Today, I take advantage of a sunny day to take my daughter, Anaé (3 years old), and my mother, Françoise, to discover the barefoot trail in Montleban near Gouvy. On the program: walking, nature, adventure and breathtaking landscapes. An unusual activity to do with your children

Difficulty

Medium

Distance

3 km

Duration

3 – 4 hours

A girls getaway

Today, I take the opportunity to enjoy the sun and my day off by picking my 3-year-old daughter up from school a little earlier than usual. My plan: an out-of-the-ordinary walk where she will even have the chance to take off her shoes. That gets her attention. After an hour of driving, during which we chatted and admired the beautiful landscapes that already surround us, we arrive at Montleban, near Gouvy. At the end of a small stony path stands a magnificent building built of local stones. It’s like being on holiday.

My mother, Françoise a.k.a. Mamy Nanou, is already waiting for us. Yes, I admit it, I invited her partly out of self-interest, because her photographic skills far exceed mine. But also because there is nothing like a little girls getaway. I admit that when I arrive, I am a little sceptical about walking barefoot through woods and fields. Me who hates walking without shoes and has a fear of insects. But well… what wouldn’t we do for our offspring to discover new experiences.

La ferme de la Planche

On arrival, Mr Thiry, the owner of the Ferme de la Planche, explains the route, which is posted on a sign at the entrance. You can choose to do the full course or take some simpler shortcuts for kids. He tells us about some surprising highlights: animals roaming freely, water up to the knees… just enough to cool off a little. We take the time to explain to Anaé the basic rules of a walk in nature. As it is pointed out, this educational walk also aims to preserve the beautiful nature of our Ardennes.

On the way to the trail!  

So here we go… We take off our shoes under a roof that is provided for this purpose. Anaé is happy to take off her sneakers. As the owner advised, I bring them in my backpack. And, fortunately, after walking 10 metres on the straw, it doesn’t tickle her any more. I admit it, she is a little precious. I do not know where she gets it from (hum :D). But there she goes, and, obviously, she is much faster than us, who have to watch where we step. We rediscover with pleasure these forgotten sensations. We follow the yellow markings and walk first on straw, then moss pavers, then grass and sand. It’s rather amusing. We then see two donkeys who come to gently greet us. One of them will be nicknamed Alan by Anaé. What a delight for the little ones. There are not many people on the trail today. It’s nice to enjoy the calm.

Breathtaking landscapes

We continue our adventure through some fields. A new material… wood, stone, pebbles… ouch. It’s once again surprising. We get used to it and grow confident. We have fun walking on the logs, the stone, the boards. It’s like being a child again. Anaé runs in front and Mamy trails behind, so captivated by nature and the landscapes that she cannot help but photograph it all. She knows the name of each tree and flower on our walk by heart, and she cannot help taking pictures of them all. The result: more than 170 photos to sort out in order to offer you the best of the walk. We arrive at a crossroads: we can choose to make a loop or go down into the woods. Motivated, we choose the first option. And we won’t be disappointed with our decision, far from it. The trail climbs, but the landscapes are breathtaking.

A well-deserved picnic

We stop above it all, on a plateau of greenery, in the middle of which stands a sort of “totem” surrounded by rocks. The view is beautiful. This is the perfect place to enjoy a short break and have a picnic in front of the horizon. In the distance, we see an old barn, a church, some cows… And there isn’t a sound… except for the voice of Anaé, who is already ready to leave.

Cooling off under the trees

We open a little door, go down on small wood logs, and are engulfed under the trees. It’s so refreshing! In this heat, it feels good. It is dark and fresh from the abundant tree foliage. We cross a field where the grass is very high. A path has been traced to make walking easier. I go first. A few minutes later, I hear Anaé scream. I turn around, but I cannot see her anymore. She stumbled, probably because she was too busy looking elsewhere. She is sitting in the tall grass, and you cannot even see the top of her head. It is funny! And there is photographic evidence, which will probably come up every year until she is 18!

