This time of year, thousands of people are awed by the Purple Forest, the beautiful Hallerbos close to Brussels, with its endless tapestries of bluebells.
Tourists come from all over the world, making the romantic scenery suffer more, year after year, under its own unprecedented success, forcing the foresters to re-evaluate how they deal with visitors in their top-ten forest.
A first reasonal solution is an increase in supervision: scouting the forest on peak days, convincing tourists to stay on the paths and leave the bluebells undisturbed, as well as putting warning signs at every indication of past deviations from the marked trail. While staying on the trail might sound obvious to some, the urge to get the perfect picture easily blows reason right out of the minds of many nature lovers. And for many tourists, their visit to Hallerbos is their first forest experience, and then a little guidance is needed.
The second solution is an even more interesting one: remind the visitors that the Hallerbos is not alone in its breathtaking beauty. The center of Belgium is scattered with several smaller or larger patches of forest that are all extraordinarily beautiful in spring.
Several of these forests even host their own tapestries of bluebells. Not as extensive as the one in the Hallerbos, yet they make up in tranquility for what they lack in surface area. The pictures in this post, for example, where made in a small patch of forest close to Nivelles, a few tens of kilometers south of Brussels and the Hallerbos. The patch is called ‘Bois d’Arpes’, and I accidentally stumbled upon it at the height of its bluebell season.
Taking away the masses, adding the excitement of discovery, it made the bluebells a whole lot more ‘real’ and natural again to me.
So here is my suggestion for next spring: give the Hallerbos some well-deserved peace and quiet, and dive into the other forests in the area. Let yourself be surprised by what you find there, be it bluebells, or one of the tens of other amazing spring flowers that Belgium’s forest host.