Nature

21 Dec 2012

As soon as we leave our homes, nature takes over again.

Walking along the trails you will come across all kinds of fauna and flora that you will appreciate all the more because you are familiar with them or are able to become familiar with them all over again … And each season will offer new discoveries.

The Ardennes comprises extensive forest areas and farmland interspersed with groves, hedgerows and streams of varying sizes. The topography of the plateau, cut by valleys that are sometimes very rugged, allows nature to take its course in the large swathes of land that are teeming with natural resources because they cannot be exploited by humankind. There are lots of nature reserves as well but you do not need to enter them to catch sight by chance of often surprising things. No need for anything out of the ordinary to happen to be amazed at what you can discover…

Ourthe and streams…

An entire aquatic universe of mammals, birds, fish, insects or plants adapted to this environment find their niche here. They rely on the well-oxygenated and fairly unpolluted waters of the Ardennes to feel in their element. The peace and quiet in the incised valleys often allows specific species to find the calm atmosphere they require for their kind of existence.

Examples are: beavers, water buttercups, alders on the banks, dippers, mayflies, chubs, brown trout…

Hardwood forest…

As you will have noticed along the theme-specific loops, the hiking trails head off into the centre of the hardwood forest from time to time. This comprises beech and oak, well-established over many long years, along with maple, ash and mountain ash trees … at the edge. This rich and diversified living environment is also home to a wealth of fauna and flora.

Examples are: wild boar, black woodpecker, butterflies such as the lesser purple emperor, hairstreak or admiral, marten, foxglove…

Villages

There right before our eyes we can see nature interacting with human beings. So discretely at times that we hardly notice a thing. And yet the village just like the countryside is teeming with wildlife… as long as we are prepared to create the right conditions for this good neighbourly relationship.! No more pesticides, fungicides, insecticides and other “thingy-cides’ in the garden or in the vicinity of houses. We now realise just how detrimental these items are to our well-being. …

Allow the red campion, dandelion, ladybird and spiders to live their lives. Would it really be more pleasant to see no swallows returning in the springtime than to do a spot of brushing under their nests? And let us not forget that the garden mole eats only insects and has no liking for vegetables … As for the fox, all you have do is lock your chickens up safely !

Rocks and old walls/strong>

The steep terrain dug by the Ourthe over thousands of years reveals rocky patches (Hérou), ridges along valleys or the smaller but often remarkable rock masses. The landscape also features old quarries. And in the village centres or along the fields and paths, several dry stone walls serve to underline the smaller altitude differences. These environments are also “inhabited” by a tiny often neglected world!

Examples are: different species of bats, ferns, wren, slow worms, lizards, crickets…

Plateau meadows…

Subject to intensive cropping or left in a comparatively natural state, the meadows are everywhere. The more natural they remain the larger the variety of fauna and flora species. Some non-enriched meadows that are mown once a year are authentic nature reserves.

Examples are: hares, daisies or poppies, chrysanthemums, grasshoppers and crickets …

Conifer forest

Although less rich than the diverse hardwood forests, spruce forests are also home to a tiny world keen on this environment. Few plants thrive in the soil because it is too much in the shade and turned acid owing to the slow decomposition of the needles but a few creatures are able to find enough sustenance here to cover their basic needs.

Examples are: squirrels, wood ragwort, crossbills, engraver beetles …

Ponds, wet meadows…

Owing to natural aggradation or human activity, these tend to disappear over time. It is vital for there to be a large number of them. Some are recreated by volunteers or as part of local or even European projects. Their specific characteristics, constant moisture content and the quiet shelters they offer owing to the absence of human beings means they offer splendid protection for lots of species.

Examples are: frogs and other amphibians, meadowsweet, the black stork, dragonflies…

Tailles Plateau

An authentic font of rich regional resources, the Tailles Plateau boasts some amazing fenland areas. From “fen to mud” is a mere step away … these are extensive reserves of stagnant water gradually seeping into the soil, thus creating a few very special biotopes. Peat bogs, acid streams, jamas, lands …

Examples of the specific plant life to be found here are: cotton grass, cinquefoil, bog asphodel, peat moss, sundew, cranberry… The creatures confined there are directly dependent on these species: dragonflies and specific types of butterflies, shrike – grey or red-backed–, stonechat, common snipe, roe deer or red deer…

Hedges and thickets

A marvellous jumble full of treasures! Away from prying eyes, we discover a paradise of tiny mammals, birds, insects, toadstools or … “weeds” ! Every member of this tiny universe is flourishing happily. There is no-one to decide who lives here or not, if they like the environment that is where they stay. Away from the boundaries to the swathes of land, the network of hedges and thickets also plays a key role as a biological corridor allowing individuals (fauna and flora) to “move” from one place to another, and thus promote genetic exchanges.

Examples are: the common dormouse, snowball bush, blackbird, wasps, agaric… and many other companions …

Roadsides

The often dry and bare, well exposed roadside also contains wildlife treasures. This biotope is not omnipresent and just like hedges it can serve as an ecological network. It is a favourite spot for certain types of insects, mammals and plants that thrive there.

Broom at the meadow’s edge, creeping thyme, ants and slugs along with their predators, such as the tit, chaffinch or hedgehog … go together well with the shrew or the blackbird…