Spring. Just the mere mention of it invokes a riot of colours in blooms and a clean slate of a sky to rejuvenate the year. It’s the season of rainbows and unicorns, daffodils and fresh blooms. What if there is a blue forest somewhere? Imagine walking past a valley in a forest lined with a carpet of blue and not the usual green. Imagine the entire expanse of your sight awash with blue and purple, slightly swaying in the spring breeze, the bells of the flowers making a silent noise. Well, if you are in Western Europe, do not waste time on imagination and head straight to Hallerbos forest in Belgium which turns blue every Spring.
How blue is my valley?
I haven’t been to many forests, but this one tends to welcome you with its open arms of beeches and sequoia, their young tender leaves imparting a serene hue of green all around. The leaves have just sprung up at the advent of spring, their colour and density changing by the day. Their transparent leaves filter the sunlight and spread their warmth upon the bluebells.
The blue in Hallerbos hits you right at the start of the trail. There’s a simple theory – the bluebells start blooming somewhere from April and last till mid-May, depending on the weather. The large beeches also begin their sprouting season almost simultaneously. Their young green leaves filter the sunlight that reaches the bluebells on the ground and determines the growth and shade of the flowers. For instance, we were in Hallerbos in the third week of April and the sunlight was fairly abundant, helping the bluebells bloom and retain their bright blue hue. In the subsequent weeks, the beech leaves have increased in density, filtering very less sunlight, resulting the bluebells to turn into a greyer shade of purple and start wilting.
This is an amazing phenomenon and I haven’t witnessed this anywhere else! Of course, there are other variants of flora in Hallerbos too – we have missed the yellow Daffodils and Snowdrops that bloomed early April, but we found bushes of anemones (white and pink), young saplings of beech, quite a few wild yellow flowers and a bunch of conifers standing short among beeches and sequoia.
How to reach and navigate in Hallerbos?
The town of Halle is on the southern suburbs of Brussels and can be reached by train from Brussels Central. When you alight at Halle station, you can take the De Lijn buses towards Hallerbos or a free shuttle that operates in the peak season (few weeks of April), every half hour.
Once you reach the forest, you will find volunteers with maps to explain the routes/trails. The blue trail on the map follows the route of only the bluebells and is short (about 5-6 km), while the yellow trail covers most part of the bluebells, part of Daffodils and an amazing forest hike that may include the Deer track (about 11 km in total). We did the longer one and it was absolutely worth it. The undulated terrains shimmering in spring heat evaporating from a dying stream, the sequoia heads high up in the atmosphere swaying with spring breeze, birds cooing on the beeches and lesser explored tracks make this hike a memorable one.
Things to remember
- Carry your own food and drink in abundance. Hallerbos is a natural habitat and there are no restaurants/cafes until you reach Halle town.
- There are very few temporary toilets in the forest – one at the beginning of the trail (Parking 8) and another at Parking 10.
- Carry a few emergency medicines that might be handy.
- Wear light clothes, the forest is not dense and usually warm in the flowering season (April-May).
If you are anywhere in Western Europe during spring, do not miss the beauty at Hallerbos. This year, the flowering season is at its end already. You can check the life cycle of the bluebells in the regular video updates at the Hallerbos tourism website. It’s a treat for any nature lover to witness this phenomenon gradually through a series of videos. There’s also every other information that you need to plan your trip.
Trust me, once you’re there, you might never forget the sight that’s a rarity elsewhere.