Last summer I started a discovery tour through a number of national parks in the Netherlands in collaboration with Dutch National Parks. I still had one park to go when a new lockdown was announced in October and so my visit to National Park Sallandse Heuvelrug was postponed to this year. The idea was to not only just hike, but also do some other special activities to show that there is more to do than hiking or biking. Last week the time had come and I visited the Sallandse Heuvelrug. I did three different things: a hike over the Sprengenberg, I met with the sheep herd of Lemelerveld and I visited the Observatory Hellendoorn.
Over de Nationaal Park Sallandse Heuvelrug
The Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park is located in Overijssel, roughly between the cities of Deventer, Zwolle and Enschede. The park is located on a ridge, which is an old moraine formed in the ice age and has 26 hills of which the highest is 73 meters high. The rolling landschape is the perfect place for walking, cycling and other outdoor activities. The most important access center is the Buitencentrum Sallandse Heuvelrug in Nijverdal. In addition, there are three other places that are excellent to start your adventure, which are Erve de Pas, Information Center Canadian Cemetery and Nature Museum Holterberg.
Walking in Sallandse Heuvelrug
I start my visit at the parking lot De Sprengenberg and Erve de Pas. Several hiking trails start from here, I do the 5.6 kilometer long orange route that takes me right across the Sprengenberg and surrounding area. The Sprengenberg is a very interesting area, where heath and forest alternate. Also special is the trail full of azaleas that are in full bloom in spring. I’m actually just too late in the season, but luckily I still see some pink flowers in the landscape. What a pleasure it must be to walk here during the blooming period!
Very special in the landscape is the Palthetoren (‘Palthetower’), which is located on the hill and rises above the surrounding trees. This villa was built in 1903 by A. A. W. van Wulfften – Palthe to stay during and after his hunt through the estate that he owned. The house is not accessible to the public, but can be clearly seen from the orange hiking track. Further along the trail you will come across the old bathhouse that belongs to the villa.
A meeting with forester Jos
After my lunch at the restaurant of Herberg Erve de Pas it is time for a meeting with forester Jos. He works for Natuurmonumenten and I think it would be interesting to talk to him about the area. First I ask him what is so special about the Sallandse Heuvelrug and he tells me that this is the only place in the Netherlands where grouse still live in the wild. This animal is in danger of extinction and currently only about 25 are alive and a number of new ones from Sweden are added every year to keep the population healthy.
I also ask him about the future of the national park, because with the arrival of the corona virus, the number of visitors to the national park has also increased enormously. Jos says that last year there were as many visitors on an average weekday as there were on a Sunday prior to the pandemic. It is very busy on Sundays. He is committed to spreading the visitors better and also to introduce them to the villages and areas around the national park, in order to reduce the load on the beaten paths. In collaboration with the surrounding villages, new walking and cycling routes are being set up that also allow visitors to experience nature beyond the park boundaries. He also hopes that in the future more people will use public transport to get to the national park. Both Nijverdal and Holten have a train station and from there there are countless options to explore the park.
The last question I ask him is what he recommends to visitors. “Just stand still for a moment. Sit down somewhere and keep your mouth shut and your ears and eyes open. Be open to the environment and you will be amazed by all the beauty you see.’
With this beautiful conclusion we say goodbye and I go to my next destination: the Schaapskooi Lemelerberg.
The sheepherd on Lemelerberg
The day before my trip I already had contact with Anita: the shepherd of the Lemelerberg nature reserve, which is located in the north of the Sallandse Heuvelrug. Together with her 260 Veluwe heath sheep, she can be found daily in the area, but today they come to the sheepfold because they are sheared the next day. I meet Anita just when the sheep have gone inside and I ask her about life as a shepherd.
Actually, I don’t know that much about sheep. I’m therefore amazed by Anita’s stories about how she carries the herd over the hills each day and in this way ensures that the landscape remains intact. Anita’s herd consists of about 260 sheep. Every year at the end of the summer she makes a ‘selection’ of the sheep that can stay and sheep that have to leave the herd. Older ladies, for example, who no longer have lower teeth, cannot eat enough and thus no longer do their job properly.
And what happens to the sheep at night? “Then they stay on the heath with an electric wire around it. I then look for a place where there is enough food and water for them.” Of course, Anita cannot be with the herd every day, so she works with a number of volunteers who support her.
If you want to visit the sheep herd, please contact Landscape Overijssel who can tell you where Anita and her sheep can be found on the mountain. The sheepfold is not accessible to the public as it’s privately owned.
Off to the Observatory
After a delicious dinner at De Budde in Nijverdal, the last part is on the program: a visit to the Observatory in Nijverdal. It’s located in the Buitencentrum of Staatsbosbeheer. Although I had been here before, I had not noticed that there is a large dome on top of the building. I’m welcomed here by volunteer Cor who gives me a brief tour of the Observatory.
First I step on the Sky Walk, an observation platform at a height of 8 meters. Here you can also find the radio telescope, a satellite of 3 meters in size. From here I watch Cor open the dome so they can look at the stars with the telescopes from here.
Then I visit the huge telescopes that are in the dome. Also unique here is the sun observatory with which the sun can be observed. It is the only one of its kind in the Netherlands. Unfortunately I can’t visit the planetarium, but the photo below gives an idea of what it looks like.
Would you like to visit the Observatory yourself? There are various programs to follow as well as lectures and courses. More information can be found on the Hellendoorn Observatory website.
Conclusion and disclaimer
My visit to the Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park has shown me once again how beautiful this part of the Netherlands is. It was special to be able to talk to those who work here and ensure that nature is preserved in the area. Would you like to do a fun activity in the national park yourself? Go here to see all that is going on in the national park. All my other Dutch National Park articles can be found here.
Hopefully you have enjoyed this article and I have inspired you to pay a visit to Sallandse Heuvelrug National Park. I made this blog article in collaboration with Experience the National Parks. All opinions given are my own only.