Forêt du Pays de Chimay, Viroinval, Couvin, Philippeville, Sivry-Rance, Doische, Momignies, Chimay et Froidchapelle
The diversity of Greater Charleroi’s landscapes includes the Forêt du Pays de Chimay, an exceptional place to be envied.
Often, when you think of Greater Charleroi, you don’t imagine a large forested area. And however, Greater Charleroi is also 90,000 hectares of forest, spread over 8 boroughs, from Momignies to Doische. A wooded area which deserves to be discovered by everyone, in particular via the Grande Traversée, a trail that is more than 180 km.
Landscapes unique in Wallonia
The Grande Traversée allows walkers to discover the Forêt du Pays de Chimay over 180 km. It stands out primarily thanks to its extremely diverse landscape. ‘Three geological areas spread across the region, these offer completely different landscapes in an area of a few kilometres’, explains Corentin Levacq, coordinator of the Forêt du Pays de Chimay.
The GR 125, Grande Randonnée trail, is indicated by red and yellow painted markers, the specific colours of the GRP, the GR du pays, for the length of the trail. ‘Walkers will discover a wooded landscape, specific to the Ardennes forest; another landscape, specific to Fagnes, with fields suitable for livestock and marked by slate slopes, and, a third landscape, marked by the limestone rock’, he says.
The Grande Traversée goes through the Calestienne, a hilly area that is unique in Wallonia, which is characterised by ‘tiennes’ which are limestone hills. Fondry des Chiens is the place to explore, a symbol of this impressive hilly limestone area. ‘The view is unique. Then, the landscape is very different, there’s a bit more exposed rock. At the first rays of sunlight, the ground warms up very quickly and this has an effect on the fauna and flora’, he says.
Fondry des Chiens wows a high number of visitors with its unique geography
This waymarked path also goes through various villages, such as Lompret, which is one of the prettiest villages in Wallonia.
Belgium’s first bivouac network
The Grande Traversée has 9 bivouac areas. ‘Camping in the forest is forbidden here. So we were the first in Belgium to establish a network of bivouacs. We try to make these rest areas only accessible to walkers’, explains Corentin.
Every 15-20 km, walkers will find an area to pitch their tent, make a fire and spend the night. The boroughs maintain the areas and check that everything’s okay, that they are only occupied at night and that the people staying are benefiting from the area whilst respecting nature and the wildlife.
Areas are provided for pitching your tent and making a fire in the forest
The bivouacs have been a great success. ‘They are often occupied, throughout the year. In summer, there are 3-4 tents per night at each bivouac. In winter, slightly fewer, but there are often people around’, he adds.
Real success for the Grande Traversée
It is difficult to accurately measure the success of the trail given that it’s free to access and doesn’t cost anything. But, according to Corentin Levacq, a significant number of walkers use it: ‘The trail is quite well known. The walking guide is one of the best-selling Belgian GR books. We have sold 2,000 in 3.5 years. And then there are the walkers who use the trail without a guide. We also see a number of families who walk for one or two days or young people who hang around before going on a more casual or longer walk’.
Various types of people roam the paths of the Grande Traversée. We see as many ‘real’ hikers as families of walkers: some go through all of the boroughs, others are content to just do a leg; others sleep in all of the bivouacs, others stay in a B&B or a hotel on the route.
The Grande Traversée is perfect for getting into walking or training before an active trip
We see French-speaking Belgians, but also a lot of Dutch, French, Germans, etc.
Other trails are being established
Due to this success, other projects for exploring the Forêt du Pays de Chimay are planned. ‘The Grande Traversée by bike, mountain bike or horseback are currently being drawn on the map. There is also an idea to have a cross-border walkers’ circuit’, he says.
Finally, a larger project is already planned for the coming years: the construction of the Maison de la Forêt du Pays de Chimay. The idea is to build a building to welcome people interested in the forest and to provide them with the information required to best discover the uniqueness of this extraordinary landscape.
Maison du Tourisme Pays des Lacs
Route de la Plate Taille 99
+32 (0)71 14 34 83
Parc naturel Viroin-Hermeton
Corentin Levacq, coordinateur de la Forêt du Pays de Chimay
Rue d’Avignon, 1
+32 (0)60 39 17 90