As a modern, cosmopolitan city with a rich history, Brussels is a wonderful place to come for a holiday, but nobody should neglect the great countryside that surrounds the Belgian capital.
One of the wonders of the area is Foret des Soignes, or the Sonian Forest. It is located on the southern edge of Brussels and part of it lies within the city boundaries, although just over half of it is in Flanders and a small part in Wallonia. This means the forest is very easy to reach from the heart of Brussels and it offers a complete contrast with the busy city, as this ecological wonder acts as more than just a green lung, but a haven for conservation efforts. Rich in shade and water, this is a great place for wildlife, not least amphibians such as the brown frog and the common toad.
There are also fire salamanders and several newts, including the rare and protected great crested newt. The bird life is fascinating too, with three kinds of woodpecker – the black variety is a protected species – plus kingfishers and the goldcrest, Europe’s smallest birds. The mammals include deer, bats, wild boar and red squirrels.Among the trees are beech, oak, ash and maple. There are various fungal species too, while the human history includes a number of secluded monasteries, although none of these are in use today. All this makes the forest a fascinating and attractive place, but this is not just a place to visit one day and then leave. Instead, you can lend a hand by helping to record the biodiversity of the forest, or share your photos on the forest website.
Moreover, there is always a chance to learn extra by taking part in a guided walk or attending a talk on an aspect of life and ecology in the forest. So while a visit to Brussels offers a great chance to discover a fascinating and important city, make sure you look to the south and discover the wonder that is the Sonian Forest.