The Ardenne

The Ardenne is the name of a beautiful region located in Wallonia. Its territory extends mainly in the east of Belgium, but also in parts of France and Luxembourg. Most of it is covered by forest and rugged land. It seems that the word Ardenne evolved from the word “Ar Duen” meaning “The Black” in Celtic. People in the past must have been quiet impressed by what was once a massive dark forest stretching over half of Belgium to the west of Germany. Julius Caesar rightly said that the Ardenne Forest was the largest in Gaulle.

randonnée Ardenne

The Ardenne stands in sharp contrast with other parts of Belgium. Instead of the flat country slightly higher that the sea, as it is in the west of Belgium, the Ardenne has more altitude reaching 694 meters at its highest pick. The scene is absolutely amazing when snow falls on the forest in winter. The geology is also different. The ground is made of hard sandstone and dark shale. The soil is not good for cultivation because it is acidic and poor with minerals. The interest of this land lies elsewhere. It is the beauty of the landscape and of the forests that first captivate visitors. Forestry, timber manufacturing and green tourism are its main economic assets.

Human occupation in the Ardenne started 3000 years ago. It seems that The Celts were the first to really settle in the region. Harsh living conditions made life very tough. Yields were much lesser than in the fertile plains of the west. Transport of goods was hardly possible on rivers. The craggy land did not make it easy to build roads for carrying heavy loads. Most of the Ardenne used to be covered with heath, marshes and bogs. Tales and fables only intensified a sense of fear and mystery associated with the land.

Ardenne rando

Today the Ardenne is still covered with forests and amazing nature. It is a remarkable natural environment. Wild animals are plenty and rivers are still untamed in many places. The landscape however is now much different than what it once was. Coniferous forests have taken over vast area. Pines and spruces are now common. The needs for woods, both for construction of for heating, have put much pressure on indigenous forests which grow slower. Beech and birch trees, oaks and maples trees are now less frequent.

A renewal interest for nature has allowed the forests to expand once again. Fens are now well protected. Life projects with funds from the European Union allow the restauration of natural habitats rich with biodiversity.