Our journey so far had taken us through Southern Belgium, and approaching the Ardennes offered a subtle transition in scenery. From endless flat fields, intersected by canals we now found ourselves in rolling hills, tree clad with huge meandering river bends. The land looked like an emerald stretched out before us, the various shades of green glinting in the sunshine. We knew immediately we were going to enjoy this area.
We decided to head to Rochehaut, a bustling little village nestled in that lusciously green terrain. It was a gloriously sunny day which made it easy to see why it was such a busy wee place. Several little eateries had parasols outside and were serving local beers and delicious looking meals. The buildings were all very traditional and quaint, and house sparrows chirruped as they hopped between the tables looking for crumbs. We joined in and picked a cheerful looking restaurant with a shaded table outside, a couple of beers later and we were about ready to start our exploration.
Rochehaut is set up high on a wooded cliff/bank and so has a sweeping balcony that offers fantastic views to the land below. The edge was speckled with yellow flowers before it fell steeply into the valley below. Frahan is another small village, smaller than Rochehaut, and sits almost directly below it. It is situated in the middle of a perfect river curl, the green fields and wooded hillsides meeting abruptly, no transition except for the blue ribbon of water running between them.
Leaving the van in Rochehaut we headed out on foot. As we left the village we took an old road, definitely no longer used as one. It was made of rather jagged cobbles and descended steeply. We were immediately engulfed in the woodland, the young foliage a dazzling shade of green in the sunshine and the endless trunks falling away down the hill. Dappled light fell on last year’s fallen leaves which littered the woodland floor. And on the track it highlighted the deep green mosses growing in the nooks and crannies of the cobbles. Despite the sunshine, its permanently shaded location meant the track stayed damp and glistened ever so slightly in the dappled light.
The descent was easy enough and we chatted away as we trotted down the hill. At the bottom we were spat out on the river bank and straight onto the footbridge that crossed the water into Frahan. The river was wide and fast flowing, long reeds caught in the current swayed and rippled. The longer clumps created green patches across the surface and the smoother sections offered a perfect reflection of the deep blue sky and fluffy white clouds above us.
Before continuing around the river we headed over the water and into the village, it was the hottest part of a hot summer’s day and we felt the heat as we walked along the sleepy roads. We happened upon the tiny church and headed inside; thankfully it had the typical cold, slightly damp interior that most small churches have and was the ideal spot to cool down!
Back on the river bank we left the green fields behind and crossed back onto the wooded side. A small track followed the river around its huge curve. We enjoyed the shade of the trees and the undulating nature of the track. The path was alive with insects going about their business and the occasional bird darted through the trees above. Roaming along the bank we found ourselves clambering around large boulders, dipping under low hanging branches, looking up at gnarly tree topped crags and occasionally breaking out into a clearing which offered beautiful views over the river.
We knew at some point we would have to start heading back up the way, but we weren’t exactly sure when. Eventually we found ourselves in a small clearing, with an even smaller woodland track breaking off at a sharp turn and ascending steeply, this was our path. Before we left the clearing I noticed an array of small white flowers, some of them beginning to fruit… alpine strawberries! As soon as I noticed one, I noticed hundreds of them – sadly none were quite ready to eat but nice to see nonetheless.
The path climbed steadily upwards and we gained a lot of height in a short space of time. It took us through the deepest section of the woodland and we continued to clamber over boulders, dip under low hanging branches and marvel at the crags. Except this time there were no break-out views until we reached the top. We hadn’t really seen anyone whilst we were out walking but we could tell we were getting close to our starting point as more and more people were milling along the footpaths.
In no time at all we were back at the top and once again enjoying the views of the sweeping valley, looking down on the area we had just been exploring! As we left Rochehaut and drove through more of the Belgian Ardennes, we ooh’d and ahh’d out of the window at the beautiful terrain – vowing to one day return and do lots of walking and camping in the area! The crooked, winding paths, craggy woodlands, tumbling streams and moss covered…everything is what we love – and this place seemed to have it all!