Belgium’s most famous bluebells

This morning I was in Hallerbos (Dutch for Halle Forest), a stretch of woodland in Flemish Brabant, just half an hour’s drive from Brussels. It’s famed for its carpet of blue at this time of year: it’s not just England that can boast this beautiful spring phenomenon!

Bluebells are often an indicator of very old woodland, and Hallerbos is a remnant of the ancient charcoal forest that once covered vast swathes of Europe, now scattered and dissected by roads and settlements, and of course greatly reduced from its original size. Hallerbos also suffered the misfortune of being razed by German forces during world war one, but was replanted, mainly with tall, stately beech, between 1930-1950.

Now in the interests of honesty, I will tell you that this lovely forest has a major downside. There’s a great big roaring motorway running right alongside, audible above the birdsong even when you venture deep inside. I notice that people tend not to mention this in their Facebook posts. I suppose it’s a reminder that true wilderness is getter harder and harder to find.

27 thoughts on “Belgium’s most famous bluebells

    • I was thinking of making a comment about taking earplugs next time, a bit of a strange way to experience nature but it might enhance the visual impact! I often find myself in beautiful places but with background road noise these days, sigh.

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    • It was almost empty, I only saw 2 photographers, a jogger and a dog walker. I was lucky to have an opening in my schedule during the week, and went early in the morning. It’s lovely but it’s a pity about the RO.


  1. You can enjoy your gorgeous photos at home again without the noise Sel. It is hard to find completely wild places even here in the Bavarian Forest… even during the first lockdown we still had planes going over. That bluebell wood is gorgeous though. They don’t grow anywhere near us. The smell (wish I could smell these!) takes me back to my childhood when we used to gather armfuls of them and they would all be half wilted by the time we got home.

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    • I was talking to a student of mine about this, she pointed out that Belgium is so densely populated that there’s almost nowhere you can go without hearing a road. And yes, there are the planes too! But at least the wood is there. What a lovely childhood memory, I find those involving flowers so compelling.

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  2. Beautiful bluebells. We have a bluebell woodland not too far from home but bad weather (and intensive study) means we will probably miss them this year. Ours, luckily, does not have a motorway to spoil the experience (or mask their perfume). Here, they are (have) destroying ancient woodlands (among other things) for the folly that is HS2.

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  3. The Chicago Botanic Garden is also built near a major highway. There are various sound barriers that mitigate the noise. So are these the same kind of Bluebells that grow in English or Spanish woods?


    • I honestly did wonder why they don’t put up a sound barrier. Money I suppose. On the bluebells, I am no expert, but I think they are Hyacinthoides non-scripta, they have the delicacy of the English bluebells. But there’s a fair bit of interbreeding that takes place between the wild bluebells and the garden hybrids. These ones are far from any gardens, so might be relatively ‘pure’.

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  4. So much beauty. We’ve a species of bluebells here, Mertensia virginica, that is native to our south and only introduced to New England. I’ve a few in the backyard. but nothing like the vast stands of them found in Europe.
    Appearances can indeed be deceiving. As with your bluebell forest, I’ve posted a few images that people interpreted as peaceful and serene. What wasn’t evident was the highway I was standing by with loud vehicles roaring past. Guess that is a good argument for making still photographs and not videos. 🙂

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      • True if we’re just focusing on the photography , but I think if you’re writing about a place and the photographs are there to illustrate, you want to give people a truer sense of what it’s like to be there – and believe me, in all my time here, not one person mentioned the road even though these are the country’s most famous bluebell woods. I find that astonishing and I think it says something about of social media culture (show off!), but for me the blogging is thankfully more authentic somehow, don’t know if you see it that way?

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      • Yes and no. I guess I don’t often write about places per se. Most of my imaging is about the subject itself or, even if a landscape in a specific location, more about what it is. But I do agree that in a way it is a more authentic representation to express the expressway. 🙂 Most often when I have photographed where there is noise, pollution, littler, etc. I mention it in comments if someone mentions the sense they have of peace, quiet, or tranquility. But as I am more a photographer than say a botanist I try to let the picture speak for itself which is why I do not post lengthy essays…not that I am capable of putting that many cogent thoughts down in one place. 🙂

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