On 30 May, the Walloon minister for Nature René Collin approved the Walloon management plan for the Sonian Forest. This sets out the guidelines for the sustainable and multifunctional management of the Forest until 2037.
In 2008, the Flemish, Brussels Capital and the Walloon Regions decided to work together in relation to the Sonian Forest. The principles for this collaboration were set forth within the structure vision and the new management plan for the Sonian Forest was drafted on this basis.
Dry Borren castle is to be renovated
Dry Borren castle at Oudergem has been left to deteriorate for many years. But this is soon set to change: the permit for renovation has been granted.
Dry Borren was built in 1329. This makes it the oldest monument in the Sonian Forest. The central building, built in 1410, is still completely intact. In the Middle Ages, it served as the forest prison of Oudergem, where thieves, poachers and highwaymen were sent if they were caught in the Sonian Forest. The castle also functioned as the head office for the gamekeeper and the forest magistrate of the area and, until 1972, the gamekeepers lived at this location in the Sonian Forest with their families.
Sonian Forest official World Heritage candidate
On January 27th 2016 in Paris, the three regions have officially presented their candidacy to have parts of the Sonian Forest recognised as World Heritage. The Belgian representative at Unesco, Philippe Potjes, signed the application file in Paris.
Ever since the end of January 2015, parts of the Sonian Forest are on the shortlist of 33 untouched beech forests. Unesco now wants to complete the European network of authentic beech trees, after forests in the Carpathians and Germany have already been recognised. Aside from the Sonian Forest in Belgium, forests in Albania, Slovenia, Romania, Italy, Poland, Austria, Croatia, Bulgary, Slovakia, Ukraine and Spain are also eligible for the title.
The Sonian Forest grows even wilder
Recently, the Sonian Forest became a part of the European Rewilding Network, which strives for more wild nature and wild animals in Europe.
The European Rewilding Network came into existence in 2013 and already contains more than 42 areas in 18 European countries. In these nature areas, nature gets free rein and conservation is minimal. Animals that originally lived in the area get new opportunities to move back in or increase their numbers. This ‘rewilding’ creates plenty of opportunities to experience nature and for nature tourism.
In the Sonian Forest, it involves populations of roe deer, boars and foxes. The curators hope to welcome badgers and pine martens in the forest soon. Highland cattle, which survive on their own all year round near the grazing block at the Forest Museum in Groenendaal, are also an important step towards a wilder and more natural forest.
The admission of the Sonian Forest to the European Rewilding Network is a nice recognition and puts the forest on the international map once more.
Read more about Rewilding Europe on www.rewildingeurope.com
Archaeologists reveal remains of the priory church of Groenendaal
Underneath the paths of the Sonian Forest are the remains of a large abbey: the priory of Groenendaal. The priory church was demolished in the 18th century, but this autumn, archaeologists revealed some of the walls, rooms and vaulted ceilings preserved underground.
A half-dilapidated shed on the edge of the Sonian Forest. Few hikers suspect that this is all that remains of an old abbey church. The old and dilapidated building is the lower part of the former church of the Au-gustinian priory of Groenendaal. The priory was founded in 1343 by mystic Jan van Ruusbroec. In 1783, the priory was dissolved and the church was partially demolished. In 1795, the Austrians delivered the finishing blow.
Climate change poses problems for Sonian beech
Impressive, perfectly straight beeches reaching up to the sky: the Sonian forest didn’t gain its nickname ‘beech cathedral’ for nothing. But global warming could change that familiar view.
74% of the Sonian Forest consists of beeches. The beech is a typical tree for a temperate climate with soft winters and plenty of rain, like our own. Or better said: like our own used to be. The last few years have seen a lot of changes in our climate. And beeches aren’t happy with those.
5 new wood piles for stag beetle
Last month, new wood piles for stag beetles were constructed in 5 spots in the Sonian Forest.
The stag beetle is very rare in Belgium and protected by law. This impressive beetle hasn’t been seen in the Sonian Forest for several decades. However, the insect could still be found in a residential area in Bosvoorde a few hundred metres away from the forest, in the centre of Overijse and in the Park of Tervuren.
