Le Fond des Vaulx - Hiking in Marche-en-Famenne (Wallonia - Belgium)

This article first appeared in My Travelogue by Bhushavali
 
HIKING IN ARDENNES AT MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE WITH KIDS

As you know, I'm trying to strike off one by one of the various geological curiosities of UNESCO Global Geopark of Famenne Ardennes... On that effort, one of my recent ventures was to Marche-en-Famenne to see the Fond des Vaulx. What is Fond des Vaulx? Read on...

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids


Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

WHAT IS UNESCO GEOPARK FAMENNE ARDENNES?
A major portion of Famenne Ardennes, totalling 911sqkm, is listed as UNESCO Global Geopark (UGGp). The strip of land is called the Calestienne which has a lot of limestone and similar rocks that can be easily eroded. There are 3 rivers here - Ourthe, Lesse and Lomme. The water currents in these rivers & their tributaries, corrode the rocks which create unique geological curiosities in the region! This is called Karst Phenomenon.
Also Read: Ultimate Guide to visit Famenne Ardennes UNESCO Global Geopark, Hiking in Spa

WHAT IS LES FOND DES VAULX?
Of the 911sqkm that form the entire Famenne Ardennes UNESCO Global Geopark, les Fond des Vaulx is a small, green, deep valley very close to the heart of Marche-en-Famenne covers an area of 15 hectares. It includes some very interesting geological curiosities including a humongous subterranean cavity Trotte des Fosses. 

HIKING ON BELGIAN ARDENNES AT MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE
There are many 8 main routes to visit the Fond des Vaulx - 4 by the Marche-en-Famenne Toerisme, and 4 by Trail en Famenne (details below). The shortest route is only 3.4km and that is what we took because Atyudarini's tiny feet had to manage it too!
The trail begins at the tunnel, under a viaduct, above which the railway line runs. We visited here a few days after the non-stop snow in Belgium in Feb 2021 had melted, so the tunnel had water flowing in it, probably about 2-3cm! I was told that after heavy rains, the water level in this tunnel could be as high as 20cm! 
Even before entering this tunnel, to the left is the parking lot and atop it is a tiny cave (2nd & 3rd pics above) - an example of the typical rock formation of the Calestienne region. Slanted rocks that result in either a fold (like Durbuy Anticlines) or a cave. After a short walk into the trail, to the right is an area to find mushrooms picking area and to the left is the apiculture (honeybee farming) area. These were closed when we went because they are seasonal and happen only with guided tours. Soon after that is a pretty big picnic area which included a barbeque area as well. 
Beyond was the super slippery, muddy areas and Atyudarini started singing "We're going on a bear hunt", esp., "the big-oozy mud" line again & again. Haha. The 01 way is stroller friendly but the 00 way isn't. The 00 route is very short but has a few upward & downward slopes. We were on the 00 path and Atyudarini was hiking all by herself, holding my hand. All the 5 pics below & the video should give an idea about the trail. 

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids
One of the upward slopes of 00 trail

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids


Further ahead is a small cave. Walking a bit more, we arrived at a short 50m downward slope to spot the Resurgence du Sourd d'Alwe (1st & 2nd pics below), another unique feature of the Calestienne region. Being filled with corrosive rocks like limestone, the river often corrodes the rocks, forming caves, dives into them and then reappears on the surface after some distance. The resurgence of Sound d'Alwe is one such resurgence of the river from under the rocks!
Further ahead are all several more tiny caves incl. Grotte de la DucasseTrou du Renard, Grotte de la Cheminee before we reached the magnificent Trotti aux Fosses the humongous, slanted 28m deep cave on whose depth the river runs!!! The best way to describe it is with our photo there (very last pic below!). Do you see how tiny we are? This is the best example of the Karst Phenomenon of the Calestienne region. There's a railing all around the cavity to prevent people from falling into this deep cavity. I held my camera through the railing and Atyudarini got scared that the camera would fall down! Watch the video below... It is just so humongous that pictures & video really doesn't do any justice!

How to reach Fond des Vaulx in Marche-en-Famenne from Brussels by car: 120km via Ottignies, Namur & Ciney
How to reach Fond des Vaulx in Marche-en-Famenne from Brussels by train: Direct train from Brussels (Schuman/Luxembourg/Central/Midi/Nord) to Marloie and another train from Marloie to Marche-en-Famenne.
Starting point of Les Fond des Vaulx trails (on Google Maps): at the end of Rue de Viaduc
4 way-marked routes via Maison du Toerisme Marche-en-Famenne from 3.4km to 10.5km: via Marche Toerisme.
Shortest route: 00 by Marche Toerisme (not stroller friendly).
Shortest stroller-friendly route: 01 by Marche Toerisme
4 way-marked routes via Trail and Famenne from 6.18km to 32.21km: via TrailenFamenne

