Hainaut

Walking around Virelles

How to spend a lovely day walking around Virelles with this 30k route. Unfortunately when I was there it was raining heavily, but I did have an unexpected and delightful nature observation.

After all the “excitement” of the previous evening, my second day of my walking weekend in the Ardennes started out well, with a copious and tasty breakfast at B&B Les Gabelous. Ben, the owner, then kindly gave me a lift into Nismes to pick up my abandoned car. I had already selected an interesting 30 km walk, heading up to the village of Lompret, going into Bois Robert, and circling the Lake of Virelles.

The map shows the route I took. You can download it as a PDF. And you can get the GPX route from my RouteYou page. I was travelling by car so parked on the south side of the Lac de Virelles. However, you could also start from Virelles town centre. This is accessible by bus from Chimay. Unfortunately there is no railway station nearby. In the current heatwave (August 2020) a cool and shady option is to start in Virelles, go clockwise around to my starting point by the lake, and then walk back into Virelles. In other words, missing out the south-eastern leg to Lompret, which is more out in the open (and the heat).

It’s a delightfully varied walk, but when I did it there was one problem …

RAIN, WITH THE FORECAST OF MORE!

As I drove to my starting point, the rain gradually increased in intensity from a light drizzle to a steady downpour. I parked and switched off the windscreen wipers, and soon I couldn’t see anything out of the window.

What to do? I wasn’t sure I really fancied walking 30 km in this weather. But I had come here to do some walking around Virelles, and I wasn’t going to let a downpour get in the way! So I got my waterproofs out and put them on in the car. This meant doing more gymnastics in ten minutes than I’ve done in my whole life. I zipped and buttoned everything up that could possibly be zipped and buttoned up, stepped out of the car into the deluge. And set off.

If you’ve come here expecting some beautiful photos of the Virelles landscape, you’re going to be disappointed. Generally I kept my camera hidden away in a dry pocket, but I did get it out a few times to give you a sense of the joy I was experiencing.

The Belgian Ardennes on a rainy day
This is what a grey Ardennes sky looks like
Walking around Virelles
This was taken from the relative dryness of a pine forest. I was trying to photograph the rain lashing onto the pool
Walking around Virelles - in the rain
And here’s one to prove that I was really out there and not making it all up!

I DID SEE SOMETHING SPECTACULAR!

While deep in Bois Robert, I came across a clearing in the forest where the grass looked like it had been churned up by a tractor and plough.

Virelles on the trail of wild boar

Going closer, I could see little piggy footprints and little piggy snout marks.

Wild boar making a mess of the grass!

I concluded I was looking at the tracks of wild boar, which I have never seen before in the wild. I know that during the day they generally hide up in the undergrowth and avoid people. However, I wondered, on a day like today, when the whole of Bois Forest is totally human-free (apart from me), would they feel it was safe to come out and have a little forage?

In the photo you can probably make out a bench. As it was lunchtime I sat down on it and quietly ate my packed (and very quickly soggy) lunch, while keeping an eye open for any boar who could have been attracted by the smell of my cheese and tomato sandwiches.

No such luck, but about half an hour later, when I was back on the trail, I had a super surprise. An adult wild boar and two juveniles suddenly appeared from the bracken to my left. The adult saw me, gave a grunt and disappeared back into the bracken, quickly followed by the two little boarlets. I edged along the path, stopped where they had disappeared, and stared into the thick bracken, camera at the ready.

From the depths of the undergrowth, a very loud and low grunt resounded!

I became very aware of three things:

  1. Wild boar are generally harmless unless they feel their young are threatened, when they can charge. Yikes!
  2. I had just seen an adult with two young. Double yikes!
  3. I was very alone in the middle of a deserted forest, and the only thing between me and a potentially charging wild boar was a Panasonic compact camera.

A bit later, I came up with a haiku to explain “what happened next”:

Wild board haiku by Denzil Walton

For the rest of the day, the rain continued to fall, and the sun never appeared once. But the sight of those three wild boar meant that my day walking around Virelles was unforgettable.

OVERNIGHT IN AN “ECO CABIN”

Eco cabin for overnight accommodation

Some of you might be looking at this and thinking that your garden shed is bigger. It probably is. This was the eco-cabin that I had booked for the night. It has electricity, but no WiFi. A a dry toilet. No running cold or hot water, but a tap a few meters away for drinking water. It has no sink or washbasin, but around the back is a “shower” which involves filling up a watering can from the (cold) tap, standing on a step, and lodging the watering can on a frame above your head, from whence the water apparently trickles down to give you a shower. (Having spent all day getting wet, this contraption didn’t really appeal to me).

I had chosen this overnight accommodation because I wanted to see the stars. I wanted to be out in the countryside, far from city lights and streetlights for once, and to gaze up at the myriads of stars on a clear summer’s night! Unfortunately … although the rain stopped, the clouds remained. No single star was visible.

