Exploring Eindhoven Region – Oisterwijk fens and Kampina

Oisterwijk forests and fens (winter 2021)

It is so close and yet bound to be just off your radar for where to go for long nature walks- the Oisterwijk forest with its many fens, the nature reserve of the Kampina to their East, and various contiguous riverine and agricultural areas. Nothing is huge in this country, but different from most post stamp sized greenery, this varied and beautiful area makes for a large exploration ground.

The core of the area, South and East of Oisterwijk, was part of the early (pre-WWII) acquisitions of the Vereniging Natuurmonumenten, the largest private Dutch nature conservation organisation and made for a stronghold that was spared the widespread destruction of Brabant’s rural areas in the post-war decades. When policy thinking started paying more attention to the value of natural areas, various organisations started adding parcels wherever possible, and now it makes for a pretty unique and above all diverse green outdoors.

Disclaimer: I am biased as this is where I grew up. But maybe that is exactly why you should take my enthusiasm at face value. Isn’t the grass always greener on the other side of the fence? No, it is more than beautifully green enough on this side! And we Oisterwijkers have always thought so: it was in response to a lobby of concerned locals in the early 20th century that Natuurmonumenten made this their first protective buy in the Southern part of the country.

Have a look at the map. To the South of Eindhoven are two larger and very worthwhile nature conservation areas that everyone seems to consider part of their region: the Groote Heide with Valkenswaard as its nearest urban centre and the Strabrechtse Heide for which Geldrop and Heeze are the nearest centres (confusingly, both are part of the so-called “original Groote Heide” region which covered pretty much everything to the South of Eindhoven into Belgium). Now look again: Boxtel, to the North of Eindhoven, and a very convenient entry point to the Kampina and the Oisterwijk fens is a 15-minute train ride from Eindhoven central, half the time it takes you by bus to Valkenswaard. Oisterwijk is less than 25 minutes by train. Why bother? Because of the variety that my native area offers: forest, fens and heath, but also quite a few meandering brooks and rivers, stretches of which are up to the nicest of e.g. the Dommel, heritage agricultural areas, some amazing recent restorations, and a couple of picture book F&B possibilities.

A great way to get feel for what this area has to offer is an 18k walking route specifically designed for the NS (Dutch railways), that takes you from Oisterwijk station to Boxtel station (or the other way around). Like so much in my supposedly internationally oriented country, online info is only to be had in Dutch, but you can download a very useable map or GPS track on the NS site. VisitBrabant has English language info on a walk exploring the core area of the Oisterwijk fens.

Boshuis Venkrai, Oisterwijk image: VisitBrabant

Beyond these great introductions to the area, the VisitBrabant integrated network of walking trails – have another look at the map! – makes it easy to figure out alternatives and ways to combine adjacent areas with the parts highlighted by the above mentioned pre-designed walks. Adding adjacent areas makes for longer walks, but I have never really understood why 20-25k for a nice full day out in nature (leaving plenty time for rest stops) is considered too ambitious. Sure, with kids, or if you have physical limitations, the conventional 10k limit makes sense, but otherwise…?

Hoping to encourage you to be bold and design your own walks making use of the map (more on how to do that in this previous article in the Exploring Eindhoven series) two suggestions for you to turn into your own route:

If you are up to a more ambitious outing, one beautiful and interesting option near Boxtel is to combine the forest, fens and open heathlands of the Kampina with an exploration of as much of the bank of the Beerze and little Aa rivers as you feel like.  The VisitBrabant trails do not always stick to the river but if you do it it is not difficult to pick up a signed trail again a bit later. Look out for the copious signs of beaver activity!

The really ambitious can include an out and back on the opposite bank to near Spoordonk. Great for birdwatching! And a good example of how new areas are still being added to the long-established parts of the nature reserve.

Near Oisterwijk, following the Reusel South and the Rozep back North, in combination with the VisitBrabant route of the core area of fens, makes for a comparably more diverse and inspiring day out. In the Southernmost bit of this loop, you’ll see the Eindhoven – Tilburg highway in the distance but it shouldn’t be very intrusive.

For Eindhoven News: Roger Henke.

More background info, resources, and thoughts, visuals and audio about Eindhoven, The Netherlands, cities, exploring environments and assorted fancies: https://runandwalkeindhovenregio.org/

Episodes in this series:

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