In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

Between the river Maas and the border to Germany, in the north of the province of Limburg, there is a dreamlike scenery that is far away from clichés like Mrs. Anje, canals, kibbeling and sand castles. In winter as rough as Scotland, and in summer as tender as a sunset in the savannah. A region that allows you to move freely in the middle of the nature reserve, to walk and to cycle. And in addition: an infinite number of sights that make this region simply exceptional.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

The Maasduinen, once formed in the ice age, are today rightly declared a specially protected national park. However, since man is a part of nature, many hiking and biking trails have been created over the years, inviting you to explore the area. By bike it is a very special experience, and the Dutch junction system (Dutch: Knooppunt) helps to make a tour as pleasant as possible. The junction system is a network of cycle paths with fixed numbered points and uniform, clearly visible signage between the individual junctions. The nodes are located at crossings or junctions. They are recognizable by signs with a green border. It is therefore easy to make a day trip without knowing how to use a map, or the local conditions. A truly great system, which is highly appreciated not only in the Netherlands.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

The Maasduine. Probably the most striking type of dune in the Maasduinen is the river dune. Old or nearby river valleys are often accompanied by dunes. The falling rainwater quickly exposes the loose sand deposited by the river "Maas". As on the sea beach, the river valleys are the main condition for the formation of dunes in the free position of the valley, which gives the wind the opportunity to act very strongly on the ground surface. The transport of the sand is thus taken care of by the wind. Wide and open valleys, where the streams flow slowly, offer the most favorable conditions for dune formation. The dune as a single work is the Parabol dune.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

The hub is the visitor center at Reindersmeer. From there also I start my round trip. There is more than enough parking space, and the first thing that attracts his attention is the fact how the visitor center is structurally presented. Where up to 2001 ships were still being locked, the visitor center has been built at the end of the lock chamber across the old lock system. The hanging structure is not only something for the eye alone, because on the back side there is a restaurant, where the terrace system literally floats above the Reindersmeer. The Reindersmeer itself was created in the 60s. The fine sand was used for concrete extraction, and over the years it became a 130 hectare hole, the center of which measures a depth of over 20 meters. It is a dredging lake, but what kind of one!

From old to new. 22.500 loaded ships have taken away the sand from here. A total of 28.5 million m³. Under the surface there are layers of earth with the minerals pyrite and jarosite. Sulfuric acid is formed on contact with oxygen. Due to the 20 meters deep sand extraction, acidic water from the earth layers with jarosite has flowed into the lake. As a result, few plants and algae grow in the lake. Overwhelming is the blue to green color of the lake, and also the clarity of the water is fascinating. The shores are covered in a constantly changing pattern of waves, bogs and beautiful sand dunes. So that the Reindersmeer does not run dry, the visitor center has a second task. Under the hanging middle part of the facility is the concreted lock gate. This gate closes the passage between the Reindersmeer. The water sports area "Het Leukermeer. The Leukermeer, on the other hand, has a connection to the Maas through its outer harbor. The entire Bergerheide region has become a special place in the heart of the Maasduinen because of the special landscapes created here with their corresponding plant and animal species. A prime example of how sustainable and effective renaturation can be implemented without excluding humans. The National Park De Maasduinen is managed by the Stichting het Limburgs Landschap, the municipalities of Bergen and Gennep, Staatsbosbeheer and private owners.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen
In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

Intersections, probably the easiest navigation. If one has z. B. On the Internet a route via nodes compiled, so there are several display options. Primarily you can have your chosen tour printed out according to nodes. A download in GPX format is of course also possible. Where on the one hand the GPX files are stored in an output device, z. B. The printed junctions are attached to the handlebars. This approach seems new and inconvenient only at first glance. At a second glance you can see very quickly how (infinitely) far our country is from a bicycle friendly country like the Netherlands. Because the printed junctions are placed in extra junction holders. Node holders exist in infinite variations. Practical: The starting point is always shown online with address. So you can go by navigation directly to the destination place by car.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

Let's go! My tour starts at the fixed junction 30, and after a southwesterly loop towards the north I cycle on small, well-built cycle paths towards the airport Niederrhein. Most of the time, the bike lanes are separated from the road, but in case of shared use, one is pleased about the fact that the cyclist by law enjoys a high status in the Netherlands. Thus the drivers always take into consideration. The tour is much more relaxed. Oak and pine trees adorn the bike paths on the left and right, and you quickly notice the relaxation while cycling. Again and again small trails invite you to the dunes. The temptation to ride on it is admittedly very great, but the surface seems to me much too sandy.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

At junction 82, however, I could no longer resist, and instead of turning left I stayed on the road until I reached a forest playground. Directly at the forest playground there is the possibility to cycle along the dune landscape. Also, the path is barrier-free, and I was amazed at how incredibly beautiful this runaway was. Here are two small lakes, which are home to a colony of seagulls. Contrary to the seagulls, however, the lakes are called Endenmeer (Duck Lake). The laid out paths look like something out of a picture book. The path is made for cyclists, hikers and wheelchair users. Also those who are accompanied by a dog can use the path as long as the dog is leashed. The really interesting thing: Signs point out exactly the areas where the dog may be leashed off. Also the silence is impressive despite all the birds, only the wind increases noticeably on this free area.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

The 3 km long excursion ends at a natural footbridge, which is surrounded by a marshy area and a pond. If you go back to the junction route, after some time you will reach a country road to the small village of Siebengewald. Siebengewald lies directly on the German border. The village is known more from the earlier times. Because from there came the famous "broom makers". Today the village consists of a great sports facility "De Klappros" and a well-known supermarket as well as a bicycle store and a gas station. Shortly before the sports center you can see another monument, where various brooms are cast from bronze.

