A fascinating Ardennes in black and white
I invite you to discover an exceptional photographer who plunges us into yesteryear’s Ardennes. His name: Edmond Dauchot. This town boy, born in Gosselies near Charleroi, decides to abandon a very comfortable family life to settle in the Upper-Ardennes. I’m talking of the nineteen thirties. He could have continued an easy career, in his parent’s thriving brickyard. Aged 25 he however leaves his birthplace in favour of the wooded and savage Ardennes. It’s nearly a calling, the research of a lost and recovered authenticity. This very solitary man will want to bear witness of the pleasure felt when looking at the misty horizons, the dark forests, the singing rivers, the authentic people.
The Ardennes seen through his pen and photographies
Edmond Dauchot chose the Ardennes as a living place. Throughout his life, he will transcribe, in words and pictures, the vision of « his Ardennes » and of its inhabitants who« shine from inside ». This middle-class citizen will acquire as time goes by a deep feeling of what the Ardennes were and of which he had a foreboding of its disappearance. Perhaps he wanted to keep it intact by his photography.
E. Dauchot makes his characters attaching, rooted in the landscape, worn out by hard work that calls on as much strength as know-how: lumberjack, reaper, fisherman, potato gatherer, travelling musician, poacher or hunter…
This is how this gifted photographer of ambiance and emotions, summarizes his poetical reasoning :
« I have tried to realize an illustrated method of loving nature.
It’s a series of photographies accompanied by texts or isolated notes, chosen in the infinite range offered by the Ardennes, this country I love».
Ollomont, a typical Ardennes’ village
It’s in Ollomont that he settles. Small village in the valley of the Ourthe, it’s sheltered from the dominant winds and from where we can admire, today still, the innumerable meanders of the sparkling river. He settles in the presbytery of Ollomont in December of 1930. He first experiments with painting the landscapes. He will, very soon, get acquainted with renowned painters of the Ardennes as for instance Albert Raty, eulogist of the Semois.
In 1934, he discovers photography and the first hand-carried cameras that will allow him to meet his fellow men, and discover the sovereign nature. In one word, the photographies of Edmond Dauchot go further than the “beauty” of the picture , than his exceptional sense of composition or lighting. They take us into the heart of the Ardennes and the “Ardennais” from before the Second World War that will spectacularly transform the rural world.
Today his pictures bring us a most valuable material of ethnological knowledge. Imbue ourselves of Edmond Dauchot’s Ardennes’ experience by wandering along the same paths that the artist roamed « wearing hobnailed clogs, pouch, note book and camera slung across the shoulder ». For you now to bring us back your best souvenirs. Send us your prettiest landscape and portrait photos. Follow us in the footsteps of Emile Dauchot !
Discovering the village
Starting from the village of Ollomont and its surroundings, footpaths are galore. Let’s start with an easy walk, of just over 1 km, with the n°12. It will lead you to the chapelle Ste-Marguerite. This Romanesque tower with three semi circular apses has lost its nave nef that collapsed in 1909 and never again rebuilt. Popular tradition named it the « Tour des Sarrazins ». (Saracen Tower)
The cemetery around it is worth a visit. It has tombstones in schist and in stones of Ottré (near Gouvy). They are marvellously carved in the workshops of local stone-cutters who have sculpted them with naive and allegorical decors. Very old houses grouped at the foot of the “chapelle Sainte Marguerite” bear witness to a typical Ardennes’ architecture. Slabs of schist called cherbains still cover some of the buildings.
The ancient 18th century presbytery was lived in by E. Dauchot and opposite is another old house dating back to the 17th c.
The footpath n°10 will lead you to the cresse (ridge in English) Sainte Marguerite, a rocky peak 20 m high topped by a niche sheltering the statue of the saint. A legend says that an inhabitant of Ollomont retired to this place and lived in a cavity carved into the rock.
