Ever since I heard about the magical bluebell forest near Halle, I wanted to visit it and see it myself. I wanted to see the Bluebells at Hallerbos Belgium in the early morning and enjoy nature. Little did I know that I would get into a fight over the bluebells at the Hallerbos. Our quiet morning walk in the forest turned into a frustrated, angry fight. Luckily nobody got hurt, but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth. Curious what started the fight? Here is my story.
Bluebell Forest Belgium
The Hallerbos in Belgium is a dense forest, just south of Brussel. In this 5.5 hectares (135 acres) big woodland area, from mid-April to May the grounds are covered with delicate wild bluebells. Who doesn’t want to see that? My idea was to go really early in the morning, to catch the dew on the flowers and have the place to ourselves. It took some planning but we made it!
We drove out to Belgium late Thursday night and checked into our Airnbn close to the forest. We set the alarm to ridiculously early in the morning and we set out to see the bluebells at Hallerbos in Belgium.
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Early arrival at Hallerbos Belgium
After a tip from our Airbnb host, we parked the car and walked towards the forest. Although it wasn’t even 7 am on a Friday morning, we were still not the only people there. Luckily, the photographers went in the other direction and after a sandwich for breakfast, we followed the purple 5km (3 mile) long path that brings you through the heart of the Bluebell Forest at Hallerbos.
The bluebells at Hallerbos are amazing! A sea of purple, amidst the fresh green ferns and trees. It is really like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I kept snapping pictures, one after the other. Every time I looked around the corner, I found more patched of wild bluebell flowers among the trees. It is a magical sight. If you crouch down, to take a closer look at the bluebells, you’ll see these fragile little stems with several chalices. They range from dark purple to off- white. One bluebell doesn’t look so bright, but if you put them together, you’ll see a sea of purple.
Read more: Botanical Gardens in Utrecht – Netherlands.
Bluebell route in the forest
We took our time to photograph the bluebells as we slowly walked the route around the forest. At some point, we heard voices in the distance. We even heard the monotome buzzing of a drone. We came to a point in the middle of the forest, close to a big parking lot. Here we found the bluebells growing over the hills of the Hallerbos and it was a magnificent sight.
We were clearly not the only ones who thought this was the prettiest place in the forest. We encountered several photographs up on the hill opposite of the sea of bluebells. I said to my boyfriend: ghee, what is so special about this view that it is worth to trample all the bluebells for? I didn’t say anything else, because I could see his face turn angry. My boyfriend used to be a photographer himself. It is a competitive business and every photographer tries to be unique and come home with that million dollar shot that nobody else has.
But it is also a ruthless competition. Photographer fight each other for the best shot and do things that can harm others (think of papparazzi photographers) to come home with the winning photograph. It was when I realized I could never be that ruthless that I gave up my biggest passion of becoming a photographer myself.
How we got into a fight at the Bluebells Forest Belgium
Anyways, back to the forest. We walked in between to sets of hills on opposite sites of the forest. One hill was covered with purple bluebells that lay as a thick blanket in between the trees. The other hill was brown and barren. On the hill a group of photographer stood there with their tele-lenses. They were photographing the fields across from them. They walked up and down the hill, stepping over the rope that was put there to prevent them from getting off the path.
I think we both lost it there. We looked at the group of photographers and shook our head. We made some remarks that we hoped they would get a big fat fine for ignoring the signs and destroying the delicate nature in the forest.
They seem to ignore us. I wasn’t sure if they’d understand us, because in this part of Belgium, you’re never sure if people speak the Flemish or French language.
The photographer closest to me, glanced at me. I knew she heard me and she had understood what I’d said. She choose to ignore me. This made me even more angry. And then.. my boyfriend lost it. One guy, stepped off the path, over the rope, passed the ‘do not get off the path sign’ and walked up the hill to join his friends.
My boyfriend picked up the sign and waved it in front of the photographer’s faces. In hindsight maybe not the wisest thing to do as it was a bit provocative, but I guess we both felt ignored. One guy started waving his hands and walking towards us. He said in Flemish (which we understand): “yes yes, stop with your moral story, we get it.”
Heated arguments over bluebells
We then got into a heated argument with him and a photographer friend and a couple that walked their dog (who were on our side), about that they shouldn’t be on that hill. The guy argued that there weren’t any bluebells on the hill, so it didn’t matter. We were struck by so much dumbness. We said that there never will be bluebells on that hill, because people tremple them and they don’t get a chance to grow this way. He argued that he was a local. That was his main argument: “I’m from here!”
We were both struck for words. We said to him that he should know better than if he was a local. I guess the photographer was annoyed that we called him out on his behavior and kept shrugging his shoulders at us. My boyfriend was turning bright red by now and my blood was boiling. The rest of the photographers on the hill watched us argue sheepisly and didn’t move. Some new photographers got off the path and joined them on the hill.
At this point, I knew our morning was ruined already. We were both so angry and frustrated. I felt it was better to walk away as they didn’t listen to us and I didn’t feel like getting into a fist fight over bluebells at Hallerbos. How to explain that to the police? I hit a guy in the face because of some flowers?
We walked away and raged at each other for the next hour or so. Luckily, during the remainder of our walk at the Bluebells forest in Halle, we didn’t see anyone else get off the path, so our anger calmed a bit.
Sun rays on the bluebells
As the morning progressed, the sun won strength. The rays peeked through the trees and illuminated the patches of purple on the ground. For a moment, we forgot our anger and enjoyed the magical scenery. How can anyone be so ignorant and willingly destroy this beautiful nature, only to get a better shot at showing the world how beautiful it is?
Why are Wild Bluebells so Delicate?
So, what was all the fuss about? It seems like a logic response to claim that there weren’t any bluebells at that piece of land anyway. It wasn’t like they were trampling any bluebells, right?
Bluebells are very delicate flowers. Before we see them, they have already struggled 10 years to survive. A bluebells seed needs 5 years to develop into a bulb. And a bulb needs another 5 years to be strong enough to grow into a flower. What we see above the ground is 10 years of nature’s hard work. Every time we step on the ground with our full body weight and our hiking boots, we disturb the ground and the soil below us. Without knowing it, we damage the woodland terrain, destroying potential new bluebells to grow and floorish. More about wild bluebells here.
Keep on the path
Everywhere in the bluebells forest in Halle Belgium, you’ll see ropes and signs to not leave the path. The paths are clearly marked and everywhere you’ll see signs. Some signs have been up since 2009. At the time of writing, that is over 9 years. Behind those signs, you’ll clearly see a man-made path. Left and right of the path, you can find the wild bluebells flourish, but even after almost a decade, there still no bluebells on the previous path. What we do today, impacts our future and the future of those around us.
When do the Bluebells Bloom?
It seems like a magic unicorn to catch the bluebells in full bloom at the Hallerbos in Belgium. The wild bluebells bloom when the ground warms up and the sun rays touch the flowers. This can only be achieved in early spring, when the trees are still leafless. The sun peeks through the trees and sets the young flowers off. They bloom and flourish.
As soon as the days become longer and the sunlight more intense, the rest of the forest starts to bloom. More and more leafs grow on the trees, blocking the bluebells from the sunlight. The wild bluebells start to wither and eventually vanish.
In general, as of half April, the first bluebells start to appear. By the time May comes around, most bluebells have vanished as the vegetation in the forest becomes thicker. The Bluebells forest in Halle Belgium is at it’s most beautiful when the lower branches of the trees have young bright green leafs and the ground is covered with a carpet of purple flowers. We were already a bit too late, but I still found it magical. A good indication of when the best time to see the bluebells forest is to follow the diary of the Hallerbos Belgium. You can find their website here.
How to get to Hallerbos Belgium?
If you travel in Belgium from half April to early May, I can definitely recommend a visit to the biggest bluebell forest in Belgium! The Bluebells Forest is close to the small city of Halle. Halle is only 20 km (12 miles) from Bruxelles, Belgium’s capital. A direct train from Bruxelles Midi takes you in 9 to 16 minutes to Halle. From Halle, you can take several buses to the Hallerbos. Find out more detailed information about public transport to the bluebell forest here.
We traveled by car, and parked our car at one of the many free car parks around the Hallerbos Belgium. From there, it was only a minute to the bluebell forest and we easily found the bluebell walking route to find the best views of Hallerbos.
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How to be a Sustainable traveller and not be an *******
Excuse the language but I think those photographers were absolute assholes. Being dumb and selfish is one thing, but being called out about it and then ignore it and even pick a fight, then you’re just an asshole in my book.
Anyways, how to be a sustainable traveler when you visit nature, like the Bluebell forest in Halle?
It is very easy:
- Follow the rules
- Read the signs
- Stay on the path
- Don’t pick any flowers
- Behave as a visitor and a guest to the forest
- Don’t leave your trash
- Don’t destroy anything
- Be a respectful traveler
It seems travelers everywhere around the world look for more unique and personalized ways to experience travel. A visit to the Hallerbos is definitely a very unique experience, as not one season is the same. Each day, the forest changes and even my experiences at an early morning can be different from yours later in the day. But that doesn’t mean we can just own the forest and claim it as our own. We are visitors and if we don’t treat the Bluebell forest in Belgium with respect, soon there will nothing left to enjoy or Instagram about.
Read more: Sustainable travel and free walking tours
Gorgeous Bluebell Forest in Halle Belgium
As you can read above, the matter really aggravates me. Even writing this from the comforts of my home, makes me angry again. I know the above story might be more a rant than a fun traveler’s story, but I hope you appreciate it nevertheless.
Only when we know what damage we do and why it is important to follow the rules, ignorant people will understand why the rules are needed. I learned a lot about bluebells and nature at the Hallerbos Belgium. What I thought would be a fun purple visit to nature, turned out to be a disappointment in our fellow humans. But it also sparked a fire within me. That the nature is worth to fight for. Some fight with words or with fists. I hope I can fight with my written words and achieve some awareness about the delicate nature and why it is so important to protect it.
Have you been to the bluebell forest in Halle Belgium? Add it to your bucket list! You won’t regret it!