I completed the 2nd and 3rd stages of the GR 571 over a weekend; this blog post deals with just the 2nd stage with the overnight stop in Stoumont, after which I continued on the 3rd stage to Trois-Ponts.
Here is the starting point:
It’s easy to reach by car or train. I took the train from my home town to Leuven, and then to LiÃ¨ge where I caught the train heading to Luxembourg, which stops at Aywaille. If you buy a Rail Pass the return journey (from any station in Belgium) costs just 15.20 EUR, which I think is good value as well as environmentally-friendly. And for that I get an hour-and-a-half of relaxation and reading, and arrive fresh and ready to start walking.
Which is just as well because as with stage 1, the GR ascends quickly and steeply from the river valley up onto the hills, so I was soon struggling for breath.
Thankfully there was bench at the top.
Once I had got my breath back, the walk continues along the top of the ridge with some great views of where I was heading.
You’ve probably noticed something already by its absence: the sun! Yes, the whole weekend was dull and grey, with low, thick cloud and not even a hint of sunshine. It was also very cold, hovering around 5Â°C. Still, it was dry, which was the main thing. But don’t expect gorgeous pictures of blue sky, because there wasn’t any!
As this area saw a lot of action during the Second World War, there were quite a few memorials and plaques commemorating various battles.
Despite the cold dull weather, as I picked up the pace I really enjoyed myself. And there was plenty of company along the way:
The first village I passed through was Sougne:
And then Remouchamps, with its underground caves to visit, if you want to break your walk (I didn’t):
Then it was time to descend through some lovely woods, which will look even lovelier in the spring when the leaves are on the trees,
and to the junction of the GR 571 with the GR 15 at the wonderfully named Ninglinspo.
Here I remembered the good advice of my blogging/walking friend Guido, who warned me that when two GRs cross, make sure you follow the correct set of red-and-white signs!
Having made sure I was on the GR 571 and not the GR 15, the path followed the AmblÃ¨ve to the Fonds de Quareux. These are huge blocks of quartzite which almost, but not quite, block the river.
The local legend is that the miller of the Fonds de Quarreux sold his soul to the Devil to get the wonderful mill he was dreaming about. But his wife refused to play along and tried to save his soul. The mill wheels didn’t start turning, and the Devil was very angry, destroyed the mill, and caused blocks of stones to fall down the mountain into the AmblÃ¨ve.
After the Fonds, the GR 571 leaves the AmblÃ¨ve and climbs relentlessly upwards along the valley of the Chefna. This was a particularly glorious part of the walk. The Chefna was in full flow after the winter’s rains and snow, and it was highly picturesque as it cascaded down the hillside.
However … the path crossed from one side of the river to the other, which necessitated crossing some rather precarious footbridges! One of them was so slanting and wet that I decided not to walk across, but crawl from one side to the other!
I was quite pleased when I finally came across a more sturdily built footbridge!
As I got higher and higher, through the trees I glimpsed a surprising sight that I had not expected.
No it’s not a carpet of spring snowdrops, but of snow:
Where I live in Flanders, we had not had any snow this winter, and I didn’t think Wallonia had either. How wrong I was!
Leaving the trees behind, I was now on the top of the Hautes Fagnes, the high moors: cold, barren, wild, windy and wet, yet totally invigorating:
The final few kilometres involved a pleasant descent through the forests to the village of Stoumont. Here I was picked up by Maggy, my overnight host, who I found on AirBnb. I had a lovely evening in her cosy Ardennes cottage, good food and a great sleep.I could even watch England beat France at rugby on the television and win the Grand Slam!Â Maggy’s is a highly recommended place to stay at, and I hope to stay with her on the return leg of the GR 571, which passes the other side of Stoumont.
We had also agreed on a price for evening meal, breakfast and a lunch pack for the next day, which I will cover in a forthcoming post.
The route was 21.3 km, and you can find it here on RouteYou.
What an amazing walk you had with beautiful scenery, four legged friends, and a nice stop at the end. I am impressed by how your beautiful part of the world still to this day recognizes the sacrifices made in WWII. From a member of a family who lost loved ones in that area, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Gone but not forgotten.
Glad you liked it Judy. Do you know where they fought, and fell? I might be passing through there.
Denzil, another great hike! I loved all the pictures and felt like I was there with you! In my younger days I belonged to a VolksMarche Club and we would walk 10k every weekend and sometimes 20k! I would drive hours to walk! Walking the plank is not part of your walk? Ha Ha! I have always had a good experience with Air B&B! Great find! Look forward to your next installments!
Ha! That’s funny: walking the plank. It felt that scary at times.
Dear Denzil, I forward this to several friends/walkers, all GR experienced guys. We definetely have to make an appointment to do some hikes together.
Maybe second half of APril ?
see you Jos
2016-03-28 12:36 GMT+02:00 Discovering Belgium :
> Denzil posted: “I completed the 2nd and 3rd stages of the GR 571 over a > weekend; this blog post deals with just the 2nd stage with the overnight > stop in Stoumont, after which I continued on the 3rd stage to Trois-Ponts. > Here is the starting point: It’s easy to reach ” >
Thanks for sharing and commenting Jos. I look forward to going hiking with you and your friends.
Those caves look intriguing. I hope you go back another day so you can take us through. I’m not surprised you crawled across that bridge. I would have too. Looking forward to the next part of the walk.
Yes Carol, I would like to visit the caves (and there are others in Belgium too).
The waterfalls look good but I’m pretty sure I’d have ended up in the water if I’d chanced some of those ‘bridges’, Denzil. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for your comment Jo. I did jump across the river a couple of times, or use stepping stones, but the stones were very wet and slippy so didn’t fancy them.
A long way to walk to watch England beat somebody at something. Interesting that you have to wait for winter to finish to really get into the walking ‘season’ and over here we have to wait for autumn/winter to start before we head ‘bush’.
Yes, you Australians certainly know how to do things differently!
Way too hot and dry to go walking around here in summer. Plus that’s when all the snakes and biting things are out and about.
Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Seal sanctuary | restlessjo
seguendo l’amica Jo sono stata curiosa di scoprire qualcosa in piÃ¹ della tua nazione, ho soggiornato questo agosto a Bruges, innamorandomene, ma il mio viaggio era programmato per salire ancora piÃ¹ a nord, cosÃ¬ sono felicissima di avere scoperto questo splendido angolo del tuo Paese, grazie mille!
It’s a pleasure!
Dear Denzil, I absolutely enjoyed this blog entry; GR 571 seems to be a great choice and I have heard nothing but lovely things about the Ninglispo area. I personally hope to continue on my GR 15 journey very soon; the next stage would take me just there. In the mean time I have made a wonderful trip to Italy and celebrated my retirement there. Don’t know yet when I put my hiking shoes on again.
Congratulations on you retirement Guido. Do you have any future plans for more hiking now you are free from the 9 to 5 routine? Thanks for your positive remark on my blog post too.
Pingback: GR 571 Stage 3: Stoumont to Trois-Ponts – Discovering Belgium
What a great series of photos – such a pretty trail. Glad you found the cool weather invigorating.
Thanks for your comment. I’m looking forward to a bit more warmth on future treks!
Pingback: GR 571 Stage 6: Gouvy to Verleumont | Discovering Belgium
Pingback: GR 571 Stage 6: Gouvy to Verleumont – Discovering Belgium
We did the stretch between Aywaille and Trois-Ponts. Beautiful part of the Ardennes. Our report (dutch): https://www.caersbart.be/hiking/gr-571/
Super report Bart! Thanks for sharing it with me. I’ll promote your website a bit …