Hallerbos forest situated 20 kms south of Brussels on the border between Flanders and Wallonia, has for a long time been one of the best kept secrets in Belgium. Covering 555 hectars over beautiful valleys, the forest becomes truly majestic at the start of spring and the period of the bluebell flowering. The bluebells usually flower mid-April and last until May.
This season, the forest conservation management indicated that the first bluebells flowered on 17 April, “the most beautiful of spring is to be experienced now”. The bluebell flowering usually lasts ten days but forest management says it might last until 1 May this year.
Accessible through two specially marked bluebell walking trails, the “bluebell carpets” can easily be discovered. Both trails are about 7 kms with an option for an extra km. The forest also has other hiking trails.
The bluebell flowering has in recent years attracted more and more tourists, something which has prompted slight concern to the forest authorities as the ecological balance could be disturbed. One of the guides explains that new measures have been taken to keep cars outside of the forest.
In the 18th century the forest was still connected to the Sonian forest next to Brussels (now a Unesco world heritage site). However, during the first world war, much of Hallerbos forest was chopped down by German troops. Reforestation took place in the 1930s.
If the newfound interest has been positive for tourism in the area, the forest guides see it as a double edged sword, some of them even prefering to keep it as it used to be in the “good old days when it was still a better kept secret”. “It took nature hundreds of years for blue hyacinths to cover such a space. Between morning and evening I can see where people have been stepping. It could only take a week to ruin what nature has created over many centuries, we should truly cherish and value it”, says the guide.