THE LEGEND OF GROSSE BIESSE
How can there exist such a huge cave without any mythical story around it! Of course, there exists the fascinating one - Trotti aux Fosses! So here goes the story - once upon a time, many nutons (gnomes) lived in Fond des Vaulx. Generally, there were very gentle, hard-working and kept to themselves. One fine day, they suddenly got into the town and started terrorizing the people! So the count of Marche, ordered to capture them and when they were questioned why they are in the village, they responded that they got scared of the dragon (grosse biesse) called Trotti aux Fosses in the huge cave and decided to abandon it and get into the town. The count immediately ordered his soldiers to capture the dragon. In the meantime, a little girl who was playing peekaboo with her dog, got scared that the dragon may have eaten her hiding dog. So she went in search of it and the dragon came out. But the dog came out of its hiding and bit the dragon's tail. The dragon whimpered like a small puppy and the girl got touched by it! She took it to the town which made the people scared. But soon she won over the hearts of the townspeople. The dragon went back to the cave, the nutons went back to the forest and everyone lived in peace thereafter. Every year, during the Marche Carnaval, the beast comes out to visit the townspeople which happen to date. 

Carnaval de la Grosse Biesse, Marche-en-Famenne 2021: Carnaval at Home (Virtual) version happened on Feb 12-14
Carnaval de la Grosse Biesse, Marche-en-Famenne 2022: TBD

  • Walk through the beautiful town of Marche-en-Famenne which was awarded the European Destination of Excellence in 2011.
  • Sculptures & public art of the Marche-en-Famenne town
  • Famenne & Art Museum
  • Quick trip to the nearby village, Waha

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids
Resurgence du Sourd d'Alwe after a downward slope in 00 trail

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

Les Fond des Vaulx Marche en Famenne Hiking in Ardennes with kids

ONE DAY ITINERARY IN MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE
Fond des Vaulx hike and a relaxed walk around the town. If time/energy is left, a quick visit to Waha.

RELAXED TWO DAYS (WEEKEND) ITINERARY IN MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE
Day 1 - Fond des Vaulx hike and visit to Famenne Arts Museum (FAM)
Day 2 - Walk around the town and a visit to Waha church.

PACKED TWO DAYS (WEEKEND) ITINERARY IN MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE
Day 1 - Fond des Vaulx hike, visit Waha church and Famenne Arts Museum (FAM)
Day 2 -  Trip to Hotton or Rochefort or La-Roche-en-Ardennes in the morning. Bikes can be hired and buses are available to all 3 places if you don't have a car. Walk around Marche town in the evening.
 
MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE HOTELS
Marche-en-Famenne is filled with many hotels at all budgets. It is possible to stay in Ardennes Etape to stay inside the Fond des Vaulx route. For a more luxurious stay, choose Quartier Latin in the heart of the city, which is where we stayed. Read my review of Hotel Quartier Latin, a 4-star hotel, housed inside a historic 18th C Jesuit church. 

HOW TO REACH MARCHE-EN-FAMENNE
It is very easy to reach Marche-en-Famenne by train from Brussels, making this town one of the best day-trips / weekend destinations from Brussels. Take the direct train from Brussels to Marloie and then change to another train to Marche-en-Famenne.

Fond des Vaulx Marche-en-Famenne things to do Pinterest Fond des Vaulx Marche-en-Famenne things to do Pinterest

Bhushavali

An ardent traveler by passion. Being an ex - Art History Teacher, my area of interest especially lies in Nature and Heritage. Visited 78 UNESCO World Heritage sites as of Sept 2020. I've been listed among the Top 7 Women Travel Bloggers of India, Top 50 in UK. I have been interviewed in a couple of TV Shows, Radio Channels and Events as well. Read more about me and read the testimonials of different brands

9 comments:

  1. How great to have made it to this unique UNESCO site. Hiking in Marche-En-Famenne looked like a fascinating way to see the local geology. With 8 different route to visit the Fond des Vaulx, this sounds like a spot you can visit over and over again and always see something new. How fun to learn about the mystical tales related to the caves. Linda (LD Holland)

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  2. I wish I had known about this before I visited Belgium. I love going on hikes in new countries and places and hiking to Fond des Vaulx looks an awesome thing to do. I would love to explore all the 8 routes if possible and see how they are different to each other. I have made a note of this and will make sure I visit this when I am in Belgium next time.

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  3. This looks like a lovely place for a hike. It's so sweet your little daughter enjoyed it too. The legend makes it even more appealing!

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  4. Just lovely! Atyudarini seems to be having a good time hiking!Well you can always be back for the Mushroom Picking area and Honeybee farm... The Legend of Grosse Biesse sounds fascinating and cute!Oh Poor Dragon!

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  5. It's a pity that I didn't know about this post when I visited Belgium. les Fond des Vaulx seems like a great place to hike and explore the nature. I think I would take the shortest route amongst the 8 routes too! It's great to hear that you have a good time with your daughter.

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  6. I had never heard of Les fond des Vaulx before but I do love a good UNESCO site. I assume you can take dogs? If so, this is definitely something I'd visit.

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  7. Hiking in Marche-En-Famenne certainly looks a lovely way to spend time with nature. Your pictures demonstrates how beautiful this hike would be. Never knew about this place when we visited Belgium. Nice to also about the mystical tales related to the caves there.

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  8. This is the first time I have heard about Famenne Ardennes and Fond des Vaulx. Your post is really interesting and I have definitely learned something new today. Thank you for sharing the legend of the Grosse Biesse.

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