Enjoy the peace and beauty of the GR 571 long-distance footpath from Gouvy to Verleumont
The GR 571 long-distance footpath in the Belgian Ardennes is a circular walk. Well, it’s circular in that it starts and ends at the same place. But it’s shape is more of a damaged rectangle. A bit like a plastic shopping bag that’s stuffed with so much food that it’s bulging out all over the place.
In 2017 I walked the first 88 km of the 165-km GR 571. Basically I completed the right-hand side of the shopping bag and now it was time to go along the bottom before striking up the left-hand side.
But there was a problem
I had completed the first 88 km in five stages, each of which started and ended at stations on the Liège-Luxembourg railway line. I had ended up in Gouvy. Here though, the footpath bid Adieu to the railway line and headed away from easy reach of any kind of public transportation.
I know this because I poured over the TEC bus network and timetables for ages, desperately trying to work out how I could take the train to Gouvy, walk the next stage and get a bus back to Gouvy or even Liège.
No can do! TEC buses in this part of the Ardennes are as common as butterflies in winter. So I was becoming resigned to not being able to complete the GR 571.
And then an Angel Facebooked me!
Not the Angel Gabriel but the Angel Guido, my blogging friend. He and two hiking friends were intending to do the next stage from Gouvy. They would travel down in two cars, leaving one at the start and the other at the destination. Would I like to join them? Would I heck!
And so I found myself waiting at Angleur railway station at 9.30 where I was picked up by Guido. We left his car in Verleumont, our destination, and travelled in the second down to Gouvy.
First things first. Coffee in a local bakers’.
And then we set off, thankfully in the first blue sky I can remember seeing in Belgium for months. However, in the exposed places there was a chilly Siberian wind to remind us not to dilly-dally.
But dilly-dally we did when two roe deer appeared on the path in front of us.
It was so nice to be out hiking in the Ardennes again. My hiking partners were good company. I have “known” Guido for a few years through his blog but this was our first face-to-face meeting.
Soon it was time for lunch with a view:
And then it was onwards and most definitely upwards:
We passed a former NATO base where I displayed my lack of knowledge of French:
We took care to avoid the traffic:
Now and again we had to demonstrate our acrobatic skills when negotiating what could only generously be described as footbridges:
We had a fleeting glimpse of a fox and then we were up on the highest point of the walk: the 563-meter high Fagne de Gayet which was noticeable for its super views, frogspawn in the ditches, and a lovely clearwater pond:
In Hebronval our hopes rose of liquid refreshment at the local hotel. Unfortunately they were dashed as it was closed, so we made do with the communion wine at the local church. (Just kidding!):
The last few kilometres were actually the nicest. The track was on the side of a sun-baked hill with the Lienne in the valley below. Another fox popped up to say Hi. The first butterflies of the season were on the wing: brimstone, peacock, small tortoiseshell. Buzzards mewed like kittens, a great spotted woodpecker drummed like Ringo and a green woodpecker laughed like a maniac. And wood anemones, lesser celandines and coltsfoot (below) beautifully reflected the sunshine.
We also came across a “baliseur”; the man who voluntarily paints the GR red and white or red and yellow markings on fenceposts and trees:
We thanked him, and continued following his handiwork until we arrived at our destination of Verleumont.
All that was left was to have a couple of well-earned drinks in a café in Manhay before I was dropped back at Angleur station by Angel Guido, who shook his wings and flew off.
And here’s a pin:
How to walk the GR 571
It starts from Comblain-au-Pont south of Liège. If you want to follow my footsteps check out these links:
- Stage 1: Comblain-au-Pont to Aywaille
- Stage 2: Aywaille to Stoumont
- Stage 3: Stoumont to Trois-Ponts
- Stage 4: Trois-Ponts to Vielsalm
- Stage 5: Vielsalm to Gouvy