The Oisterwijk fens and the Kampina, the topic of the previous episode in this series, is a part of a much larger area called het Groene Woud (the green forest). Het Groene Woud is one of twenty so-called ‘national landscapes’, showcases of rural areas that still preserve a lot of their traditionally interwoven natural and cultural elements. Labels are often policy or marketing tools that suggest more coherence than reality has to offer. This is true for het Groene Woud, which, like its better-known cousin het Groene Hart (the green heart), is a core of rural villages and towns with edges defined by urban centres. Eindhoven, Tilburg and Den Bosch for het Groene Woud, the big four (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht) of the polycentric Randstad metropolis for het Groene Hart. But labels also have a reality shaping power and this is also true for het Groene Woud. The label and associated formal status help important efforts to preserve, reconnect, and even enlarge remaining natural and traditional agricultural areas which in our land-scarce country are permanently vulnerable to encroachment by infrastructural and other development.
In this article, I focus on what this national landscape itself calls its core: two adjoining natural areas, de Mortelen and de Scheeken. Together they constitute Brabant’s largest expanse of non-consolidated farmland, making for a unique time capsule experience in this heartland of Dutch industrial agriculture. The two are separated by a highway and a four-lane railway, obviously, a barrier for wildlife that partially causes negative consequences. Nevertheless, these two areas are managed as a joined habitat for herds of reintroduced red deer and will impress any visitor with their very rich biodiversity. It is only by exploring areas like these, one truly realizes how uniform, colour-neutral and quiet ‘normal’ Brabant farmland is. In comparison, de Mortelen on a spring day is a riot of colour humming with birdsong.
As always, for finding your way I encourage you to use the VisitBrabant network of cycle and walking trails. A great starting point for exploring de Mortelen is Herberg (Inn) de Schutskuil (look for walking trail junction 69 on the Oirschotseweg, South of Boxtel/Lennisheuvel). A circuit from there automatically includes a 14th-century dike trail at the edge of the Velderbos estate, an 18th-century baroque ‘star forest’, with nine ‘avenues’ meeting at its centre, worth the short out-and-back, with good chances of spotting deer. Eindhoven based Families will have to opt for the car to get there but the energetic should consider cycling to the Schutskuil, which allows you to traverse and take in de Scheeken twice. A two-way cycle and a 10-12k walk make for a day out you will not easily forget.
For reasons that remain mysterious to me, Eindhoven seems to mainly look South when promoting the green outdoors beyond the city. It may be one of the three anchor cities of het Groene Woud but doesn’t seem particularly invested in promoting its northern corridors. A real pity, that Eindhoven largely differs from its neighbours Oirschot and Best in this aspect. All of this national landscape is within easy reach, and its core, de Mortelen and the Scheeken are just a nice bike ride away. In my previous article, I raved about the scale and ecological diversity of the Oisterwijk fens and the Kampina. De Mortelen is even closer by. It offers you a unique traditional landscape that is fundamentally different from what you can find in the South of Eindhoven. Enjoy!
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:
- The routes of Visit Brabant
- Architecture City
- Audio tree walks in the city
- The Dommel Valley
- The City Centre
- Historical Atlas of Eindhoven
- Den Bosch
- Oisterwijk fens and Kampina
- het Groene Woud