Along the Semoy Welcome to the country where the Semois (Belgium) becomes the Semoy, where you can glide down in a kayak, swept along by the wild river.
In Monthermé, the Meuse undoubtedly reveals its most beautiful stretches in the Ardennes. This authentic region hesitating between two countries inspired Rimbaud who came here to unwind. Rimbaud came to see his friend Léon Poncelet in Nohan, where his parents ran a little brewery. Usually steep-sided, the Semoy opens out onto a large alluvial plain between Tournavaux and Haulmé: in winter, the site exudes a unique atmosphere.
The mist shrouds the landscape, these hills and this river become a single element, a single colour. The poet “with soles of wind” mingles his footsteps with yours. In Rimbaud’s day, there was nothing touristic about the Semoy. You survived there by becoming a smuggler, by harvesting tobacco with a copou or making nails.
At Hautes-Rivières just as in all the Semoy villages, the noise and smoke came out of the “boutique” where people made nails in their homes, ad nauseum. It is thought that this home-metallurgy was imported by people from Liège, driven out by Charles the Bold in 1467. This was an activity that in winter enabled the loggers and raftsmen quite simply... to survive. So, they fired up the forge, with a dog running on a wheel to power the bellows – a dog’s job, for jobbing dogs! And they “nailed”: there were more than 700 nail-makers in Hautes-Rivières in about 1850.
This harassing work, steeped in sulphurous vapours, wore down the men before their time. Rimbaud saw the Semoy as a valley of misery.
On weekdays, the noise of the power hammers of the forges still reverberates around the Semoy valley, deafening, repetitive. The men are still hammering the iron: these heirs of the nail-makers continue today to supply precision parts for the cutting-edge automotive and aeronautics industries. The Quality Valley has lost none of its reputation.
Did you know? The nuts and bolts holding the Eiffel Tower together are the result of the work of the Ardennes forges, acknowledged for the high quality of their know-how. If the tower is still standing today, it’s certainly thanks to the quality of these parts made in the “boutiques” of the Semoy and Meuse valleys!