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The TARPAN network has similar objectives to the RAVeL project (i.e. the use of abandoned paths and rail tracks to the benefit of hikers, cyclists, mountain bikers, horse riders etc). The main difference is that the Tarpan paths are more suitable to mountain bikes and serious walkers due to the uneven surfaces.

The central Ardennes is Belgium's highest and most unspoilt region, with the empty hills rising to around 600m, making demands on your fitness and stamina, especially in cold and windy conditions which can spring up from nowhere on the exposed heights.

Four local councils in the Ardennes have combined to form the TARPAN organisation, creating a 600km network of challenging walks, ranging from 14-49km in length and supported by clear signposting and detailed maps.

Some of the walks are themed, such as the Butterfly and Beaver Walk in the breathtakingly beautiful region of Lierneux and Vielsalm.

Other walks are led by knowledgeable fauna and flora experts, who seek out endangered plants and medicinal herbs. English-speaking guides are available, but need to be hired in advance.

There are maps at all departure points indicating the various paths that can be followed and their length. Accommodation and refreshments are readily available across the TARPAN network.

There are four main routings:

• in the vast forest of Anlier (Southern Ardennes close to Arlon and Habay-la-Neuve).

• In the area surrounding the Ourthe and Amblève, rivers.

• In areas around Fagnes (Fen) and Forest where witches and gnomes roam.

• In the Hesbaye and Condroz districts, cereal and pasture country.

For maps and further information, contact info@tarpan.be.

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Belgian Tourist Office Wallonia 217 Marsh Wall London E14 9FJ Tel: 0207 531 0390 info@belgiumtheplaceto.be