of our journey requires a huge amount of concentration if we don’t want to fall off our bikes. Of course, we each decide our own pace, but slaloming between the trees and gathering speed is absolutely exhilarating. Our field of vision is reduced, and we focus on the many different obstacles that cross our path. Although this part is less challenging physically, it’s still quite gruelling because of the amount of concentration it requires. At a more or less leisurely pace we cycle down to our point of departure and enjoy different views of the village as we go down. To end our ramble on a gentle note, we cycle back along the banks of the river Meuse. Even though our thighs endured a punishing work-out, we feel invigorated rather than knackered after crossing this beautiful forest. If we could go back and do it all over again, I think we would have gone for a longer loop. Also: we would have packed a picnic, which we would have enjoyed in the peace of the forest. I can’t stress enough how important it is make sure you are properly equipped before going on a bike ramble. Also; don’t forget to check you gear and make sure you stay properly hydrated.
Enjoy this experience
Mountain biking - Parc Naturel Régional des Ardennes (Ardennes Regional Nature Park)
Maison du Parc, Route Sécheval, RD 140 Route de la Boutilllette, 08150 Renwez (France)
Tel.: +33 3 24 42 90 57
Even though our thighs endured a punishing work-out, we feel invigorated rather than knackered after crossing this beautiful forest