Three new animal tunnels underneath Brussels Ring
In the last few months, three new tunnels were drilled underneath the Brussels Ring. Foxes, badgers and smaller animals can use these tunnels to travel from one part of the Sonian Forest to the other.
The tunnels were drilled underneath the Brussels Ring, in a place where the forest forms a natural valley. They lie on the migration paths of many animals, so they can make maximal use of the tunnels.
Artists from the three Belgian regions on a journey through the forest
A four-day journey on foot through the Sonian Forest, from the Walloon Region through Flanders into the Brussels Region. Every day a musical performance with dance in a tree. That is the project ‘from tree to tree’ in a nutshell. The project runs from Wednesday 16 September to Saturday 19 September.
Cie Arbricolage is a young company that makes creations about diversity in forests and people. From 16 to 19 September and with support of the Prince Philippe Fund (KBF), Cie Arbricolage creates ‘From tree to tree’, an acoustic version with contrabass of its presentation ‘Up a tree!’. A travelling residence and a meeting from south to north with a Walloon contrabassist, a screen, a Flemish director, a tree, a Brussels filmmaker and a Flemish-Ecuadorian woman who can climb up a tree.
Discover Heritage Brussels’ new publication on the Sonian Forest
Archeologists, art historians, engineers, soil experts, botanists, landscape architects… Scientists from diverse fields all studied the Sonian Forest in order to create the 14th edition of the magazine of Heritage Brussels. Their unpublished research allows us to better understand the forest and ensure its continued existence.
The Sonian Forest is unique in several ways. It is one of the few places in North and Middle Belgium that has never known agriculture. Ever since prehistoric times, the area has only seen forests. As such, almost no erosion occurred throughout the centuries. The natural landscape, which came into existence nearly 10,000 years ago, is still intact.
All this and more you can read in the Sonian Forest edition of the magazine of Heritage Brussels.
12 countries strive to have beech forests recognised as World Heritage
The procedure to recognise the Sonian Forest as a World Heritage Site is underway. This summer, the three Belgian regions, along with twelve other European countries, will prepare their Nomination Files.
Since the end of January 2015, parts of the Sonian Forest have been included in the shortlist of 33 untouched beech forests.
Mountain bike adventures in the Sonian Forest
Mountain biking is fun, good for your health and adventurous! However, more and more accidents with mountain bikes have been occurring lately. Why is that? What should you pay attention to as a mountain biker?
Damien Bauwens, director of the Nature and Forest Department: ‘The increasing number of visitors is putting more and more pressure on the forest. We need to protect the animals and the plants, along with the future of the forest.”
Seen a mammal? Report your sighting!
A fox in your garden? This is valuable information for the new Mammal Atlas of Brussels. 15 years after the last mammal atlas, Environment Brussels launches a new count of wild mammals living in Brussels.
Help us to complete the new Mammal Atlas and let us know what wild mammal you have seen.
Interesting documentary on the Sonian Forest: watch and enjoy
Why do dogs off their leash form a threat to the animals in the forest? How do both slugs and roe deer benefit from a wildlife crossing? Why can chopping down trees be a good thing for nature? Find out all this and more in this beautiful documentary about the Sonian Forest on tvbrussel.
Watch and enjoy the enchanting images of the forest and its many inhabitants:
15 cameras put animals in the spotlight
Earlier this year the team from the LIFE+ OZON project, focused on defragmentation of the Sonian Forest, placed 15 cameras around the passages under the Brussels Ring road and the E411. These are providing a unique look at the animals making use of these ecological thoroughfares.
The European LIFE+ OZON project is taking action to help reduce the fragmentation of the Sonian Forest. By 2017, there will be eight new wildlife passages over and under places where the highway crosses the woods, including a 60-metre wide eco duct. Nearby, 18 existing tunnels and passages are being renovated to make it easier for bats, foxes, badgers and other animals to pass.
Welcome to the Groenendaal Ecoduct
Groenendaal Ecoduct. This is the name of the new ecoduct over the ring around Brussels that will connect both sides of the Sonian Forest.
Project leader Steven Vanonckelen: “Our appeal to come up with a name received a lot of response, more than thirty people submitted a proposal. We were looking for a name that is understood across all language borders and that certainly applies to Groenendaal Ecoduct.”