This is the fourth and final report of the longer rides I made on my free Wednesdays during the first month of the Corona crisis. After four such rides I stopped making them for no particular reason. I had cycled to the West, East and South but for this last one I didn’t cycle north. To the north of ʼs-Hertogenbosch we find the large river Maas (Meuse) and there is only one bridge to cross it which make the rides north a bit predictable and boring. There is a ferry a bit further away, but that stopped taking cyclists who weren’t making essential rides. So that limited my options north even further. I also don’t really like the landscape to the north: meadows and cows. I’ve seen too many of those in my life already! When you see what I found now that I cycled west again you may understand. Because I indeed cycled west again. This time to a national park, “the Dunes of Loon and Drunen national park” to be precise.
The Dunes of Loon and Drunen are very special. This national park is about 3,500 hectares in size and it is situated in a triangle formed by the cities of Tilburg, Waalwijk and ʼs-Hertogenbosch. The park has the largest drifting sands in Europe and it is sometimes called the Sahara of the Netherlands. That’s right you can find a desert-like area in the middle of Brabant. It is one of the Netherlands’ largest natural areas and also the largest sand drift area in western Europe. The sand dunes formed about 10,000 years ago.
Contrary to the image many people have of a desert, the Dunes of Loon and Drunen are a very lively area with a great variety of plants and animals. The transition area where the pine forests and heather gradually merge with the shifting sands, with many mosses and grasses, are particularly interesting to see. This national park is home to many songbirds, birds of prey, roe deer and even badgers. The large sand areas have a micro-climate that is different from the surroundings. The temperature can reach up to forty degrees Celsius during the day in the summer and then drop to around freezing in the evening.
I looked on the internet to see what was written about this park and found a few visitor’s testimonials on Tripadvisor. A small selection:
Exotic for The Netherlands, someone from Sydney wrote:
Who would expect that there was a desert in the middle of The Netherlands and yet this national park proves there is. An amazing area of sand dunes and open vista’s that are well worth a visit. Be careful with the walking paths though as you can get lost.
Lovely peaceful walk, said someone from Southampton:
We had a lovely walk on a Sunday morning through the forest and across the dunes. I would imagine it gets very busy in warmer weather – cyclists, horses, runners. Finished off with a coffee in the cafe.
Fascinating “Dutch Sahara”, a visitor from Norway wrote:
Really like the wilderness environment. Great walking area, though tough walking on the sand sometimes. Very pleasant to see shepherds leading/driving their quite large flock across the dunes.
Very beautiful, a person from nearby Tilburg said:
For the first time I Mountain-biked in the Loonse en Drunense duinen. It was a very good experience. Did that together with my oldest son of 15 years old. We took the 30km trail. Be aware this is really a challenge. The hospitality of the colleague bikers was great.
Finally You feel as if you are close to the ocean, stated an anonymous visitor:
This nature area is stunning. Wonderful old pine trees surround open areas of white sand. It’s a great place to walk and at the edges of the park you find many quaint restaurants. This area is worth visiting any time of the year.
I am lucky to have such a beautiful area at cycling distance from my home. I have already visited it at any time of the year. I’ve shown you parts of the park when the heath was in bloom, turning the landscape purple. This time I particularly loved the silence. I filmed part of my ride in 360 degrees (and also made an ordinary version for those who like that better). Since the last time I used the camera I could only film about a quarter of an hour on one battery, I now had the camera on a power bank until I really started filming. That seems to have helped. I let the camera run while I was riding east and back to ʼs-Hertogenbosch and it filmed for almost 25 minutes, in the park and while I was riding around the edge of it. I hadn’t really expected it to last this long. Enjoy!
Of that entire route below is the part you can see in the video:
The filmed part of the ride on 14 April 2020.
Ride in 360
The same ride as an ordinary video