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Forests: why they often remain unexplored

Updated: Sep 12, 2021

The forest has long been considered a place to be avoided, even cursed. Religion was no stranger to it, but even today, for some of our contemporaries, the forest can be a troubling place.

thick forest undergrowth

However, in the collective imagination, we will find freshness in the forest, a beautiful and clean nature, we will hear birdsongs... We will go there to recharge our batteries, to breathe, to let off steam in a green setting. But the truth is, if you really enter the heart of the forest, there is an almost mystical atmosphere: it is dark there, the plants take sometimes strange shapes, indeterminate noises can cause some fright for those who cannot identify them.

This aversion is well known to foresters. It only takes to build a beautiful path and maintaining it to be fairly sure that the public will only use it and not venture into the heart of the forest. I visited what we call in France "integral reserves", areas where no management action whatsoever is undertaken, where nothing is allowed to be done: like under a cover, Nature is left alone at work. These areas are of course not indicated on the forest access map. But nothing can identify their location either: no indication sign, or even prohibition, once arrived at the area in question. And the managers of the places confirm it: nobody is interested in these spaces on their own or even goes there.


"I have been careful not to stray from the trail, but I know it will not last: soon, I will be advancing into a territory where human beings do not venture." Alcyde (Ysambre - Le Monde Arbre, Mickaël Ivorra et Séverine Pineaux - free translation)

a well kept wooden path in the forest

When I go to the heart of the forest, out of the paths and that I am very close to falling back on another trail, I sometimes hear people arriving. I stop and observe: although quite visible, I have never been spotted. Most people look where they step and only look around them if the horizon opens up to a more distant view or to spot the origin of a sound. The forest is just crossed over. I have no doubt that it brings serenity and well-being even in these circumstances, but it is only a setting never explored.


"I glimpsed a Sylph, this legendary creature that haunts all the myths of Ysambre. Silent and slender, she almost blended into the trees. It was a movement of her head that revealed her presence to me." Master Nimh (Ysambre - Le Monde Arbre, Mickaël Ivorra et Séverine Pineaux - free translation)


When you leave the path (in places where it is allowed, which is not always the case), you can be slowed down by a few branches, brambles: the edge effect brings more light, almost creating a barrier. But once passed, the progression is usually more free. You may collect a few cobwebs in your path (it's always surprising!) but tell yourself that it will be more annoying for the spider, and that this is proof that you are the only one to have ventured there for a long time.

closeup on an intricate spiderweb

"The edge of the forest is a real trap: strangling lianas, tsetse flowers... But past the first barrier, the forest no longer opposes resistance, as if it were accepting the invader. Strange..." Master Nimh (Ysambre - Le Monde Arbre, Mickaël Ivorra et Séverine Pineaux - free translation)


This squeaking, quite audible and oh so disturbing, which repeats itself sometimes, of which we cannot locate the origin, neither animal and far from the rustling of the leaves... this squeaking generally comes from the friction of two branches or two trees together, which have been playing this score for months or even years. Perhaps one day, by dint of having worn away the bark of each other, they will merge at the point of contact. Together they will take on a form that may seem confusing at first, but doesn't it tell a most poetic story?

In truth, we are always afraid... of what we do not know. And when the veils of ignorance are lifted, a new world opens up to us.

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