Hostess Michèle was friendly and hospitable. She provided a warm evening meal, with the promise of a breakfast and packed lunch for the next day, which surely can’t be as wet as today. Can it? Find out here.

If you’re spending a few days in the area with the children, they might like to visit the Virelles Aquascope,

35 replies »

  1. Right you were to take some time to write such an amusing article, Denzil. I found your haiku exhilirating and so much adapted to the circumstances as were your lessons learned about wild boar 😀 I also like the way you use titles in your writing, like a cliffhanger in a movie 🙂 Regards!

  2. Bless you, Denzil! Nobody could accuse you of wimping out 🙂 🙂 I was going to suggest ham and tomato sandwiches might have been more appealing to a boar but when I think about it that really doesn’t hold water! A little too close to home. Shall I pinch this one for Monday? I’m sure folks would like to see how dedicated you are on their behalf.

    • If it had been a hot dry day I would definitely have tried it out Andrew, but I was more concerned about drying off than getting re-wet.

  3. At first glance, I thought the heading said, “Wild Bear!” and I panicked for you! Not that boar are less dangerous – yikes! Sounds like an amazing adventure, and I hope the weather cleared for you the next day.

  4. I would not think you a coward for chickening out of this! 30km is a long way even in good weather. The accommodation looks – hmm – bijou. Is that a free cat it comes with?

    • There were three cats attached to the place. I’m slightly allergic to cats so didn’t welcome them inside, although they seemed accustomed to that privilege. Yes, bijou is a good description of it Anabel.

    • Considering the venomous animals you have on your continent Carol, meeting a wild boar is just like feeding the ducks in the park! But yes, I am glad she took one look at me and went “yuk” 🙂

      • Denzil, I think you need to come and visit. We don’t come across those venomous animals often. 🙂 And if one decides to come into our house, a quick whack with a shoe fixes that. Except if it was a snake. Mr ET would have to deal with that because I would have run a mile away. We have wild pigs here too and you wouldn’t want to run into one.

  5. Maybe you should have walked in swim trunks – though it was probably way too cold. But what an adventure you ended up having. Isn’t it always the unplanned event that makes something truly spectacular? Boar mama and babies may have been out hunting for truffles – if truffles grown in Belgium. And at the end of that very wet walk, I bet your tiny eco cabin felt like luxury on a postage stamp.

    BTW, please send some of the rain to us – we need it here in Southern California!

    • Rain has been duly dispatched Sharon; it might take a while to reach you though. I am glad you are in south California though and not Texas. Yes, it could have been truffles, which do grow here.

  6. Hello Denzil,
    I really enjoyed your post about the adventures of walking in the wet through the Ardennes. Seeing the little boarlets would be adorable.
    The little Eco cabin is a great idea just for a bed for the night and your host’s meal and packed lunch are a nice extra.
    I appreciated your touched of humour throughout too Denzil.
    Just for the record, my hubby and I would also keep walking in the rain…you’d have company…

      • Hi just wanted to apologise for not reading your reply until today.

        For some reason I am no longer getting notifications of replies to my comments on other blogs!

        My settings say I should get them so not sure what has happened . . .hoping it is a temporary fault. In meanwhile I am today popping round to see everyone I can remember I have left a comment with to alert them why I have not been continuing the conversation.

  7. Wow, they did a job plowing up that clearing!
    This is why they’re never invited to join country clubs.
    Even if unprovoked attacks are rare, I’ve always read that wild boars/feral pigs can be extremely dangerous. Texas now has a couple of million, and you do see mentions in the paper of human fatalities. And when you see they’ve got their litter with them, I’d be pretty worried! Glad your rainy day hike turned out well and certainly very memorable!

    • I’m glad I read your comment about fatalities after my walk and not before it, Robert! I hear they ruin golf courses from time to time. (Not that I have much sympathy, not being a golfing person.)

      • I think when you have a such a huge population of these creatures, as they do in Texas, and yet serious incidents are still so rare, it’s a good indication that the animals will avoid people, whenever an avenue of retreat is available, just as your boar avoided you. But I would still look for a tree to climb!

    • Hi Agness. There is no best time! Each season offers its own delights. Personally I prefer spring and autumn. Summer can be too hot for walking (or too wet, as on this walk), and winter can be too cold and wet (although if it snows and is sunny it is beautiful). Whenever you go, it won’t be busy; it’s not a major tourist destination.

  8. Haha… laughing at your description of the outdoor shower in your wonderful overnight lodgings… 😀 and yes by the looks of you the rain had soaked you enough.
    Loved the pictures and rain, yes plenty of it has been around this Summer for sure. 🙂

    • 🙂 I can quite understand.. My hubby marches through them at speed, while I on the other hand absorb and ponder.. LOL.. And Iike you would prefer a cuppa.. and some cake.. 🙂

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