I am Maxime from the blog “Trekking et Voyage” in which I talk about my getaways and adventures in Belgium and elsewhere… As a nature and wide spaces lover, I wish to tell you about a beautiful 15km hiking trail in the heart of the Haute Ardenne. There are still places in Belgium where nature remains pure and untouched. I am talking about wild and remote areas that no one could ever imagine… The valley of the Eastern Ourthe River around Gouvy is part of it.
4h (without breaks)
The Eastern Ourthe River
Going for a walk in winter is quite different than in summer. When I say ‘winter”, I do not necessarily mean ‘snowy landscapes’… a cold crisp winter morning in the Ardennes is enough to experience unique sensations! At dawn, everything is white, and nature is slowly waking up from a cold night. And as the hours pass, the sun is slowly peeking out of the horizon. The crystalline frost stays hanging on the trees until the sun rays finally reach out to them… Well wrapped in my clothes, my movements remain sharp and I keep walking at a brisk pace before the sun’s appearance.
Today, we are very lucky, though: the sky is blue, and the sun is already there to warm us up. We are enjoying a spring-like February and we are ready to discover a new haven of peace.
The Eastern Ourthe River flows just a stone’s throw from Gouvy and its source is located in the province of Luxembourg. This untouched river flows until the Lake of Nisramont where it flows, along with the Western Ourthe River, into the Ourthe, the most important tributary of the Meuse River.
Before that, it flows through the ponds of Cherapont where we begin our walk. This small hamlet is a well-known tourist point and is appreciated for its water point. The region also used to know a strong milling tradition…
The route passes by the GR57 and here we are, starting this loop route named “Valley of the Ourthe River”. The municipality of Gouvy also hosts several signposted trails and more than 300 km of hiking trails through the Haute Ardenne. They allow you to enjoy the several locations that remain untouched as well as remarkable curiosities like listed buildings, etc.
The first meanders of the Eastern Ourthe River are just 2 meters wide and yet, they are extremely bewitching… The Ardennes region knows how to hide its most beautiful gems and this finding was truly unexpected. As soon as we leave the parking lot, we step inside the nature reserve in the heart of a lovely and remote valley. This reserve was created in 1985 and it is aimed at protecting the surrounding fauna. Right at the beginning, we realise that we are in beavers’ territories. The trees have teeth marks and as a nature lover, I can’t help imagining those animals and I try to see where they come from, I scrutinize the ground, look for marks… I am like a child who is asked to find a present.
From a geological point of view, the valley has got a typical “Ardenne” character and many hillsides were over-exploited with spruce plantations. The valley floor remained untouched and is free for the river and all the fish. The river banks are wet zones and the vegetation is luxuriant and hosts many rare species.
With any luck, you may see a black stork or great grey shrikes. During the spring, the fields are also colourful due to the many flowers covering the ground and the butterflies flying around… This scarcity (or purity) is the reward for the sensible management of the reserve. If you go for a walk there, you penetrate an exceptional haven of peace that must be protected.
When I talked earlier about a milling tradition, the ruins of the “Moulin du trou” is proof of it. Looking over the river, they testify to a rural past not so long ago.
After crossing a couple of footbridges over the river, we climb up the hill towards Rettigny to reach a beautiful and unobstructed panorama over the Haute Ardenne Plateau. It is windy by the sun is shining… We decide to hang our hammocks here, relax for a while and have a bite…
I do enjoy that kind of moments when I go for a walk: just sitting there, enjoying some local products, sipping a craft beer brewed in the next village and enjoying the moment, alone or with friends…
After this sweet break, we resume walking towards the next village and then climb up the hill towards Cherain and Sterpigny, two other picturesque municipalities. Several characterful stone buildings often painted in white may be seen.
We then go down other bucolic paths until the locality “Le beleu” where we may admire typical rural and forest landscapes of the Ardennes…
After walking a while on the road of Renglez, we finally arrive in Cherapon where we find our car back. This hiking trail with an “Into The Wild”-section along the river was really exciting..
I wish you a very good walk and hope that you will enjoy it as much as we did… This wild Ardennes region is a real gem to be protected and respected. Do stay on the paths at all times and touch only with your eyes… Have a good walk!