In the project area we find a wide variety of flowery grasslands and beautiful forests, some of which have existed for centuries. Parts of the landscape, however, changed strongly in the last decades. Nevertheless, we still find jewels with hundreds of orchids, butterflies, kingfishers and the two ambassadors of the project: the great crested newt and the Desmoulin's whorl snail. The beaver adapts the landscape here and there at its own discretion.
Whether you walk through the Silsombos marshes with the mist-covered Black Madam or the extraordinary lime marshes of Torfbroek, rare plants and animals are never far away. The grasslands in these areas are among the top in Europe. Many of the plants are rare in Flanders or only occur here. The presence of seepage (accumulating groundwater) creates wet soils. Rare orchids grow on these calcareous grasslands. In the Silsombos there are even 9 species.
After the Second World War, these grasslands were massively planted with poplars. This was very cheap and the trees caused a large yield of wood in the short term. Here and there you will still find it in the nature reserves. During the LIFE project we will remove part of these plantations to restore the old grasslands.
The forests in the project area are equally impressive. In early spring you can admire beautiful flora in the alluvial forests in the Rotte Gaten and the ancient forests of Kastanjebos. True lover's knot, marsh-marigold, lesser celandine, wood anemone and true oxlip are the start of the new spring every year. In the damp parts the giant horse tails, which grow to two meters high, wink at a prehistoric past. In the autumn, the beautiful autumn crocus becomes the eye-catcher, along with rare mushrooms such as the saffron ringless amanita, the green elfcup and hare's ear. With a bit of luck you can see the common kingfisher on a branch waiting for a tasty fish to pass. This beautiful bird makes it’s nest between the roots of fallen trees.
Not only your eyes are pampered, but also listen carefully during the walk. An orchestra of nightingales, common grasshopper warblers, song thrushes and bluethroats will complete your colorful nature experience. During the evening twilight, the cry of a water rail or little owl or the barking of a roe deer or fox is regularly heard in the background. The black woodpecker rattles on the thick trees.
The region also houses some interesting historical monuments. The Black Madam (Zwarte Madam), De Stenen Goot, de Heersemmolen and the water mill of Ter Balkt are some of the heritage relics that you will encounter along the way. The little streams in the ‘komgronden’ (= low-lying soils consisting of heavy river clay) were dug by man a long time ago in order to drain the seepage water. You can still recognize the old drainage system here: parallel canals at a short distance from each other that provided the drainage. Here and there peat was mined in the past.