Yesterday was the first day of visits to the Hallerbos, the forest just outside the Flemish Brabant city of Halle carpeted by blue hyacinths at this time of year, and the local authorities have taken precautions to defend against the expected crowds of visitors.
Last year, during the limited time when the flowers bloom, 100,000 people visited the forest. This year, Flemish public transport authority De Lijn is laying on free buses from Halle station for the thousands expected. The measure is intended to reduce the number of cars arriving in the vicinity of the forest, but is also likely to cause an increase in the number of visitors.
According to forest ranger Pierre Kestemont, quoted by Bruzz, the first day on Saturday saw “several thousand” visitors, although the flower carpet is only partly in bloom. On flat parts of the forest which receive the sun all day long, only about half the flowers are blooming, he said. On hillier areas, meanwhile, very few blooms have yet appeared.
“If the weather gets warmer from Thursday on, the flowers will surely begin to open, and more people will turn up,” he said. Designated paths have been roped off and stewards deployed to make sure people don’t stray into the woods. Picking flowers is strictly forbidden. According to Kestemont, on the first day of visits yesterday the public was well-behaved.
More well-behaved, at any rate, than Flemish pop star Regi Penxten, who this week apologised for a video shot last year for his song Ellie, which features a little girl wandering through the forest, occasionally stopping to pick a flower.
Following complaints, Regi took to Instagram to apologise. “What the girl in the video is doing is not allowed,” he posted. “I didn’t realise, but it’s forbidden to walk on the flowers, and you certainly aren’t allowed to pick the flowers.” In a new video posted on the platform, he explains with the help of Pierre Kestemont the dangers of straying from the paths. “If you wander through the woods and trample the flowers, they won’t return next year,” the ranger explains. “And you want to be able to see them in bloom, don’t you?”