by Association for Environmental Education
First published in ACCESS Spring 2015 e-zine
National parks, wherever they may be in the world, are the most beautiful and valuable nature reserves that exist. they are to be marvelled and can teach so much. We just need to take the time, and know where to go, and what to pay attention to.
What may surprise many is that in the Netherlands there are twenty of them covering a total of 130,000 hectares, providing exceptional areas which invite you to come and discover nature. Despite the ‘compact’ size of the country, nature in the Netherlands offers a huge diversity of landscape. Within the National Park system each park represents one aspect of the diversity of Dutch nature. In them you can enjoy the silence of wide heath, carr woodland, dynamic drifting sands, moving islands, meandering brooks, still bog pools, expansive woodland, intertidal mudflats, and other natural elements typical of the Netherlands. Needless to say, each park has its own specific animal population, among them rare bird species, deer, badgers, beavers, otters and seals.
In a nutshell
All the parks provide recreational activities geared to nature and education. There are many walking and cycling paths, bridleways and canoeing routes, hides, lookout posts, seating, signposting and information panels. Most parks have one or more visitor’s centres which aim to inform and amuse both young and old, raising an appreciation of nature along the way. The attractive presentations focus on the parks’ natural values, nature management, man’s influence on nature and the importance of nature conservation. Visitor centres also organise courses, activities and special projects for visiting schools or people who live in or near the park, and are the starting point for walks and guided excursions. Each national park has its own internet site and most also pub- lish a regular park bulletin which includes a schedule of activities. Brochures, folders and maps are also available. In order to simplify inter- net access to the parks’ website, a general web- site was launched: www.nationaalpark.nl. Here there is some English language informa tion. For an overall overview of which park offers what, there is a comprehensive guide to them all here in English, French and German.
Tips for activities in national park
- Nature cruise - Cruise from port Zierikzee. A roundtrip of about 2 hours by low tide with a nature guide on board and various educational materials. www.sportvisserijmoermond.nl or www.frisiarondvaarten.nl
- Watersnoodmuseum, Ouwerkerk - Museum about the flood in 1953. www.watersnoodmuseum.nl Storm surge barrier - After the North Sea Flood of 1953 a storm surge barrier was built in the Oosterschelde to protect a large part of the Netherlands from flooding. The four-kilo- metre long section has huge sluice-gate type doors that can be closed in adverse weather. The barrier is normally open, allowing salt water to enter the estuary and much of the tidal movement to be maintained. www.neeltjejans.nl
- Oesterij, Yerseke - Experience the world of Oysters, Mussels and lobster. www.oesterij.nl
The largest of the lot
National Park Oosterschelde in the South West of the Netherlands, with its 37,000 hectares, is the largest of the twenty national parks in the Netherlands, and received its designation as one in May 2002. It is also one of the most important bird sanctuaries in the country. The sea, the salt marshes, the mud flats, the ‘inlagen’ (shallow coastal lagoons), the ‘karrevelden’ (cart fields) and the grounds are ideal places to look for food. And, under- water, a busy, densely-populated word full of anemones, shrimp, and fish and, even, seahorses is waiting. The Oosterschelde is also of economic importance. The very same characteristics mentioned above, clean seawater with its low and high tides is a home port for Zeeland’s mussel and oyster farming.
The area is a great place for boating. Walkers and cyclists will have to explore the area using the dikes, although some tidal mud flats are accessible in rubber boots. Children can go beach combing under the watchful eye of a guide, and there are also opportunities for snorkelling, birding and boat trips. The former artificial island from which the storm barrier was built, Neeltje Jans, is now part of the nature reserve and has a visitors centre. With a bit of luck you may even spot harbour porpoises or seals in the estuary.
About the author
IVN, the Association for Environmental Education is a Dutch organisation for environmental education, where some 80 pro- fessionals and 20.000 volunteers throughout the Netherlands have a joint mission: to contribute to a sustainable society by connecting people with nature and their environment. IVN staff & volunteers organise education and information activi- ties, in close co-operation with many stakeholders.