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Explorer of new horizons
Outdoor activities and photographer
the time I EXPLORED THE Fondry des Chiens, an exceptional geological site
4 minUTES OF READING
A site that is unique in the Ardennes
The Ardennes are far and wide renowned for their forests, their plateaus and their hills. But sometimes you happen to stumble upon rare gems, such as natural sites that seem to come straight out of another universe…Such is the case of the Fondry des Chiens (literally: the dogs’ abyss), located on the outskirts of the village of Nîsmes, more precisely up above town.
The site is listed as “of great biological interest” and was shaped by thousands of years of pluvial erosion. The place is absolutely unbelievable, we are utterly taken by surprise, it is so unexpected to encounter such a site here. It’s quite easy to access the site, there is even a car park so you can park your car nearby. But we decided to make the journey on foot, because we wanted to admire the many different tree species that populate the village arboretum. I recommend you take a look; the place is really inspiring and allows you to dive into the village’s history. You can also start off from the Nîsmes church and take a 4km loop walk by following the red signposting.
The remarkable abyss is the result of the soil’s unique geological composition
When we arrive, we are treated to beautiful, unobstructed views of a typical landscape, covered with vast forests. Nothing can prepare us to the surprise that lies ahead. We admire a few sheep grazing peacefully. They are used to maintain the area’s ecosystem; there is even a professional shepherd on hand to manage the pastures.
An exceptional site
The site of the Fondry des Chiens is short walking distance from the car park and when we finally arrive we are utterly and totally overwhelmed by the sight before us. We feast our eyes on this stunning geological site, which instantly works its magic. Words fail to describe the site; it is so incredibly different from the area’s typical landscapes. It almost resembles a film set, and looks like it’s from a different country, or even a different plant… We stand awestruckin front of a genuine abyss that is several meters wide (up to 20 m) with numerous crags and rocks that emerge from the ground and confer its unique contour to the abyss. The sharply contrasting geological features confer a unique atmosphere to the spot, and the craggy rocks are a joy to behold. Shades of orange, of grey, of green, of brown are vying for our attention in an exquisite blaze of colours. But is also a fabulous playing ground for our explorations. First, we tour the upper areas of the site so we can admire the scenic views, but we also decide to explore the depths of this marvellous site.
The site truly is the perfect playing ground for wannabe explorers
It’s quite simple to access the lower part of the site, but prudence is the better part of valour, even more so when you are visiting the site with children! At times the rocks can be a bit slippery, and the site has not been spoilt by guardrails in order to preserve its authenticity. Once we’ve clambered down, we are as if bewitched by the spirit of the place, by its distinctive atmosphere…We totally lose ourselves in this enchanted spot that is steeped in history. We clamber up rocks; we dart into small caves and explore the site from top to bottom because we want to admire every inch of this exceptional site... The stunningly unique beauty of the site is every photographer’s dream.
A site that is steeped in history
The Fondry des Chiens is a great place to delve deeper into the area’s history, but also to discover the history of our Earth. While rummaging through the rocks on the ground, we stumble upon some rocks with a ferrous aspect and soon realize that there are ironstones all over the place. The site used to be exploited by the Romans, as evidenced by a number of vestiges from Roman times that were uncovered here. Countless fossils have also been unearthed on the site, proving that – many millions of years ago - the area was covered by an ocean with an abundance of coral reefs.
« Exploring this site we discovered an exceptional flora that is unique in the area »
Difficult to imagine when you look at the site nowadays, but you can tell that you are in place that is steeped in history and has had many different usages during the course of its history. The unique combination of forest, former coral reef and abyss creates the authentic and distinctive atmosphere of the site.
A nature reserve
When visiting the Fondry des Chiens, there is so much more to admire than the impressive abyss alone. During our visit, we also discovered the site’s exceptional flora boasting quite a few plants that are rare in the area. The chalk grassland, a unique and intricately diverse habitat, is home to several stunning flowers, such as orchids and globe daisies. These flowers prosper here because of the microclimate created by the hot and dry chalk soils.
And if you decide to take a walk in the area around the village, you will be rewarded once again with lush nature and forest-clad hills. And with a bit of luck, during the right season, you will encounter countless butterflies fluttering about and many different species of migratory birds. Over the years, the area has made considerable efforts to implement sustainable development as well as sustainable tourism. To cite an example: the waterway that crosses the village is - mainly thanks to these efforts - once again teeming with life.
We really had a great time exploring this incredible site and hope that you will enjoy this playing ground for young and old as much as we did! Let yourself be surprised by the sheer magic of the place and enjoy a stroll in the area, guaranteed to fill you with positive energy!
Enjoy this experience
Access to the Fondry des Chiens is of course free of charge.
The Forest of Chimay has created a great 4km hike (1h30) which will take you to the stunning natural site that is the Fondry des chiens