The wood colours completely green. A frail magical fresh-green light filters through an uncountable number of young beech leaves. The bluebells are withering. Only the ones on the few places where there still is enough sunlight have their purple-blue colour. But there is less light each day in the wood and the bluebells are less noticeable. In the moist, calcareous valleys wild garlic is flowering. Great horsetail arises from the shallow water of source streams. Solomon’s seal, yellow archangel and sweetscented bedstraw are flowering. The nuthatch couple has young, caterpillars are being delivered and faecal sacks are removed. Wood mice are active, and by twilight when it is more quiet in the wood, the roe deer can feel at home again in the wood. The wonderful flowering period of bluebells is over and has passed very quickly this year.
The young beech leaves make it harder and harder for the sunlight to reach the bluebells. Lots of flowers have been pollinated and start withering, their deep purple blue colour getting paler. Meanwhile, bear’s garlic is blooming in the moist, calcareous valleys. Yellow archangel, Solomon’s seal and greater stitchworth are blooming in the edges of the paths that get a lot of light. Unfortunately, the traces of respectless photographers and smartphone users are visible, leaving a trail of destruction in the form of new paths and open spaces where completely trampled bluebells disfiguring the fragile forest. This is destruction of a natural environment protected by the European Union.
Saturday afternoon 27 April there is the yearly ‘bluebell jogging’, 1200 participants are expected. If you want to walk in peace and quiet, it is better to choose another moment.
The summer temperatures wake the trees from their hibernation. There is no stopping the beeches any longer. Yesterday only a handful of high trees were coming into leaf, today there are countless others as well. It is going very quickly now. Fortunately, the warmth helps the bluebells as well. The valleys and the flanks are fairy-tale-ish. The forest is wonderfully beautiful. A sea of fragile purple-blue bells and its fragrance, fill the forest. The shadows of the beech’ stems throw endless stripes over the bluebells. The coming days the beech canopy will get filled with pale green translucent leaves over the flowers. Nothing as peaceful as walking in a forest with fragile, soft spring colours. Another week or less to enjoy the game of light and shadow, and to walk in a living stained glass window. Once the sun can not reach the flowers any more, they will colour pale blue-grey instead of purple-blue.
Wood anemones have been pollinated and start withering. On the sunny edges of the paths, Lords-and-ladies and garlic mustard are blooming. Nothing is as peaceful as walking in a purple-blue fairytale-like wood under fresh green translucent young beech leaves. This is a spring experience not to be missed. The plateaus, where the sun can spread her warmth the whole day, are colouring deep purple-blue. The bluebells’ flower stalks are growing, thereby carrying the flowers higher than their green leaves, hiding the green carpet. The cooler valleys and flanks are gradually getting the irresistible spring colours, but a lot of bluebells are still in their buds, it is going to be a race against the time for bluebells that have to start flowering yet. The warm spring sun is tempting the beech leaves to get out of their buds, a few high beeches are already coming into leaf. As long as not all beech leaves are starting to grow, all will be fine for the bluebells as the sun can then spoil them and the bumblebees can pollinate them. A bluebell’s leaves are now making a new bulb for the coming year. So do not destroy them by stepping on them to take a picture. Getting off the track, standing on the forest floor, makes the forest floor more dense, too dense for the tiny roots, that come out of a bluebell’s seed in autumn, to pierce through the soil. Meaning: no new bluebells. Please take your pictures staying on the paths. The next 8 to 10 days will be of an intense beauty in the forest.
What a splendid day to walk in the quiet wood. The wood anemones enjoy the spring sun. Places that get the warmth of the sun the whole day, are gradually turning an intense blue-purple. In the valleys, that get less hours of sun, the bluebells start flowering more slowly. The beautiful weather forecasted for the second half of the week, will see the slopes turn into a wonderful blooming sea of bluebells and a living fairy tale wood. Time to grab your walking shoes. Choose a sunny day and come on a week day as it is more quiet then. Information on the free shuttle bus at weekends: click here. The next fourteen days will be good to enjoy the spring in the forest. The only thing that the forest wants in return is not to be trampled. So please do stay on the tracks, also to take pictures.
