It always surprises me that there are so many lovely places to visit that are so close to the major urban areas of Brussels and Leuven. And so few people seem to have discovered them.
Take Bertem Woods for example. Nestling snugly between these two cities, this is a delightful place to wander through, especially at this time of the year when the forest floor is covered with a carpet of white wood anemones:
and fringed with yellow celandines:
Walking through these woods in spring is an exercise in patience. It would be so easy to walk right through at a good pace, enjoying the colours I’m sure, but missing so many of the little details. I sometimes find it takes a while to “settle” into a slower pace when I am in the country, and take time to really enjoy the sights and sounds around me.
The sounds, for example. A deciduous wood in spring is full of singing birds. In the Bertem Woods I highly recommend taking time to sit on a log and just listen. Closing your eyes always seems to help me focus on the sounds. The strong and strident song thrush, the rambling blackcap warbler, the feisty little ditty of the great tit, the monotonous chiffchaff, the aggressively noisy nuthatches. But when you really listen, other birds can be heard, that are quieter or more distant. The mournful robin, the wheezy little coal tit, and then right up in the top of the trees, the squeaky and almost inaudible goldcrest.
Sitting still also means that the animals of the forest feel it’s safe to go about their business. Shrews squeak and whistle in the undergrowth, and I was fortunate enough to see a couple of wood mice feeding at the base of a tree trunk.
Best of all though, the April sunshine brought out a common lizard – extremely rare in this area and limited to just a few breeding pairs:
Later on, I found these interesting creatures in a water tank:
I thought at first they were smooth newts, but apparently they are alpine newts.
The sunshine and temperatures in the mid-20s had brought out early butterflies: red admirals, commas and brimstones, as well as this lovely peacock:
So all in all, the Bertembos is very much worth a couple of hours walking through it – and some minutes just sitting still and letting nature come to you!