The countryside around these two little villages in the Ardennes (closest town is Manhay) makes for a lovely weekend trip. And the small, cosy hotel Les Sources is an ideal base, or somewhere to enjoy a mid-walk snack or evening meal. But more of that later. First, the walks. The two walks in this area are numbered 26 and 27 on the excellent Erezee-Manhay walking map, available from local tourist offices and shops for 7 EUR.
Liz and I started on route #26 from Oster; there’s plenty of parking space behind the church. Heading south towards Freyneux, and then east to Odeigne, there is perhaps a little too much walking along minor roads, although it gives you the chance to admire some of the attractive stone cottages along the way. In Odeigne you can carry on along route 26 and back to Oster, but by this time we had had enough of walking along minor roads and so decided to branch out and follow the GR path up and over La Grosse Haie. This was much more to our liking. We found the perfect picnic spot on a south-facing slope overlooking the small river, the Fayi de la Folie. Here all we could hear were the buzzards “mewing” high above us and the willow warblers calling in the alders alongside the river.
In the clearings on the hillside were vast numbers of hemp agrimony; a superb butterfly-friendly plant. As it was a warm sunny August day, the flowerheads were full of butterflies: red admirals, small tortoiseshells, peacocks and commas, with a fritillary that I wasn’t able to identify.
Walk #26 is marked as 10 km, but following the GR route probably knocked a couple of km off it.
Walk #27 starts in Odeigne and heads south through the beautiful forests alongside the Rau de la Fagne de la Goutte to the busy N89. The return path takes you through the wet heathland formed by L’Aisne (take care where you step or else you will get wet feet!).
The problem with walk #27 is the link between the two stages I have just described. The footpath is supposed to run parallel and south to the N89, but it’s poorly marked and overgrown. The alternative is to walk along the N89. Unfortunately you will have to do this for 2 km, which is not a pleasant experience. This is a shame as the rest of the route is excellently laid out, signposted and maintained. I am contacting the local authorities and I hope they sort this out soon.
Where to stay/eat
I mentioned Les Sources earlier. It’s a lovely hotel and eaterie 1 km south of Oster, on the banks of L’Aisne, and run by Dutch couple Marieke Schut and Walter Groen. It has eight rooms, a wellness centre, gardens and a restaurant. Their food is excellent, whether it’s their apple tart and ice-cream (all home-made of course), a tasty farmer’s omelette or a vegetarian casserole. Marieke and Walter are perfect hosts and can give you all the information you need to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.