Chatam Forest Center was named after the protected area on the western shore of the Beglika Dam where it is situated.
It was created as a result of the cooperation between Bikearea association and Beglika forestry, and its purpose is to be a place for training, nature conservation initiatives and for spreading practices of sustainable development and tourism.
The center consists of seven solid buildings, which in the past were used for forestry purposes and till the early 80s were part of Chatam forestry. After that there was a period of almost thirty years of gradual decay. In 2010 under a project implemented by Bikearea the buildings were restored and furnished. Solar systems supplying hot water and electricity were installed.
The Center’s activities include:
– campaigns for cleaning the shoreline of Golyam Beglik Dam;
– improving the conditions for tourism in the region by placing tables, benches, garbage stations, information boards;
– conducting educational programs for children and young people;
– provision of tourist services;
– monitoring of plant and animal species indigenous to the area;
– stimulating the rational use of forest resources;
What does the Forestry Center offer visitors?
Guests and friends of Chatam can benefit from travel services offered here or join any of the initiatives of the Center. In other words, no one can get bored here. The choice how to spend your time is yours – exploring the picturesque surroundings by bike, by boat, on foot or taking part in activities connected with preservation and development of the area as a place for tourism. Nothing is mandatory here. Let your intuition tell you what’s the best way to experience the place!
How can we get to Chatam Forest Center?
Coming from Sofia or Plovdiv, take the road Batak – Dospat until you get to the wall of Golyam Beglik Dam. Just before you reach it, on the right side there is a road which runs along the northern coast of the dam. Following this road, after about a kilometer you will reach the end of the asphalt road (on the left there is an old rest house and one more building), then continue forward on a wide forest road. After about 5 km you will reach the influx of Black Dere River, cross the stone bridge over it and continue on the opposite shore of the dam. After about a kilometer you will enter Chatam protected area. After another kilometer you will reach the Forest Center, which is located to the left of the road.
When is it appropriate to visit the Center?
Chatam Forest Center operates 12 months a year. Of course, activities vary according to the seasons. In the summer it is usually pretty busy, because it is the best time to practice the various tourist activities and to work outdoors. In the autumn we usually prepare for the winter, which means preparing lyutenitza (chutney), jam and other winter supplies. In the winter, we enjoy the beautiful sunsets and walking on the frozen surface of the lake. In the spring we are roaming in the fields which are covered with fragrant herbs and flowers.
Every year Bikearea association conducts various initiatives related to nature conservation, sustainable development, non-formal education and demonstrating the possibilities for living a harmonious life in nature. The aim of these initiatives is to step up efforts to protect the environment and to balance economic development in the area of Beglika, and also to conserve the region’s traditional ways of making a living, to demonstrate and popularize opportunities for living close to nature with a minimal impact on the environment.
You can participate in these initiatives and thus experience the life in Beglika’s forest and support the preservation of the region’s natural and cultural heritage.
Cleaning the shoreline of Golyam Beglik Dam
Every summer friends and supporters of Bikearea are involved in the campaign to clean up the shoreline of Beglika Dam from waste generated as a result of tourist activity in the area.
Golyam Beglik Dam traditionally attracts large numbers of visitors who spend the warm summer camping along its shore. This tradition dates back decades, but unfortunately after the advent of “packaged” foods and products we often witness careless attitude on the part of visitors, leaving waste behind and spoiling the picturesque bays and meadows along the shore. At the same time, there is no system for waste collection and disposal on a regular basis yet, to reduce this negative impact, resulting in a common sight of torn plastic packaging, makeshift camping facilities, toilet paper and other such “treasures”. What makes especially bad impression are “traditional” dumps created in like old pits, trenches and even a cave – in 2011 Skutya Speleological Club went in to clean it and brought out 800 sacks of waste accumulated over the years.
The aim of this initiative is namely dealing with these negative impacts and raising visitors’ awareness. In 2012 we plan to have a number one-week campaigns that will focus on cleaning those unregulated landfills.
Monitoring of the area and the tourist flow
This initiative aims to trace the impact of human activities on the environment in the area of the Golyam Beglik Dam. Using these observations, we analyze the causes and factors that have an impact on nature and thus decide what actions should be taken to reduce this impact. Along with monitoring we strive to communicate with visitors to the area and raise their awareness on issues connected with waste management, making camp fire, collecting herbs and rare plants. This activity is carried out on a regular basis during the summer.
Raising awareness and improving the conditions for tourism in the area of Beglika
The aim of this initiative is to improve the conditions for practicing alternative forms of tourism such as cycling, sailing in calm waters, hiking, botanical tours, etc. For this purpose, bearing in mind the potential of the area and complying with territory management regulations, we mark or describe tourist routes, install information boards and other infrastructure that facilitates visitors find their way and acquaints them with the natural and cultural heritage of the region. This initiative includes the installation of camping and recreation facilities such as tables, benches, compost toilets, gazebos, etc. The initiative is carried out in campaigns.
Campaigns for collecting berries and herbs
These campaigns aim to preserve one of the region’s traditional ways of making a living. The area around Beglika abounds with blueberries, wild strawberries, raspberries, mushrooms and dozens of species of medicinal plants and herbs. Every summer, hundreds of people head into the forests and meadows in the vicinity to collect herbs and fruits, but unfortunately they often do this without observing the principles of care and moderate use of these resources and complying with regulations for protected areas.
Our campaigns aim to demonstrate sustainable gathering practices and to show the traditional ways of processing and preparing jams, tea and other products. We organize them in July and August.
Chatam Forest Center offers visitors a wide variety of sports and adventure activities allowing for an active holiday in the woods and lakes around Beglika. Qualified instructors who are part of the Center’s team will show you the hidden corners, meadows and picturesque bays of the lake.
In the area of the Forestry Center and Beglika area you can:
Enjoy mountain biking – an endless network of forest roads and trails will take you to the blooming valleys of Zhalto and Cherno Dere, Semiza and Suysuza rivers, the picturesque shores of Golyam Beglik, Shiroka Polyana, Dospat and Toshkov Chark dams, the endless forests of Syutka and Batashki Karluk peaks. The various routes are suitable for beginner cyclists and children, as well as for people looking for the adrenaline of technical descents.
Canoeing – for a few hours or all day long, you can go canoeing through the calm waters and bays of Golyam Beglik and Shiroka Polyana dams. It is a great feeling to watch the sun rise or go down in the mystical mists of the lake, or just enjoy the greenish blue waters and bathe along one of the “beaches” on the coast. No prior experience in canoeing is needed to participate in the programs we offer.
Cross the ropes course – built very near the Center, the ropes course will enable you to look at the world from a different angle. Crossing the individual elements will test your sense of balance and the downhill 70-meter trolley above the lake will awaken unexpected sensations. Our instructors and professional climbing equipment ensure your safety!
Explore the rich plant life in the region – in June and July Chatam protected area and the area around Beglika abound with herbs and berries. There are more than 120 recorded plant species, many of which are rare or have medicinal properties. Especially abundant are the valleys of the rivers that turn into real gardens at this time of year. Of particular interest is Beglika eco-trail which brings visitors closer to the wildlife of the reserve.
Experience the past of the region – the region of Beglika has been inhabited since ancient times. There are traces of prehistoric settlement in the area of Kremenite, while on Mount Srebren (Gyumushchal) there are traces of excavation works of Thracian and Roman mines. On the surrounding hills called Kaleto and Manastira fortress you can see the ruins of ancient forts that probably used for guarding the roads that cross the Rhodope Mountains.