We’ve lost our hearts to the beautiful rural scenery and picturesque villages just north of Utrecht. We’re talking about a centuries old, fen meadow area with extraordinary natural values and Dutch folklore. A characteristic, stretched out, human made landscape which is more than worth exploring by foot. This hike is one of the best in the Green Heart region.
The Green Hart region in Holland consists of mire or peatland and remained largely open over the centuries, because the wetlands were unsuitable for building. However, agriculture and peat production thrived. Peat gatherers dug out and dried the peat on long, narrow strips of land. Once dry, the peat was used as a source of fuel. The land strips are still visible in the landscape today and are surrounded by water – lakes that appeared after the extraction of peat.
Hint: Look up the villages of Tienhoven and Westbroek in Google Maps and click on satellite images. The long strips of pastureland and water are proof of a history of peat extraction in this area.
Naturally, the lakes would disappear again in a slow process of decomposed water plants accumulating to form peat soils that fill the shallows. In some places along the route you will see this process in the form of mats of plants covering the water. However, the State Forest Service and the Society for Conservation of Nature (Natuurmonumenten), who maintain this nature reserve, try to keep the shallows open in order to avoid the loss of this culturally and naturally significant landscape.
An extraordinary experience is to set foot on an area of thick, moss-rich peat bog. If you carefully jump up and down, you’ll notice the ground under your feet is undulating as if you were jumping on a waterbed or a sponch. The 20-70 cm thick layer of peat bog is floating on water. If you jump too hard you’ll fall through! Wet feet guaranteed. If you want to know how this works exactly, watch this short explanatory video. We’ve indicated the quaking bogs in our track on Wikiloc.
Characteristic plant species grow here thanks to distinctive ecological conditions of the fen. Please take great care not to damage this fragile and protected nature!
The hike passes wet woodland, quaking bogs and fen meadows and continues on a low grassy embankment with views on the beautiful wetlands of the Lakes of Tienhoven (Tienhovense Plassen), home to many bird species such as the black-tailed godwit, spoonbill and black tern. If you visit this nature reserve during the last weekend of the month between March and October, volunteer guides will be present to show you one of the most interesting, cultural phenomena of the Netherlands: a duck decoy. Highly recommended!
Just when you think you’ve seen all highlights, you will pass a water mill named ‘The Loyal Guard’. During World War II the miller used to give signals to persons in hiding by turning the sails of the mill in a certain position. Soon after that you’ll enter the village of Tienhoven. Before catching the bus back to Utrecht, make sure you pay a visit to regional museum Vredegoed – a lovely small museum showing village life back in the fifties.
- Costs: admission to the museum is €3 per person, bring cash.
- Address: start the hike at bus stop ‘Gereformeerde Kerk’ along Kerkdijk, Westbroek (52.154093, 5.118109). Take bus 122 from railway station Utrecht Overvecht. On your return, take the same bus back to the railway station from bus stop Nedereindsevaart, Tienhoven (52.155488, 5.094967). Plan your journey at 9292.nl/en.
- More info: Museum Vredegoed is open April-October on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays between 1-5pm. The first part of the track will be soggy after rain, the last part follows the public road. There are two cafes in Tienhoven.
- Bring: Binoculars, water resistant shoes, suitable clothes and a hat for warm or cold weather, lunch.
- Wikiloc: Quaking bogs and Dutch folklore track (11km).
Want to see more of the Green Heart region? This bicycle trip crosses straight through and has a fun surprise along the way! 🙂