The traditional and prestigious back-to-school meeting is fast approaching, set for the second weekend of September (12 and 13). Nature lovers will be delighted.
By Frédéric Marchesani
This 32nd edition is effectively placed under the theme of nature. Parks, gardens and green and natural spaces are on the program. And it is enticing! Although the habits of the last thirty years have been seriously shaken up, the health crisis will not have got the better of Wallonia’s biggest heritage event. Of course, the rules and procedures have changed and will allow everyone to benefit from our wealth in the best possible conditions.
Wallonia’s natural heritage is as rich as it is diverse. Many of us have already heard of the great sites which are so many emblematic panoramas of the Walloon landscapes and natural regions. However, many other elements of our daily life are to be discovered this year. Our villages and hamlets are dotted with thousands of remarkable trees, some of them classified. These can be unusual: nail trees, twin trees, hollow trees Others are immense and majestic, planted around the bends to serve as landmarks, present in botanical gardens or even decorating the parks of the hundreds of castles scattered around the regional territory. Cities and other agglomerations are not left out. Public parks hold great surprises in store and other sites, such as slag heaps, quarries and other abandoned brownfields, have now been returned to nature.
Hours of escape and discovery
Among the must-see places on the program for this edition, we must mention the splendid panorama of the classified site of the Ourthe loop, in Fêchereux. Straddling the towns of Esneux and Neupré, this meander, 6 km long, flows below a wooded side of the Condruzian hillside. At the end of the plateau, we find the famous rock with falcons, known to lovers of nature and cycling. This dominates the loop of the Ourthe 120 m above the level of the river.
The village of Nismes, in the entity of Viroinval, is home to another major site of Walloon natural heritage: the Fondry des Chiens, a geological as well as tourist curiosity, results from a karst phenomenon that created paleogouffres that came to pierce the rocky surface of the trays. Scientists have demonstrated their formation in three successive phases: horizontal or vertical corridors, then corrosion polishing the walls and digging pits and, finally, an artificial release by the hand of man but also sometimes natural by the sinking of the sandy mass in the cracks of the limestone. The Fondry des Chiens is the most impressive example, as it has a depth of 20 meters. Another example is the Spinets nature reserve, in the village of On (Marche-en-Famenne). This vast limestone lawn is a veritable botanical sanctuary where orchids and gentians bloom in peace.
Apart from these well-known and recognized places, the program of this 32nd edition includes some nuggets sometimes unknown to the general public. In Sart-lez-Spa (Jalhay), a historical guided walk will begin at the old oak of Sart. Tradition has it that Charlemagne did justice there, but this venerable tree is of course not that old. With a circumference of 5 meters, it is however 500 years old. It was believed lost the day when passing people decided to light a fire in its trunk. The tree has survived and retains a stigma of this event: its trunk is hollow, but its branches still turn green each spring.
In Beaumont, a free circuit will allow you to discover the remarkable trees of the entity. An explanatory brochure and an itinerary will give you the possibility to take and repeat this beautiful walk in the future. In Chantemelle (Etalle), you can admire an alley of thirty-six lime trees, classified in 1990, which will brighten up your walk in the footsteps of the heritage and remarkable trees of the village. We should also mention the exceptional Ry-Ponet site, which extends over the territory of the municipalities of Liège (Chênée and Grivegnée), Fléron (Romsée), Beyne-Heusay and Chaudfontaine (Vaux-sous-Chèvremont).
On the way to the promenade offered on the occasion of Heritage Days, you can also enjoy superb panoramas over the city of Liège as well as the Ourthe and Vesdre valleys. The site has beautiful elements of the popular heritage, including the Sainte-Anne chapel. Founded in 1794 but rebuilt in 1889, it is shaded by venerable lime trees. These trees can measure up to 25 m and are common in our regions and more widely in Europe. They bring here a significant aesthetic value, especially during their flowering. Linden trees are often placed in public squares and along avenues for their volume and the shade they provide. These trees, to which the Celts already granted magical virtues, are considered sacred by the Christian religion. This character is due to the smell of their flowers. Since the Middle Ages, they have often been planted next to a place of worship or a testimony of popular fervor, as is the case here.
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Magical parks and castles
Among the large parks and classified sets of Wallonia, you will be able to enjoy the natural beauties of the municipality of La Hulpe. In addition to the Folon Foundation, which offers a guided walk to discover the remarkable trees of the park, the Solvay domain will also be accessible in its entirety. The site covers 227 ha of greenery, woods and ponds. It is bordered by the Forêt de Soignes and the Nysdam nature reserve, the largest in Walloon Brabant. Nature and historical guided tours are offered throughout the weekend and will allow the curious to discover the cathedral beech grove, rhododendron beds, a Virginia tulip tree or a Douglas pine from Oregon, among the hundreds of botanical wonders present in the park and in the immense neighboring forest, a true green lung of the region.
Other castles will open the doors of their parks and gardens to you. This is the case of the Château du Saulchoir in Kain (Tournai). Built in Louis XVI style at the end of the 18th century, still inhabited, it has a 12 hectare park planted with centuries-old trees. In Gosselies, nature enthusiasts can stroll through the Bois-Lombut landscaped park, one of the five largest fully classified in Wallonia. It offers vast perspectives, various tree species and a succession of ponds.
In Vonêche (Beauraing), the castle park recalls the astonishing history of the place. Built in 1806 for industrialists who operated a crystal factory there, the building was bought in 1844 by Count Félix Cornet de Ways-Ruart. An agronomist by training, he undertook the creation of a park of around thirty hectares in which exotic trees still flourish: cedars of Lebanon, sequoias, pines of the moors …
Mostly outdoors and very attractive, the program of this new edition of Heritage Days has everything to allow a few hours of escape and discovery. Book all your activities as soon as possible!
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Book your visit
Health crisis requires, the Heritage Days have adapted the organization of this 32nd edition in order to meet all the security measures. The big opening night on Friday will not take place this year, as large gatherings are contraindicated. In the continuity of the tracing measures, it will be mandatory to reserve for all activities. These reservations are possible from until September 10, only via the Heritage Days website. There is no printed brochure this year. The program is available online or on the free downloadable smartphone application. Changes and cancellations can occur at any time. We can only invite you to regularly consult the online program, which is frequently updated. Finally, we would like to remind you that wearing a mask and respecting physical distancing are still required to participate in this heritage weekend.