Autumn in the Ardennes
In the Ardennes forest in autumn, with their guns and hounds blessed by Saint Hubert, their patron saint, hunters go after all sorts of game, newly energised by the first rains, which also help another famous forest product: mushrooms! Autumn in the Ardennes is also “hunting season” for photographers and painters trying to capture the symphony of ever-changing autumn hues. Come and experience all that is good at this time of year!
The legend of Saint Hubert
Patron saint of hunters, the Ardennes and Liège, Hubert was an aristocrat who was converted to Christianity by Saint Lambert and became Bishop of Liège around 708AD. Legends about him began to spread during the Middle Ages. One tells how the young nobleman never missed an opportunity to go hunting in the Ardennes forest. One Good Friday (when hunting was not allowed), he rode out into the forest alone and came face to face with a stag with a glowing cross in its antlers. A thunderous voice from heaven said “Hubert! For how long will your passion for hunting make you forget the salvation of your soul?”
Terror-struck, Hubert replied “Lord, what must I do?” The voice replied, “Go and find Lambert and he will instruct you.” Hubert went at once to Maastricht, where Lambert was bishop, and converted to Christianity, giving away his possessions to the poor and his land to the church. He succeeded Lambert as Bishop of Maastricht, and had Lambert’s relics moved to Liège after Lambert’s canonisation and installed them in what became Saint Lambert’s cathedral, where Hubert served as first Bishop of Liège. Hubert sent many missionaries into the Ardennes to convert the local population and he established the Benedictine abbey that now houses his relics in the town named after him.
Game and patience
In silence, you follow your guide, then, ahead of you both, you see a deer and a group of wild boar through your binoculars. You’re far enough away not to have been noticed by them yet, even though they have developed keen senses, and are wary of most of the humans they encounter. This makes observing them all the more thrilling. In the local inns and restaurants, you can taste local specialities cooked using game caught in the forest, or, if you prefer, delightful autumn fruits and mushrooms. How to find these elusive forest creatures is a skill passed down from generation to generation in the Ardennes.
Make friends with your guide, and perhaps you’ll be let into the secret, so that later you’ll be able to tell your friends and family how, in a moonlit forest clearing, you heard the far-off bellowing of a stag. Autumn in the Ardennes is perfect for weekends and longer stays exploring wildlife and countryside.
Drops of molten sunlight…
The Ardennes Forest has a rich heritage of legends, rites and folklore. It’s as if the autumn “mixed its gold and purple with the last surviving greens as if the drops of molten sunlight had dripped down from the sky through the thickness of the forest” as Guy de Maupassant wrote in his “Prisoners’ Tale”, which is set in the Ardennes Forest, in a delightful summary of the alchemy that takes place here each autumn. The autumn colours dance a ballet which astonishes visitors every year. Pick up your camera and join them: some magnificent shots await from the hilltops or heights of ancient fortresses. There’s a special magic each morning as the early mists clear from the valleys. So, pull on your boots and join us in a feast for your eyes and ears.
Let fall bewitch you !
Passion for mushrooms, but be careful!
Autumn is the best time of year to go on a fungal foray in the Ardennes, seeking boletus, chanterelles and morels. However, it’s best to be prudent, and if you are in any doubt about the mushrooms you’ve picked, don’t hesitate to consult an expert (pharmacists in the Ardennes are always happy to advise). If you’re inexperienced, it’s often best to join a group organised by a tourist information centre or a mycology club and led by an expert.
Puis, après un long moment, de nouveau face au cerf, Hubert entendit une voix venue du ciel. « Hubert ! Jusqu'à quand cette vaine passion te fera-t-elle oublier le salut de ton âme ? ». Le chasseur effrayé interrogea le ciel : « Seigneur ! Que faut-il que je fasse ? » Alors il reçut ce commandement : « Retourne à Maastricht. Convertis-toi. Fais pénitence. Je te fais confiance, afin que mon Église, en ces régions sauvages, soit par toi fortifiée. »