Get Your Run and Culture on in Fresnes-au-Mont, France
In the heart of France is a village called Fresnes-au-Mont located in the Lorraine region. This quaint village, combined with a few other petite villages, contains 6 enchanting forests. With over 12,300+ acres of woodland, rests 45-kilometers of not only trails but also 228 works of contemporary art. This rural space for running, walking, hiking and participating in viewing culture is called Vent des Forêts.
What is Vent des Forêts?
Since 1997, the Vent des Forêts association is home to a cultural art experience amongst the shade of over a thousand sizeable and great trees. The exhibits are 100% free of charge with access from spring to the end of summer (March to September) with limited access to trails during hunting season.
Numerous pieces of art, by creators from around the globe, are placed strategically throughout the one to four hour walks between each of the seven circuits. The culture and art are left throughout the year to be discovered by the walker, hiker, or runner.
Several local artisans, companies, schools, associations, and partner galleries come together to brainstorm, create and preserve the pieces of art. You yourself can also join the association for 10 € to participate in helping with maintaining the restoration of the work and support the future invited artists to help place them with a residence in Fresnes-au-Mont while they work to create and install their art. Vent des Forêts is also an approved association by the Foundation of France to receive new sponsorships.
Where is Vent des Forêts?
Vent des Forêts is located in Fresnes-au-Mont, France which is in the north-east of France near the Natural Regional Park of Lorraine and is 30 km from Bar-le-Duc, 35 km from Verdun, 70 km from Metz, 80 km from Nancy, 170 km from Luxembourg country. It is also just 1 hour by high-speed train from Paris and Strasbourg and 4 hours from Bordeaux.
The most popular place to start the trails begins in Fresnes-au-Mont where the town hall is home to the office of Vent des Forets and where the walker or runner can collect a free trail map. The seven circuits are made of a combined 45km connecting several nearby small villages of Dompcevrin, Lahaymeix, Thiliombois, and Courouvre, in France.
There are wood houses designed by architect Matali Crasset amid the forests, trails, and pieces of art that are available to stay at in the woods. They can be found and booked on Airbnb. Besides running and art, there are also several charming shops to buy local products, cafes, and hotels nearby. Additionally, there are close options for horseback riding, swimming in lakes, and visiting local farms.
How many trails are there?
There are 7 different trail circuits each with visibly numbered placards to indicate the circuits and each of the art installations.
Circuit of the Bookmark (Circuit de Marcaulieu) is 10km with 37 exhibits.
Circuit of Praise (Circuit de Louvent) is 9km with 41 exhibits.
Short Circuit (Court Circuit) is 3km with 17 exhibits.
Circuit of the Three Fountains (Circuit des Trois Fontaines) is 8km with 31 exhibits.
Circuit of the Big Pebble (Circuit du Gros Caillou) is 12km with 37 exhibits.
Camonin Cross Circuit (Circuit de la Croix Camonin) is 14km with 47 exhibits.
And finally, Circuit of the Big Charm (Circut du Gros Charme) is 10km with 39 exhibits.
What about exhibits?
Starting in 1997 with 9 exhibits, each year 2 to 10 art exhibits from international invited artists have been created for the walker and runner to enjoy on their trail run. In 2019 alone, seven new pieces of art have been installed. Vent des Forêts has simplified the experience to run and enjoy culture by developing an application with a free digital guide that can be downloaded right to your smartphone.
Here are a few examples of the exhibits that can be found on your run at Vent des Forêts in Fresnes-au-Mont, France:
The Basilica of the Forest: Created in 2002 by Jannecke Lonne Christiansen from Norway. Christiansen has built two carved white stone columns connected by an arch made of intersecting hazel branches, providing the entrance of a basilica in the forest. The semi-circular arch, inspired by Roman churches, marks a symbolic passage between two spaces: that of the man and that of the sacred forest.
Saphira: Created in 2010 by Claudia Earl Comte from Switzerland. Comte personifies her sculptures that are made from stone and oak, by assigning names to them, where each forms a part of a whole family. Her designs are rhythmic and full of curves and provide a picturesque interaction between the sculpture with the open landscape in the background.
A Window in the Forest: Created in 1997 by Hiroshi Teshima from Japan. Teshima has built a cubic meter of beech tree wood on a sandy hill between plain and forest. This shelter like construction combines raw natural material and geometric form to create balance, a landmark, and a place to gaze and discover the two different landscapes: the natural one of the forest and the one that is drawn by a man being the field.
Sidewalk Chalk: Created in 2011 by Mick Peter from Great Britain. Peter recreates a child’s universe by placing a box of giant chalk whose contents have spilled onto the ground in the middle of a forest. The large dimensions of this project are meant to mimic the enchantment of The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.
Owl: Created in 2009 by Laurent Le Deunff from France. Le Deunff has constructed a mystical human-sized larch tree owl which is seen as a symbol of the forest and of the night. The unassuming animal greets walkers and runners in a shaded space surrounded by Fir and Spruce trees. Mystic and benevolent, the symbolic figure of the owl becomes the travelers’ mascot.
To be noted if you choose to experience this interesting trail run there are gentle reminders that are given in the brochure from the office of Vent des Forêts in Fresnes-au-Mont for the walkers or runners: (translated from French) “He knows that fire is the enemy of the forest. He should moderate his pickings as he knows that flowers torn off do not grow back. He must pay attention to his dog. He must ask permission for collecting the deadwood. He knows that mountain biking is welcome in the forest if he respects both nature and other walkers or runners. He does not abandon his waste in the forest. He respects closed forest roads and all marked trails. The forest is the animals’ home, the walker or runner must leave them to rest and live there. Tree cutting is necessary but left to the management of the forest. He knows that young sprouts are fragile and he must be careful not to disturb their growth”.
Being sure to respect nature, Fresnes-au-Mont, France allows you a free place to experience the pleasantries of a peaceful environment. So go ahead and appreciate over 45km of trails and 228 pieces of art while you get your run and culture on.
If you are looking to do a destination run and get an awesome cultural experience, read out about the experience you could have in Fresnes-au-Mont, France.