I went to the opening activity of the Week of the Forest in my province, Oost-Vlaanderen. This province is situated in the centre of Flanders, its capital is Gent. All the activities took place in the domain of Drongengoedbos, a forest. The domain is at about 20 kilometers from Gent. Unfortunately, it is not possible to reach the domain by public transport, but I asked the ‘Vereniging voor Bos in Vlaanderen’ (Association for Forests in Flanders) if somebody could pick me up so I could get there. They did, and this was a nice way to get in contact with the association who founded the Week of the Forest 25 years ago. I asked them how they feel about the Sumava project (No Forest – No future) and they were glad to hear that some young people all around Europe want to organise an International Week of the Forest.
At the Drongengoedhoeve, there were several activities: a place where the different non-profit nature organisations presented themselves, an exposition of the visions concerning forest expansion, forest and nature exploitation and cultural history. There was a workshop of people who work with wood, wooden trolls, a pot manufactory (made in clay) and a person who makes violins. There were stories about the forest and folk music.
In the forest, there was a guided cycle tour with stories about the forest. The participants had to guess whether the stories were false or true. Other activities were guided trips in the wood about forest exploitation, nature exploitation, and the cultural-historical value of the site. The rain put a boycott on the planned visit to those small animals who live during the night and sleep head side down.
Wagons pulled by horses drove the people around in the forest. A part of the forest was changed in a fairytale forest. During all day, the Scouts and other youth organisations played a forest play with the children.
The day ended with some speeches and a reception of politicians from the two villages (Knesselare and Maldegem) in which the forest is situated.
During the day, I met the advisor of our Flemish green minister of environment. I was having a cup of coffee with him, as I saw the group of cyclists leaving. I wanted to join them, so I went looking for a bike and asked the organisation what route they were following. They told me it was the ‘Drongengoedroute’. I tried to catch them, but after a while, I noticed I wouldn’t find them anymore. And than I saw this route was 45 kilometers! The route was very nice, so I decided to continue my way. This route brought me into places of the Flemish country I never saw before. The problem was that I didn’t know the way at all, and I had no map, so I had no choice but cycling the 45 kilometers. After two and a half hours, however, I was glad I finally reached the Drongengoeddomein. And than, I saw the group of cyclists who just came out of a bar! They had taken a smaller route of 17 kilometers! So that’s why I didn’t succeed to catch them before. I could still listen to two more stories and arrived in time to hear the speeches and drink at the reception.
Although I spent most of my day cycling on my own and enjoying the flat (was I lucky!) Flemish country, I liked this first day of the Week of the Forest!