For those of you who enjoy hiking (but walking is fine as well), I have a tip for you that will give you entrance to one of the oldest and most varied dune landscapes of The Netherlands: The "Oostvoornse Duinen".
The Sea Dunes
It being our Autumn break, I went there yesterday with my regular hiking companion, who used to be 2, 3, 4...and is now 22 years old.
My son and I enjoy walking together, and this part of our island of Voorne is our favourite.
It was a typical Wetlands day: misty, damp, grey cloud cover and threatening to rain (and sure enough half-way through it did start to rain and wouldn't stop).
Oostvoorne is a small town, part of the larger municipality of Westvoorne (comprising of Rockanje, Tinte, Brielle and Oostvoorne). To get there you take the largest motorway (which thankfully still is a two-lane) N218 and then follow the signposts to the starting point of our hike: the carpark next to the Natuurmonumenten/Zuid-Hollands Landschap Education Centre ("Bezoekerscentrum") on the Duinstraat 12a. (Adjacent to the comfortable restaurant called De Meidoorn).
The landscape has slowly evolved over the centuries. It used to be mostly sand dunes, but due to landowners planting tree plantations and acid rain it is now a very green area with lots of trees, shrubs, berry carrying shrubs and grasses and reed beds as well as sand dunes. In order to keep the grasses in check, large areas have been fenced in (this IS The Netherlands after all) so that herds of sheep, ponies and cows can graze there in relative freedom.
Contrary to what you might think, the bottom line doesn't mean that there is no danger of meeting a wolf, but that you have to keep your dog on a leash. We don't have wolves (yet) in this part of the Wetlands.
My son and I decided to take one of the longer walks; the walk around a dune lake called Het Breede Water. (2 hours)
To get there, you have to take the path to the right next to the education centre and along the attractive lake called the Tenella Plas. Again, this being the Netherlands, there is no danger of getting lost: the paths are mostly signposted by means of coloured arrows. The Breede Water route is clockwise, signposted with a white arrow.
At first there are still some small farm houses dotted around (much sought-after to live in these days), and the typical meadows that belong to them.
Actual farming is forbidden now though, the landscape has all been given back to 'nature' (which is a laugh, really. It is as well tended as a garden!) As soon as you have crossed the horse bridlepath, you enter a wet area, so wellingtons are a good option from October onwards. In fact, if we have a wet winter and we usually do, many of the paths are extremely muddy. You now walk along a sandy/grassy path adjacent to one of the old pine plantations (on your left). To your right are the older dunes, with many berry carrying shrubs which attract numerous birds.
As a girl I always laughed to see the sparrows and blackbirds get drunk on the orange berries of the meidoorn.
After approximately half an hour you can view the largest dune lake, the Breede Water, on your right hand side. There is a viewpoint ("Uitzichtpunt"), from where you can spot the waterfowl whilst they cannot spot you.
In Spring the Breede Water is an overcrowded place, with cormorants, swans, ducks, geese, herons (both white and blue) and spoonbills making their nests there.
Yesterday is was deserted.
I used to take my son's friends around the lake as a birthday treat (picknick), and since his birthday is in April, those boys always walked demonstratively with their noses pinched because of the stench of Cormorant's Island.
This area has so many happy memories for me! I came here with my Mum (and dogs), and then with my kids (and dogs).
To my dismay the favorite climbing tree of my children has been chopped...
Just look at this... This was 12 years ago. As I said, you walk around the Breede Water clockwise, so at the half-way mark you enter the proper dunes.
This is the closest thing we Wetlanders have to anything slightly resembling a hill (tiny), and it used to be all SAND when I was a girl!
Breede Water from the other side, black pines in the background
I hope you will be able to follow those white arrows, for this is the (only) point where the path is a bit tricky (hard to see), and you could get lost. Still, you are always in sight and reach of your GPS satellite, so don't you fret! When you have almost reached the point where you started walking around the Breede Water, you again enter the forest.
The Beeches are just starting to turn
You'll know when you have not strayed when you again reach the Tenella Plas. Do go and visit restaurant De Meidoorn before you start you car! They do lovely Dutch grub and the ambience is very friendly. I hope you have enjoyed this route. Whenever you are near - come visit Voorne! Google Maps pointer: type in Tenellaplas Oostvoorne.