La jungle, au cœur de l’Ardenne

Once we are out of the wood, we cross a field and see a small path that is hidden by tall plants. We are in the Ardennes jungle here, we have to clear out some branches from our way and crouch in order to move forward. Not to mention the small insects that tickle us during this stretch. I’m not very comfortable with it; I must admit. We do not see much except for the ground. This obviously cheers Anaé, who because of her small size, easily finds her way and enjoys watching us struggle.

Just around the river bend

As Anaé’s favourite song says, no matter the season, the river always changes mood and colour. You obviously recognized Pocahontas. Today, the river is playful. We hear it in the distance. Anaé thinks she is near the sea. The storms of previous days have raised her bed and the water level is high. The path runs along it and splits. We have a difficult choice: to walk in 50 cm of water or in a section of mud. We decide to not play adventurers this time and go for the second option by following the green markings, along the river and crossing through several small bridges. It is hard to make Anaé advance, she cannot help throwing some fallen leaves to the ground to see them get washed away.

A unique walk in the Ardennes

We then come across some Alpacas, white, black, brown. Anaé thinks she is in the Lion King movie. I did not understand. But children’s imagination is often much more overwhelming than ours. We see the end of our walk. The last surprise awaits us: a concrete beam that hangs over the river. I experience a moment of panic: how are we crossing with Anaé? I hesitate between the beam or crossing through the water. Anaé reminds me that she did not bring her swimsuit. I have to admit, the water is much too cold for my taste haha. She clings to my neck and we cross carefully to the other side. Like real acrobats!

At the end of the journey, beautiful tree trunks, placed at the edge of a small stream, allow you to wash your feet. It’s a little cold but it feels good after this very original walk. And it’s not over yet. Before recovering our shoes, we still have to walk into a tray filled with corks. I cannot help thinking about how many bottles they had to empty in order to fill it. We walk along the playground. Anaé stops to give some bread to a few chickens. We put on our shoes, eager to tell of our adventures to Mr Thiry who is waiting for us impatiently. We walked three kilometres in three hours… so 1 km/h… Not terrible, you might say! But for a barefoot walk and a picnic break, it’s rather fast, according to our host. We admit it… we were afraid of the storm rumbling in the distance, so we hurried our pace a bit at the end.

A nature project in constant evolution

We enjoy a well-deserved drink to talk a little with the owner of the place, while Anaé has fun in the big playground. A young pensioner, passionate about nature, with a head full of projects, he explains his trajectory in a few words: a forestry operator, a farmer, his wife is a teacher, he combines his passions to allow both young and old to discover nature, the fauna and flora, in a way that could not be more original. A regularly modified course and nature as the main actor. His animals, trees, flowers, and each season offers different landscapes, colours and discoveries that are each time unique. One more reason to come back!

An educational walk with your children

This original walk, to say the least, is an activity that you should absolutely do with your children. They will be happy to climb, jump, admire the animals, and follow the trail without complaining. What a way to knock them out for the rest of the day. I made the trip back with only the radio for company… Anaé fell asleep in just 10 seconds.

Besides being educational and having many health benefits, your children will discover the pleasure of admiring beautiful landscapes and of observing insects and animals in their natural environment. Moreover, the trail allows them to develop their self-confidence, to test their balance and their agility. It is a real adventure for your little one and a return to childhood in connection with nature for you! In short, if you are looking for good ways to teach your children to love walking,  this is a truly exceptional one.

Strong points

  • Unusual activity
  • In the heart of nature
  • Safe trail
  • Playground
  • Places to eat and/or have a picnic
  • Free parking

Weak points

  • Slippery and muddy sections
  • Medium-gradient trails in some spots

What to bring

  • Windbreaker
  • Wipes

Prolong this moment and book a holiday home with Ardennes-Etape

And why not enjoy a nice weekend with your family and combine this original activity with other walks or attractions in the Ardennes? We have selected for you some of the most beautiful holiday homes for a family holiday in Gouvy.