I'm a Weekend Roamer
Roaming the Dutch Landscape is a great way to spend any given weekend. The Netherlands offers a diverse range of landscapes, in which any outdoors enthusiast can simply get outside, then wander and explore their surroundings.
When spending my time outdoors, I tend to do what the Dutch do and use my bike in order to reach a favourable and desirable outdoor location. After a long, hard week at work, I always feel the urge to recharge the batteries and as a result, I think there is nothing better than just getting outside and back into nature, fully experiencing my surroundings at their very best.
Not too far away from my home are many areas set aside for their natural beauty with each region or Province in the Netherlands having a dedicated and protected area, for all to enjoy. Towards the centre and east of the Netherlands, is a region called the Veluwe. It is a fabulous natural area and probably one of my favourites. With some of the finest and oldest woodlands being found here. It is not only home to an abundance of beautiful lush ancient woodlands and heathland, but also a stunning array of wildlife. Where Game, Deer, Wild Boar and other varieties of wildlife are prevalent throughout the seasons.
In the north of the country, in the Province of Noord Holland is the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park and the Schoorlse Duinen which are again unique and beautiful areas. They are located close to the sea and here you can find many different hiking and cycle trails mixed amongst a diverse landscape, that is predominately made up of natural dunes and marshlands.
Down in the south of the country and situated in the Province of Zuid Holland is one of the largest natural areas, this region is called the De Biesbosch. It is a unique area and one of the last freshwater tidal areas found in North Western Europe. When visiting this beautiful landscape you will be pretty much surrounded by water and a wonderful range of wildlife. With the area being extremely important for a wide range of wildfowl, home to large colonies of Beavers and many different varieties of flora and fauna. When visiting this particular area it is difficult not to marvel in your glorious surroundings by walking and utilsing the water to travel around. So much so that many visitors paddle a canoe, row a boat or cruise around in larger vessels at their leisure.
All of these wonderful locations serve as the perfect retreat, for anyone wanting to simply break away from the norms, set out by the daily grind. To spend time capturing the beautiful landscape through photography, written words or perhaps even paints. Hiking, Cycling or paddling the large network of routes or staying over in one of the many natural holiday parks that encourage visitors to stay and not only experience somewhere new, but also focus on nature and indulge in some of the finest countryside the country has to offer.
It is sometimes difficult to convey through written words, but there's definitely a simple pleasure about being out in the great outdoors. Especially at the weekend, discovering something new and it remains something I really look forward to, as it provides a great sense of enjoyment, but also freedom.
I'm relatively new to the Netherlands. I'm actually an 'Expat Englishman' and I have lived here now for around 3 years. As a result, I would still regard myself as a newbie, so with each and every experience, travelling away from home, it still feels like a new experience and one that I continually look forward to each and every time. No matter where or how far, visiting new places, obviously is a great experience and it provides many memorable moments for me and others close to me to cherish.
In contrast to my present location and situation. I was lucky enough to grow up surrounded by an area of outstanding natural beauty. That area is the beautiful Peak District. This stunning part of the UK has continually provided me with many fabulous places to get outside, explore and obviously enjoy. Throughout my time living there, I'd be out most weekends hiking in the hills or cycling around the large network of country lanes. Always embracing its beauty, by not only exploring all around, but also using my camera to help document the whole experience with images.
In the Netherlands, the landscape is different and a complete contrast to what I'm used to. It is extremely flat, there is a huge amount of water, but there is still enough variety and beauty to make each and every occasion outdoors that little bit unique and appealing.
After cycling from my home, to the local main station (Rotterdam Centraal) I decide to utilise the efficient train service and travel towards my final chosen destination. Here in the Netherlands, the trains are superb, as they provide the perfect mode of transport for getting around the country and with ample room for bikes, it means that any destination can be easily reached. It also provides the opportunity to utilse a traffic-free option. Which, as a cyclist, I would choose every single time as I would much prefer to do my bit in order to save this great planet of ours. It is good to reduce the number of vehicles on the road and in this case, I guess relax, kick back and enjoy the beautiful scenery as you go.
Within the hour I reach my intended stop. I disembark, set my thoughts and then venture on my way. The Netherlands has a truly amazing cycling network and there are cycling routes to be discovered all over the country. Cycling is just part of life, part of the culture and it is what happens on a daily basis. It is hard to describe unless you see it for yourself, but everyone cycles here. You can easily follow the network of signs and routes which will eventually lead you to some marvellous places, both peaceful and beautiful. My route soon takes me from the station out of the small town and straight into the open spaces and stunning exposed landscape.
For this particular visit I've ended up roaming around The Green Heart of the Netherlands. It is a beautiful part of the country and it is surrounded by the major cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht. I guess marking an area in the heart of the country.
Once you arrive here, it really strikes you just how beautiful it is and how different it is from the busy cities that surround. The Green Hart or Groene Hart (in Dutch) is characterised by its rural character which contrasts the urban sprawl that encroaches around it.
Agriculture, nature and recreation are the primary activities in the Groene Hart. Here residents from outlying villages and urban visitors can often find rest, tranquillity in many of the wonderful green spaces. Mills, Dikes and Dutch cows are the primary landmarks of this lowland area. With nearly all of it found below sea level.
I cycle here and enjoy exploring the various separated cycle paths that are so prevalent in the Groene Hart, it is a great area to utilise the bike and you can cycle for hours and wander for miles. During this particular visit it was my intention to travel out of Rotterdam by train, but then follow the winding path home by cycling the 40 km or so.
Here you feel pretty small an insignificant as the low lying land means that the skies above you seem huge. The weather changes here pretty frequently and those changes can often be seen for miles and its minimalist landscape, so you always notice when something happens. Whatever that change is, it most certainly has its appeal.
The Groene Hart is of major importance to the Netherlands as it is not only rich in natural diversity, but also acts a barrier to stop the ever-expanding metropolitan areas. It is home to large colonies of Wildfowl that make their home on the wide expanse of polders and leisure lakes that surround all around. There are coppices of small woodland areas and historical Dutch towns, which are inter-dispersed along the way with the iconic Dutch Windmills, that give that picture postcard view.
I've certainly enjoyed my time here and after spending a splendid few hours out in the fresh air, the batteries seem to have been fully charged. So I get back on to the bike and pedal on. Follow the paths that eventually lead towards home making the most of what is all around me, by attempting to capture the true feeling of my excursion outdoors.
This particular trip turned out to be a relatively short one, but one that was equally enjoyable. I like nothing better than being in the outdoors and it is really great to have the opportunity to wander and be free.
In the weeks and months ahead, I'm sure there will be other similar excursions out into the natural landscape. Hopefully to various destinations dotted all around the Netherlands.
The images shown below come from the book Groene Hart Pad which helped form the perfect company on this particular visit. It provides detailed information on all of the walking paths that are found in this beautiful area and the complete set of walks cover all of the Netherlands. I have bought one or two and they really do help to get me outside and exploring the picturesque Netherlands and its unique landscapes.
I would also like to extend a massive thank you to Home of Millican for providing me with the wonderful rucksack seen in many of the images throughout this blog post.
The bag shown is the 18L Maverick and it has been the perfect companion in recent weeks, whilst I roamed the beautiful and diverse Dutch Landscape. It sounds like and old cliche, but I cannot stress how great this bag is.
Superbly designed and made from arguably some of the finest materials. It makes for a must-have item.