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‘No new damage’ this year in Halle’s bluebell forest

18:38 28/04/2020

In 25 years, it hasn’t been this quiet in the Hallerbos. The famous forest in Halle, just outside of Brussels, produces a carpet of bluebells that must be seen to be believed.

Except this year only the locals saw them because the forest was closed to tourists due to the coronavirus crisis. Normally tens of thousands of people travel to the small forested area in April to see the lush blooms that turn the ground solid purple.

While it’s an experience that should be taken in by anyone living in Belgium at least once, some visitors are less than careful with the delicate blooms, leaving the paths to sit amongst them for their Instagram shoots. Stepping on the flowers kills them – sometimes forever.

But this year the parking areas were blocked off to discourage visitors from driving to the forest – against the stay-at-home rules, in any case. The paths were open, however, to residents of the city.

“It was a totally different kind of year than usual,” forest warden Pierre Kestemont told VRT. “The people from around here appreciated the peace and quiet, but for the birds and the deer it was also nice that it wasn’t crowded with people from sunrise to sunset.”

It was also good for the bluebells, he said. “There were fewer visitors who waltzed through the flowers to take photos. This year, there has been no extra damage, so that’s good news for the forest.”

The bluebells bloomed a bit early this year and are now starting to wane, he noted. “The colours are changing rapidly, from purple to blue and then to grey-blue. Different, but still pretty.”

Photo: Benoit Doppagne/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw