Cycling in a forest of a nature reserve

Billet en français

With the obligation to stay home as much as possible and the urgent advice to only use public transport for important jobs I am not able or allowed to use the train to go somewhere to film for this blog. The last trip I made in a train was over a month ago to film in Utrecht. Fortunately, the surroundings of my hometown ’s-Hertogenbosch are beautiful. I am able to reach several nature reserves at a relatively short distance by bicycle. Since the Dutch are encouraged to go out to cycle (while adhering to the social distancing rules) I was able to film my Wednesday rides to three of those areas. In the coming weeks I will show you those examples, starting in this post.

Even in a nature reserve the types of traffic are separated. Left to right, a foot path, a cycle path and a bridle path. Only the cycle path has a hard surface of asphalt.
The entrance to the part with the large grazers has a cattle grid so the ponies (in this part) cannot escape. (There is a barbed wire fence on the left hand side of the grid that is almost invisible in this picture, but it is certainly there.)

For this week’s video I cycled to a nature reserve south-east of Oss. As you may remember there is a fast cycle route from ’s-Hertogenbosch to Oss, the F59 that I showed you earlier. You might expect I used that route but I didn’t. That route was specifically designed to connect the many villages between ’s-Hertogenbosch and Oss. Most people will use only part of the route from one of those residential areas to reach either ’s-Hertogenbosch or Oss. It is therefore not the fastest route when you really have to cycle between those places as I now had to. That is why I choose a route directly parallel to the motorway A59 which, with 25.7km, is almost 2 kilometres shorter than taking the F59 route.

This path was just about 2 metres wide so it was a bit harder to keep the minimum distance of 1.5 metres. It is a good thing we passed so quickly…
One of the larger ponds or meres is this one in the forest called Ganzenven (Geese Mere).
People of all ages and backgrounds were out for a breath of fresh air.

The landscape here in Brabant differs much from the part of the Netherlands that is called Holland with its fertile wet meadows below sea level. The province of North-Brabant is above sea level with a sandy soil that is very poor in nutrients. Most of the current forests here were the result of afforestation in the 19th century. South-east of Oss we find the Nature Reserve Herperduin with 400 hectares of beautiful forests, ponds and remnants of sand-drifts, that give you an idea of how this part of the Netherlands looked when most of it was still a primeval forest. Until recently Herperduin was a separate nature reserve but it has become part of a far larger nature reserve called Maashorst. This was achieved by connecting the two with two wildlife bridges to cross a motorway and a larger road. Those wildlife bridges were opened in 2013 for smaller animals like European badgers, but they have only been opened up for larger animals late 2019. The newly formed total nature reserve is now 2,400 hectares in size. You can find three imposing grazers that roam freely to help ensure that the natural landscape is as it once was: wild, pure and authentic. In the part where I cycled you can only find the Exmoor pony but in other areas you can stand eye to eye with the tauros and even the European bison!

It’s not hard to see which path is for walking and which way the cycle path goes. Only the paths for cycling have a surface of asphalt.
Horse riding is really popular in the more rural areas of the Netherlands.
This is junction number 23. The battery of the 360 camera died here. Unfortunately within 11 minutes after I started. That is why I filmed the following 5 minutes with my Iphone and that can obviously only be seen in the ordinary version of the ride, not in the 360 version.

The entire area of the Maashorst is fenced off and can only be entered via cattle-grids to prevent those larger animals from leaving the nature reserve. Cycling in these forests does mean you can come close to an enormous bull. That doesn’t always end well, but usually humans are to blame when it does go wrong. I cycled in the park following the signs to the numbered junctions, the nationwide network for recreational cycling.

A stylised map of the nature reserve Maashorst. I cycled in the most northern part that is separated from the rest by two major roads, north and south of Schaijk. In 2013 the two parts were connected by wildlife bridges which only became accessible for the larger animals on 4 October 2019.
The exit of the fenced off area is again a cattle grid for which this sign warns. You could get stuck in it with your wheels so it is best to carefully ride over this grid in a perfect perpendicular way.

With these programs for reintroducing large wild animals in the Netherlands the authorities want to return some of the original rugged nature at carefully selected locations. The Maashorst is a very special place, a nature reserve aspiring to become a national park (for which they make beautiful promotional videos!). Apart from all the beautiful nature archaeologists found royal graves from the early Iron Age, a cemetery from the late prehistory, the largest bronze depot in the Netherlands from Roman times and a number of forgotten villages from the Middle Ages. I am very lucky to have such a beautiful place at cycling distance from my home. Enjoy the videos.

Just outside the nature reserve this cycle bridge takes (recreational) cyclists over the N329 road.
I ended the continuous video on this intersection number 35. I did film more. Those clips can be found in the additional video showing how I got to the nature reserve and back again.
This is an excerpt of the map that shows people where the large grazers roam freely. I drew a purple line of the route I filmed while cycling from north-east to south-west from numbered junction number 17, via numbers 23 and 22 to number 35. (The added numbers in green.) The two red marks I added to the purple line are the locations of the two cattle grids I passed.

360° version from intersection 17 to 23

ordinary version (5:20 longer) all the way to intersection 35

Excerpts of the ride to and from the nature reserve

My entire route in Google Maps. The orange bit is in the continuous video.
Excerpts of the rest of the ride can be seen in the third video.
I took the shortest route on my way to the Maashorst, but I took a more
scenic route on the way back. Until Geffen from where I took the most direct route again.

3 thoughts on “Cycling in a forest of a nature reserve

  1. Looks like nice places in that nature reserve. I’m glad you are still getting out and about. I think staying home without interaction and fresh air is very unhealthy.
    I’m using my bike in Australia much more in recent years and accumulated thousands of kilometres on an app before I deleted it due to new surveillance laws this month. Nevertheless, I still use the bike and have noticed the sudden increase of bike users enjoying the fresh air during the economic shutdown.

  2. Dear Mark, on such a narrow bicycle path it is impossible to keep to the 1.5 m distance rule, and regarding Corona transmission, speed is no alternative for distance. Not so clever a choice for your ride this time…

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