Sonian Forest Brussels
Sonian Forest is a mighty 5000 hectares forest park divided between three regions of Belgium. 40% of the forest lies in Brussels and is a wonderful place for sports activities. A lot of people come to breath fresh air in the Sonian Forest which is the main oxygen tank of Brussels. Most common activities here are cycling, horse riding, jogging, walking, photography and fishing. The park is full of beech and oak trees. There are 3 beautiful and big fishing lakes in this forest.
The forest is large, and some traffic lanes pass through the forest, but the government ensures to put good effort in the park’s maintenance. This forest park has two forest reserves, five nature reserves and two archaeological reserves as well. The park is home to many mammals (deer, boar and fox), reptiles and birds. There are many beautiful flowers, plants, trees and mushrooms in the forest. The park has been declared as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Many of the beech and oak trees are more than 200 years old.
The forest used to be a royal hunting place. The hunting was forbidden in 1970 and then the park was developed as a place for recreational, educational and fitness activities. There are many people who come here to practice “Shinrin-Yoku” (Forest-Bathing). This is a Japanese technique to release stress and feel fresh and rejuvenated for the people who get stressed because of long work hours or other emotional problems. The Park is very quiet on weekdays and if you are taking a long walk, you might not see another person for hours. On weekends the park gets a little busy, when families and sports lovers come here for their recreational activities.
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How to Explore the Sonian Forest
The forest is big, and you cannot access it by cars or motorbikes. The only two best ways to explore the maximum forest are by bicycle or by horse riding. You can rent a bicycle and can explore some of the hidden tracks and gems of the park. The forest has many hilly paths, so you will need to put in some effort in your cycling. You can also rent a horse and enjoy the horse riding in the forest.
Walking is also a great way to explore the forest, you might not be able to see everything, but this is the best way to explore the small and hidden parts of the forest. Most of the forest is very suitable for walking. You should put on comfortable walking shoes to assist you in long walks. The forest also has 3 public shelter points if the weather takes an unexpected turn.
History of Sonian Forest
History of this forest dates back to the early Middle Ages. Sonian Forest is actually the remains of the ancient Charcoal Forest. The forest used to be very big and the size was around more than 120 square kilometers. A lot of woodcutting resulted in the decrease of size which is now around 45 square kilometers. Thankfully the woodcutting stopped, and the site has been protected by UNESCO. Otherwise it would have been a great loss. The forest used to be a private hunting ground for the Royals for many years, but now it is open for the public.
There are many Interesting facts about the Sonian Forest. The forest is magically beautiful, and I really wanted to write about it. There are several beech and oak trees which are more than 200 years old. The Forest used to be home of around 46 varieties of mammal species but 7 of them have completely vanished. There are several flowers and plants species which have disappeared through the time. The reason to this was extensive wood cutting in early ages and the roads that pass through the forest.
The forest is also a Natura 2000 protected site because of the large variety of bats living here. The forest is also famous because of Black woodpecker and great crested newt. These two are considered as endangered species are living in the Sonian forest premises.
Attractions in Sonian Forest
The complete forest itself is a big attraction for everyone. A paradise for people living in a city, who like to walk, hike or cycle around in a fresh environment. The forest has many benches and picnic tables for the families and groups of friends. There are different playgrounds for kids under the age of 7 years and above the age of 7 years old. There are 3 wonderful lakes in the forest where people can come for fishing and enjoy long conversations with fellows.
There is also a museum called Musee de la Foret (Forest Museum) displays the information and history of the forest and its flora and fauna. There is a recent addition to the forest in the form of new art installations by Artist Kristof Morel. These installations consist of four stained glass windows which refer to the four animal species which depend mainly on the local natural habitat. These 4 animal species are: the purple emperor butterfly, the kingfisher, the stag beetle and the midwife toad.