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Already too many people at Hallerbos, as blooms begin

14:57 21/04/2021

The city of Halle has had to take additional measures to control crowds in its famous forest, where the bluebells have started to blossom. The wood just outside of Brussels attracts tens of thousands of visitors every spring for its glorious purple carpets of bluebells on the forest floor.

The blooms arrived a little late this year, but will last for several weeks. Last weekend, the forest had its first taste of too many visitors to maintain coronavirus regulations.

Mayor Marc Snoeck (Vooruit) said the city did everything it could to prevent crowds from forming on the forest’s many paths. “We did not organise the bluebell festival this year, we shut off the parking areas, and there were no free shuttle buses,” he told VRT. “But that didn’t seem to make much of a difference.”

During a normal year, the forest can get uncomfortably full at weekends, with people from across Belgium taking advantage of the glorious scene. The city lays on a shuttle bus from the train station and provides ample parking at forest entrances. But this year those amenities are not offered because, says the mayor, they want to discourage people from coming as the health crisis continues.

Hallerbos in bloom
The Hallerbos is indeed magical when in full bloom

Additional measures will be taken for the coming weekends. The biggest crowds are at the crossroads of paths, so the mayor is asking that everywhere wear a facemask when in those areas. There will also be additional stewards to remind visitors of the rules (stay on the path being a big one) and police to clear areas where too many people are gathered. Parking agents will patrols surrounding roads “so you can expect a fine if you are illegally parked,” said the mayor.

Snoeck specifically mentioned expats in a plea to residents of his city to visit during the week rather than at the weekend. “At weekends, huge numbers of people come to Hallerbos, especially Brussels expats,” he said. “So I would like to ask my residents to enjoy the bluebells during the week. It is much calmer then and so much more pleasant. If the people of Halle honour my request, it will be much easier to spread visitors out.”

The mayor said that blocking access to the forest altogether wasn’t an option. “There are so many ways in and out of the forest that it’s impossible to close it.”

And a note to all those Brussels expats: Visiting before 9.00 or after 19.00, even in the weekend, makes a huge difference. It’s also worth remembering that the blossoms will be back next year.

Photo ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA

 

Written by Lisa Bradshaw