The map with these footpaths is available in the tourist office of Nadrin , rue d’Houffalize à 6660 Nadrin
Tél : +32 (0) 84/44.46.20, GSM : +32(0)497 18 00 40
Email : email@example.com
Site : http://www.ourthesuperieure.be
Walk in the footsteps of Edmond Dauchot
To impregnate yourself even more of the Ardennes, a n°6 walk named « le Hérou» will lead you to the “rochers du Hérou” (the Herou Rocks). Superb, imposing, breath taking. The walk of over 5 km is trying and has difficult parts but the view is staggering; you overlook the Ourthe from the top of a rocky promontory.
Another walk of 9,5 km, for motivated ramblers, the n° 14, starting from the village of Filly, it’s the hike of the « Barrage » (the Dam). The Eastern and Western Ourthe meet in the beautiful lake of Nisramont.
Easier, the walk of Belle-Meuse, the n° 5, leads you to a small lake, a fisherman’s paradise .
Welcoming in all seasons at the Nisramont dam.
Not far from the 116 m long and 16 m high dam, you’ll be able to have a seat at the “taverne du lac de Nisramont.” A new team welcomes all, up to 100 people, in the entirely renovated cafeteria, withg a terrace for the nice days. This tavern is certainly open from Friday to Sunday.
For further information, call Mrs Véronique Steukers (mobile: +32 (0)485 003961 or : +32(0)84 41 17 02). An exhibition hall is open free of charge during the opening hours of the cafe. It describes the working and utility of the various dams of Wallonia.
Or you can also visit the brasserie d’Achouffe (brewery of Achouffe). There, you will be welcomed, having previously booked, by a guide who will make you discover the beers that are brewed here since 1982. The beers are called: Chouffe, Mcchouffe, N’ice chouffe, Houblon chouffe (meaning Hops chouffe).
For further information and booking , see the website firstname.lastname@example.org or call +32(0)61/23 04 44.
Take advantage of your presence in this rural Bistrot to ask for your fidelity card valid throughout the network.
A little bonus for your future escapades: the brewery route of Belgian Luxembourg You’ll find all their details in Regards d’Ardenne n° 8 : www.ftlb.be/fr/publication/brochures/regard.php.
Also see the website Ardenne All Access and the beer route in transborder Ardennes => www.visitardenne.com/all-access/fr/circuits/la-route-de-la-biere-et-ses-saveurs/
And to sprinkle your route with surprising discoveries about beer, defended by its ambassadors, see : www.bistrotdeterroir.be
Another very good plan, the depository of the photographies of the great Dauchot
The museum “en Piconrue” in Bastogne
Piconrue is a museum where souvenirs count, where one speaks of the past but in a live way! Since 1986, exhibitions one after the other evoke the art and beliefs of the “Ardennais” season after season at the rhythm of the ages of life.
The museum seeks to save and transmit a particular heritage but also an oral memory. That is what the “maison des légendes” (house of legends) is trying to do. Does one not say that the soul of a nation is reflected by its legends? The enchanting and mysterious Ardennes has titillated the imagination of its inhabitants. The villagers meet during an evening gathering to tell stories mixing true and imaginary facts. It’s an incredible game allowing each, adult and child, to discover and learn with much pleasure.
The museum retains the entirety of Edmond Dauchot’s photographic production, a collection of 18.000 original negatives, black and white in majority.
SERVAIS Octave, Ardenne: 35 photographies d’Edmond Dauchot, Bruxelles-Liège, PIM services, 1958.
DAUCHOT Edmond, Ardenne bien aimée, préface d’André Dhôtel, Paris-Gembloux, J. Duculot, 1976.
ORBAN Jean-Pierre, Edmond Dauchot: Ardenne buissonnière: Journal et photos 1937-1971, Paris-Gembloux, Duculot, 1984
HÉNOUMONT René, Edmond Dauchot : le photographe de l’Ardenne d’autrefois, introduction de Georges Vercheval, Tournai, La Renaissance du livre, 2000.
MOXHET A., L’Ardennais, photographies d’E. Dauchot, Bastogne, Musée en Piconrue, 2012