The Sonian Forest

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The Sonian Forest

The Sonian Forest, jointly managed by the three regional authorities over whose territories it extends, constitutes an extraordinary green space; since 7 July 2017, it has been included on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites as part of a series of 78 remarkable beech woods located in 12 European countries. Even though it has experienced an especially rich history, significantly influenced by demographic developments and land use, its original topography has been remarkably preserved. In this way, beneath the sombre canopy of this cathedral of beech trees, the areas where reindeer and mammoths once walked is very much still in evidence. It is perhaps because it served as a game preserve for the Dukes of Brabant that it avoided being cleared for such a long period. Nevertheless, over the centuries the villages and religious communities that were established on its outskirts have gradually eroded its edges. For example, in the 16th and 18th centuries, the population plundered the resources of the Sonian Forest, which suffered greatly from wide-scale felling orchestrated by local lords short of money. In the next century, during the period of Austrian rule (1714-1795), a young landscape architect from Vienna, Joachim Zinner, took an interest in the forest with the aim of rapidly producing quality wood. Therefore, in record time, he set to work planting an abundance of beech trees; a number of decades later, these would form the “cathedral” for which the forest is still famous. Bequeathed to the Société Générale company by William I of the Netherlands, the Sonian Forest began to be sold off in lots in 1822, and then again between 1831 and 1836 as the new Belgian State was being created. In 1843, as it had suffered significant deforestation, Léopold I decided to acquire the remaining 4,400 hectares in order to preserve what was left. These were placed under the management of the Water and Forestry Administration. (Listed 02/12/1959)

Practical information

  • 1160 Brussels
    • M
      Herrmann-Debroux
    • T
      Auderghem-Forêt/Oudergem Woud
    • T
      Herrmann-Debroux
    • B
      Deux Chaussées/Tweesteenwegen
    • B
      ADEPS, Rouge-Cloître/Rood Klooster