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Touch the sky and let it embrace you as you sleep
Around Signy-l’Abbaye, the last remaining lights go out, one by one, giving way to the stars. From the treetops, all we can hear is the occasional rustling of leaves in the breeze, the odd acorn bouncing off the roof, or a feathered friend making its way from one tree crown to the next.
6 mins OF ESCAPE
It's already been six days since we started exploring the Ardennes countryside from top to bottom and here we are, quite literally at the pinnacle of our experience, in a cabin overlooking the region's most beautiful landscapes. Welcome to Le Chêne Perché!
Our cabin is called Héronnière (French for herons' nesting place) and it's one of Le Chêne Perché's five accommodation units dotted around the forest at varying heights. This is the latest addition and it was built partly thanks to a community fundraising campaign.
Silence has become a rare commodity that we sometimes have to seek actively. Le Chêne Perché offers a cocoon of tranquillity and the pleasure of an inner journey away from the artifices of our overconnected lives.
A night among the stars
The sun is already low in the sky when we arrive at Le Chêne Perché and are greeted by Clément. He hands us the key to our cabin, named "Héronnière", as well as two head torches and a flask of cold water. Up there, we have gas heating, a hurricane lamp and a composting toilet. But to reach our dwelling in the trees, an amusing little expedition awaits us. After walking along the edge of the forest, we reach the platform outside our cabin, and hoist our luggage up with the help of a pulley. Our key then gives us access to a ladder, followed by an impressive bridge suspended in the trees.
At the top, its time to disconnect and go back to basics. So we spread out our copious picnic, uncap a good Belgian beer, and make ourselves at home in this romantic wooded cocoon that reminds us of a mountain chalet.
Waking up to the earth that turns
As we emerge from our comfortable array of sleeping bags and colourful blankets, we're greeted by the soft caress of the sun's morning rays that filter just enough through the branches. Everything they fall upon is exalted by golden reflections, luring us outside. What a beautiful way to wake up, high in the trees, in the middle of nowhere!
Breakfast with the sun
The icing on the cake is our delicious breakfast, delivered to the foot of our tree in a wicker basket covered with a cloth in red and white check. It's already attached to the pulley and all we have to do is hoist it up. The basket contains an Italian coffee pot and a good-quality coffee, fresh orange juice, pastries and jams, which we enjoy on the little deck outside our cabin. In this superb month of October in the Ardennes, this could be our last meal outdoors this year, and we savour it to the last mouthful.
Defying gravity and playing in the trees
We leave our temporary home with a touch of regret, mingled with excitement about the very special day in store for us, just a few metres away. Because at Le Chêne Perché there's a treetop adventure park. We're both fans of activities involving heights and vertical drops, so we embark on the first of the five trails. We've already done this kind of thing several times, so we're pretty confident but we're already pleasantly surprised by the level of fitness required for certain sections, not to mention the adrenalin factor. The trails are very well designed, with the level of difficulty increasing as you go and, from platform to platform, they're full of surprises too. We climb higher and higher and our bodies get a good workout.
The fourth trail is quite challenging and offers the option to move to the fifth trail, which is a more difficult section that joins up again later with the fourth trail. I'm not too sure, but my partner has no trouble persuading me. After all, we are heroes aren't we? Well even if we're not, we're to feel like heroes when we reach the highlight of the trail, a gigantic zipwire from which the humans down on the ground look very small... The idea is to attach yourself to the rope, jump into nothingness, and land at the bottom in a spider-web array of ropes that you grab on arrival.
After a few minutes contemplating the vertical drop and jittering like a child, I throw myself off the edge like a bird.
Adrenalin pumping, I find myself on the spider's web with arms shaking, struggling to find the strength to move. I muster all my energy and finally reach the platform, letting out a cry of victory before spreading myself flat out on the floor. I made it!
We're not at the end of our surprises. The trail continues up a ladder that seems to have no end. At the forest summit, we travel from tree to tree via a trail of stirrups that couldn't be more unstable, then crawl through narrow timber pipes that are suspended in mid air, naturally. A last zipwire that's long and fast brings us back to earth. The very last section is a succession of zipwires, the perfect way to return gently to the real world. Here, you revert to childhood, rope after rope, tree after tree. This is by far the most amazing treetop adventure trail we've ever experienced. If life could consist of nothing but having fun in the trees surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of nature... Then please show me the contract, I'll sign straight away and move to the Ardennes!