The broom makers. It was an arduous and poor work, from which the broom-makers could almost not feed their families and thus were not averse to smuggling and poaching in the heath". People lived and lived in huts made of heather and bushes. Many a broom maker went with dozens of heather brooms on his bicycle to the Ruhr area to sell his goods to the big steel companies.

The Teufelskuhle. If you leave the small village at junction 36 again, you drive over field roads in the direction of the north of the Maasduinen. Here it gets very woody in places along the Broerdersbosch, and nature shows a real pearl in this area between junction 43 and 86. The nature area "Het Quin. In the heath landscape "Het Quin" goats graze, which automatically also graze the grass between the heather plants. The goats feed not only on the grass but also on young birch and blackberry bushes. In this way the heath is preserved and not overgrown with grasses and bushes. The special plants like lavender, sundew, small cranberries and brown and white beak do not lose their place in the wet heath.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

In the past centuries many bogs had formed in the region. Also Het Quin was once a marshy area where peat was grown. Many careless workers lost their lives in this dangerous bog area. >>A single misstep could already mean a trip to the devil and hell

The Meuse. At junction 86 I took the opportunity to take a little break at the Meuse river. The Maas is not only an important trade route for the Netherlands, it is also a small water sports mecca for sport boats. For me the Meuse radiates an unbelievable calmness, and it is amazing how close small and large ships come to each other. There is also a ferry here, which is quite busy. Everything seems to harmonize well. The Meuse forms the natural border between the province of Limburg and the North of Braband. Only a short distance downstream you can see the Sambeek lock. At the beginning of the 20. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the intention was to make the Meuse more suitable for inland navigation. The main problem was to create a channel with the right depth, so that ships with up to 2.000 tons of payload become navigable.For this purpose the Maas had to be provided with five weirs, namely in Linne, Roermond, Belfeld, Afferden / Sambeek and Grave. There was a castle complex next to each weir. In 1915, the purpose of the project was described as: " The acquisition of a main road for the transportation of bulk goods from a region where a highly developed large-scale industry can be expected. "Around this time the mines in Limburg started to produce more and more and the transport of the coal took place until then only by rail. The dam complex was completed in 1929 and includes, in addition to the weir, two small locks with a vortex of 142 meters and a large lock with a vortex of 260 meters .

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen
In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

Kaastel ruin Blijenbeek. After leaving the Maas again and passing the village of Afferden, you get back on the road until a relic from long forgotten times appears at point 15. The Blijenbeek ruin has a long history. Sometime during the 80-year war, the castle was occupied by the Spanish. Later it was used for a short time as accommodation for Jesuits who were expelled from Germany. During the Second World War the country castle was razed to the ground by the British. A German occupation did not want to release the castle,so the allies made a heavy attack. Only the walls remained standing. There are still some photos in the net where you can see the castle in a better condition. The complex also included a tea house by a pond. A foundation fights since years for the preservation of the ruin. It is forbidden to enter the castle, but the gates are opened from time to time for various occasions. The ruins are especially popular for photo shoots with bridal couples.

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

Final spurt. From the ruins one follows the other junctions and passes the villages Nieuw Bergen, Oud Bergen and Aijen. Here you can enjoy the typical floodplain landscape, and along the Meuse you can still see the large lighthouse trees along the river. There are mighty black poplars. Around 1930 these beacon trees were set, far before GPS and radar. The trees helped the boatmen to keep the track in the Meuse at high tide.

Also the small village Aijen hides a little treasure before you get out again at the starting point. Even though the Netherlands is not one of the first wine-growing countries because of its cool climate, you can find a considerable selection of wineries in the regions of Limburg and Gelderland, which produce a wide variety of wines. A small excerpt from the press of August 2018:>>It promises to be a good wine year for the 'Aijense Rooie' (Aijense Red), as the grapes are in good shape. The warm summer has ensured that the sugar content is very high and there are beautiful, full grapes to harvest. The extreme summer weather also ensured that the grape harvest could begin three weeks earlier than last year

In the (bicycle) heart of the maasduinen

Every day comes to an end. Also my little day trip in the heart of the Maasduinen. At some point I reach the starting point again, and I am enthusiastic about the landscape and the village – country – river tour. Even if it is only a day trip with few kilometers, one could spend days on the spot as far as one wants to go. The region has a lot to offer, and the infrastructure is built in such a way that there are many places to stay overnight. Starting from hotels, there are also many vacation apartments in the region, and small to medium-sized very well maintained campsites. Camping does not automatically mean that a tent should be available, because the possibilities of overnight stays is very diverse. From brick weekend houses to chalets or tiny houses, almost everything is available at campsites. Some campsites are even real vacation parks, and the focus ranges from water sports to children's parks with merry-go-rounds.

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