Wood anemones are real sunbathers. They never lose sight of the sun, not for a minute. There is an increasing number of bluebells every day, colouring the wood blue-purple, even if most of them still have to start blooming. Countless flower buds are waiting for more spring warmth. If you can visit the wood only once, it is better to wait a while, as the wood is going to get more blue-purple. Some advice when visiting the forest: check the weather report, choose a sunny day, wear walking shoes, bring a bottle of water and a snack, as the fairy-tale wood will tempt you to stay longer than you planned. Ask for a walking map or take a picture of this map at an information board so as to find your way back and try to come on weekdays when it is more quiet. Do you love the forest? Then protect it, stay on the official tracks also to take pictures, do not throw away rubbish. This way you do not leave any trace and anybody coming after you can also enjoy this wonderful nature.
The sun! And there are the white stars of the wood anemones again. The bluebells enjoy the spring sun as well, there are new purple-blue flowers every day. The plateaus, warmed by the sun the whole day, are gradually changing into a purple-blue sea of flowers. But many bluebells do not even have their flower buds yet, especially the ones on flanks and slopes. The first fern leaves unroll and small beeches have some fresh green leaves. It’s worth the while to visit the wood on any sunny day now. Do take in account that the Hallerbos is a protected nature reserve with fragile and rare vegetation. It is not a park nor a recreation area. Respect it accordingly. Always stay on the paths. Also to take pictures. Bring a bottle of water and food. Good walking shoes are recommended. If you park your car, remember which parking you are on: all car parks are numbered. There are 45 km of official walking paths. This does not include the bridle paths, which are forbidden for walkers.
The high air humidity enfolded the wood in a misty atmosphere in the morning. Wood anemones keep their leaves shut so as to keep their pollen dry. The low temperature slows down the bluebells’ flowering, as a result the flanks and the slopes stay ‘green’ with millions of bluebells’ leaves. It is these green leaves that are working hard these weeks to form new bulbs, and wherever these leaves are trampled, there will simply be no bluebells next year. So it is important to stay on the paths, even where there don’t seem to be any bluebells. Young bluebell plants look like ordinary blades of grass for the first four years of their life, they are destroyed in an instant by whoever leaves the path ‘just’ to take a picture.
The carpet of dead beech leaves may seem bare, but is in fact full of tiny young beeches. Also for these, it’s important to stay on the paths. Their first two leaves look like an elephant’s ears. Herb-Paris and Solomon’s seal adorn the edges of the paths here and there. The poles indicating the “bluebells walk” are ready to guide the visitors through the purple-blue fairy-like wood shortly. From the coming weekend on, the special arrangement with the free shuttle bus starts. But this weekend it is still too early to see the intensely flowering bluebells’ sea. When in the wood, pay attention to the access arrangements: pictograms show which path is for whom: walker, biker or horse rider. Being a walker or a biker, never ever go on the horse riders’ paths, they are not for walking or biking and it can be dangerous.
The wood anemones are in full bloom now. Their white petals, yearning for the sunlight, give a wonderful spring atmosphere. Just like every year at the beginning of the flowering of the bluebells, there is a big difference between the plateaus where the sun can heat the soil the whole day, and the flanks of the valleys. The plateaus are slowly getting some purple green colour. The flanks of the valleys are still completely green. Most bluebells have to start flowering yet, also on the plateaus. We will not yet see the bluebells at their flowering peak the next days, but every sunny day is a wonderful spring event.
The wood anemones can be enjoyed now with their star-shaped flowers against a green carpet of bluebell leaves. They follow the sun as if they were living solar panels. They will stay the most prominent of spring flowers for the next ten days. More bluebells come into leaf, but they are still a long way from forming a blue sea of flowers as most plants do not have their flower buds yet. Lesser calendine is flowering along the path, its flowers only open when the sun shines. Some flowering early dog-violet can be found, and the fragile, scarce Belgian gagea. It’s marvellous to walk in the wood on a sunny day. Do stay on the paths, please, also when taking pictures.