Autumn walks to remember
2019-10-23 | By Sally Squirrell
As the leaves change colour and the heather blooms, autumn is the perfect time to bundle up and head out into the Dutch countryside. Whether a walk through formal gardens, a cross-country hike or a seaside stroll, the Netherlands has something for all.
While there are times during the chillier autumn days to stay snug and warm inside (see our autumnal food article on page 16), the season’s cooler days are perfect for enjoying nature in the Dutch landscape.
Walking with a view − Appeltern
De Tuinen van Appeltern (the Gardens of Appeltern) are 23 hectares of gardens situated between the Meuse and Waal rivers in the village of Appeltern, in the eastern province of Gelderland. The gardens are perfect for a relaxing early autumn stroll and to pick up ideas for your own garden.
Appeltern has more than 200 model gardens including the Wilde Weelde Wereld Garden (Wild World Garden)–an initiative in sustainable, natural and biologic gardening across different biospheres; the Living Garden–five individually-themed gardens; and the National Fixed Plant Garden–impressive border arrangements.
Appeltern also offers day-long courses where a landscape designer talks through garden design basics, covering ‘typical’ Dutch gardens, before leading a guided walk around the gardens. There is nothing better on a breezy autumn day than an enjoyable and informed garden walk, stopping to sketch inspiration, followed by a well-earned lunch in the café.
Walking in the steps of a murderer – Drenthe
As the days grow shorter and the light changes, things can start to feel a little spookier. Embrace this seasonal mood with a walk in the strikingly sparse landscape of the Moordenaarsveen (murderer’s moor). Part of the Dwingelderveld National Park, the region got its name during the Eighty Years’ War when, according to a local tale, the killers dumped the body of a murdered Spanish soldier. Some say his spirit still haunts the area.
Situated in the province of Drenthe, in the north-eastern Netherlands, the nearly 40 square kilometre park is the largest wet heathland in western Europe. The area has a similar feel to the English fens–huge skies stretch above a mysterious and beautifully bleak landscape. Hike the old trails between Celtic burial mounds and past sheep and cows before spending the night in one of the old farmhouses now operating as high-end bed and breakfasts.
Walking by water – Naardermeer
Membership of Natuurmonumenten (the society for the preservation of natural monuments in the Netherlands) includes a free book of walks (in Dutch, but with easy to read maps). One of their recommended trips is the walk around the Naardermeer, a lake near the town of Naarden. Centrally located, between Amsterdam and Hilversum and easily reachable by public transport, Naardermeer is a good place for walking-newcomers with routes that start at a few kilometres and increase to the twenty kilometres loop around the lake.
Fuel up for your walk at a local restaurant before setting out through the lakeside forests. Children will love navigating the narrow timber paths across the damp ground and climbing into bird-hides to look for silver herons, spoonbills, bluethroats and teal ducks. Information boards at the entrance to each hide tell which birds to look out for.
Walking in early autumn brings additional delights–with blackberries abundant at this time of year, remember to take a box for collecting or a napkin for your chin.
Walking by the sea – Zoutelande
Blow away the cobwebs and get some autumn exercise with a brisk walk at the shore.
On the south-western coast, Zoutelande, a quaint little town in Zeeland, was celebrated in a song by the Dutch band BLØF and was a favourite among Dutch painters who admired its sky and the reflection of the sun on the water. These days Zoutelande is a great place for taking perspective photos amongst the sea defences, enjoying a walk along the clean beach and taking in the fresh sea air.
Break up the day, and warm up, with appeltaart (apple tart) and chocolademelk (hot chocolate, with whipped cream of course) in a strandtent (beach café) before returning to the town by foot along the dyke. Enjoy the area by extending your stay overnight in one of the funky apartments in the iconic Duinhotel Tien Torens, where the garden forms the façade of the building.
Walking and travelling by train
If you ever look out of the window of a train and see somewhere you would like to explore further, now you can, with a new feature on the NS website, NS-wandeling, that allows you to filter walks by type–from beach to meadow to town, and more. (The website is in Dutch). Each walk starts from an NS railway station and returns to the same one, or finishes at another train station. There are options for how many kilometres you want to walk and even two-day walks for the truly inspired.
Clear skies, crisp days, red, orange and yellow leaves and purple heather make autumn the perfect season to get out into the stunning Dutch countryside.
Discover more walks online
Hike in Holland offers self-guided hiking holidays across the Netherlands, with varying routes through polders, dunes and forests, and shorter city walks, a great way to enjoy the autumnal beauty. hike-in-holland.com
De Hoge Veluwe is Netherlands’ biggest national park, boasting 5500 hectares of forest, heathland, marshland and sand drifts, and the perfect place to enjoy nature.
Search for ‘walking in de hoge veluwe’ at holland.com
About the author
Sally Squirrell enjoys walking and cycling in the Dutch countryside and its straightforward people and language. She talks about architecture a lot and loves to help people with their home design challenges at architectofsketch.com