The sleepy village of Erezée is an ideal starting point for a day’s walking in the Ardennes. It also has a large number of rural cottages of various sizes available for weekend use, so is also perfect for a longer stay.
You will be lost without a decent map of the area. One is available from the tourist offices in Erezée or Hotton. It costs 7 EUR and displays no fewer than 28 excellently signposted walks between four and 13 kilometres in length.
My wife and I chose the 8.5-kilometre “Estinale” walk, which starts in the centre of the village and heads north to Fanzel. Here, invigorated by a cup of coffee in the village café, we extended our route by following the 6.5-kilometre “Al Pire” walk which climbs to the Col du Rideux. Here we sat on a bench, got our breath back and enjoyed marvellous views over the valley of the River Aisne. The complete circular walk kept us occupied for the whole day and took us through a variety of landscapes from open hills, river valleys, thick coniferous forests and rolling farmland. It was a great escape from the daily routine.
It’s hard to believe that in the 15th and 16th centuries, Erezée was the centre of a thriving metal-working industry. As many as 35 working forges were established along the River Aisne to supply Liège with iron. Lumberjacks, miners, smiths and foundry workers found employment here, and the forge owners were often sued for destroying the forest.
For the nature-lover there is plenty to observe: grey wagtails and dippers along the river valleys; roe deer and black woodpeckers in the woods; red deer and buzzards in the hills.
Other than walking, the region offers much to see and visit. The chocolate-maker Defroidmont in Briscol gives guided tours around his premises every afternoon except Sunday and Monday. Another possibility is the Fantome brewery in Soy. For a rainy afternoon, Hotton’s caves are ideal. And if you are in the area for a longer time, I would recommend a day in Durbuy, the smallest town in the world (population 400).
Erezée is 90 minutes drive from Brussels via the E411, N4 and N807. By train, take the Brussels-Arlon-Luxemburg train, get off at Marloie and take the local train to Hotton and then bus no.11 to Erezee.
Especially for the kids – In the oak woods around Erezée, collect some acorns. At home, put them in a bucket of water and discard the ones that float. Plant the rest in normal potting compost in yogurt pots, making sure there are drainage holes in the bottom. Leave them outside and don’t let them dry out. Next spring you should see tiny oak seedlings. Keep them watered and the following year you should be able to plant them in your garden or give to friends. Oak trees are excellent for wildlife, so planting acorns is a great way to help the environment.
(First published in The Bulletin, December 2007)