Sustainable tourism is defined by UN World Tourism Organization as “tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.” It also refers to the environmental, economic, and socio-cultural aspects of tourism development, and the suitable balance that must be established between these three in order to guarantee a long-term sustainability.
European Destinations of Excellence
In this context, the European Commission has awarded a network of European destinations for the quality of their tourist offers and their respect for the environment. This network is known as EDEN, which stands for “European Destinations of Excellence“. This network includes the best sustainable outdoor activities, gastronomic and wellness destinations, events and experiences, landscapes, hiking routes, family and romantic destinations.
Municipality and town of Silly
One of the awarded European sustainable landscapes is the municipality and town of Silly, in Wallonie Picarde in Belgium. In the region between Lille and Brussels, the municipality of Silly consists of eight picturesque villages: Bassily, Fouleng, Gondregnies, Graty, Hellebecq, Hoves, Silly and Thoricourt. Between the villages there is a network of marked pedestrian trails and cycling routes that give the visitor the chance to discover small castles, churches, chapels, traditional houses and farms. But the most prominent sight in the region is Bois de Silly.
bois de silly
Bois de Silly are spectacular fields with blooming bluebell flowers in the forest near the town of Silly. Although most people know the famous Bois des Halles (also known as Hallerbros) near Brussels, the peacefull countryside of Silly provides a less crowded alternative to enjoying this unique natural phenomenon during springtime and early summer. Apart from the bluebells, wood anemones, wild hyacinths, and wild garlic line the undergrowth. The density of the blooming on the forest floor is an indicator that the forest is old. And by old we do not mean the age of the trees but for how many years the area has been wooded. In most cases, the age of these forests is between 300 and 400 years.
The spectacle of the blooming bluebells is like pictures from a fairytale. The blue and violet colours of the flowers and the vivid green of the forest create a sight admired by visitors and photographers, especially when it is accompanied by fog during the early morning hours.
The citizens of Silly are proud of their forest and want to protect it from environmental hazards and the negative results of touristic exploitation. The municipality of Silly has organised a 16 kilometre walking and cycling route along the bluebell fields, where you can enjoy nature at your own pace (you can download the map of the route on this link). If you do not have a bicycle, you can rent one from Syndicat d’Initiative in the town. Syndicat d’Initiative has been established by the municipality in order to monitor all the cultural and environmental actions of the town.
Brasserie de Silly
After walking and cycling, you could visit the town’s famous brewery. Brasserie de Silly has mastered the brewing craft for six generations since 1850. The art of brewing is taught from father to son and today it produces 19 different types of craft beer. (silly-beer.com)
Visiting Silly in springtime is a once-in-a-life experience, but during your visit you must respect the delicate natural environment and also the efforts of the people of Silly to sustain their forest in the best way possible. Silly is a perfect example of sustainable tourism which respects the environment and helps the local population. (tourisme.silly.be)
*[Photo at the top by FrDr, CC BY-SA 4.0]
If you are visiting Belgium, you could find sustainable and eco-friendly accommodation through the amazing website Ethik Hotels. Ethik Hotels is not a booking platform! Of course, you will find many professionals of sustainable tourism listed: a) ecological hotels, eco-lodges, gites and responsible campsites in France, in Europe and around the world & b) local and committed travel agencies to organise adventures tailored to you and in line with your values!