Fleeing last weekend’s heat wave, we went into the arboretum of Tervuren in the Foret de Soignes in search of some fresh air. It was much more bearable outside than at home, with the house heated up after a minimum night temperature of 28°C. If there is an appropriate time to walk under the forest canopy, it was then, enjoying the gentle shadow of the Arboretum’s trees like the natural protection forests granted to our ancestors.
This geographical arboretum was planted a century ago with the support of Leopold II (always trying to make Brussels a grand European capital, despite his cruelty and rapacity) so now it is splendidly grown. As long as you walk —each grove corresponding to a geographical area— you discover the trees of the forests of the Northern Hemisphere —with the exception of the araucarias which come from the Andes—. There is little information provided on site —there are few information boards and only in Dutch as this part of the Foret de Soignes lies on Flemish soil—. Don’t let yourself be impressed by its size! You will not have to resort to breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel. In fact the area is much more attainable than you imagine at first sight, with one main path —or street as many bikes dash by— under dark-leaved beech trees that crosses the arboretum and various forks with lawns along the valley, where you will take the best panoramic pictures.
Among my favorite trees in the park: the giant sequoias, the tallest trees in the world, with their straight trunks and reddish barks; the monkey puzzle trees (araucarias), with their snake-like branches, almost a Medusa-tree; and the profusion of acers (they must be spectacular in autumn) with their delicate leaves.
The Foret de Soignes is so huge that it always seems challenging to pick up a spot to begin with. The arboretum is a park which is surrounded itself by one of the biggest suburban forests in Europe. The Foret de Soignes is a Natura 2000 site with some recent projects to avoid its fragmentation.
Credit images © Ruskin in Brussels