In April I was invited to attend the grand opening of the Zwin Wandelnetwerk – a new network of footpaths in and around Knokke-Heist, Het Zoute, the Zwin nature reserve, and into the neighbouring Dutch villages of Cadzand and Retranchement. I blogged very positively here on these footpaths. Yesterday it was time to explore the footpaths to the west of the Zwin, and into the Netherlands. Unfortunately Liz and I were rather disappointed.
After parking outside the Zwin, we set off from junction 1 to junction 12, directly east along the Internationale Dijk. It’s a walk of 2.1 km, but unfortunately it is not along a footpath! It is a cycle path, a narrow one at that, and an extremely busy one. It’s more like a cycling motorway! It’s understandable. The Zwin parking is ideally located for cyclists to bring their bikes, saddle up, and ride off into the Netherlands. But this makes it an unpleasant walk for walkers who are constantly having to step off the path into the vegetation, or feel guilty as cyclists are forced to stop and wait until there is a break in the oncoming traffic. I would certainly not recommend this portion of the Zwin walking network for families with children.
After junction 12 we headed around the coast to junction 81. This section was slightly better, as the cycle path was wider, but there was still no dedicated footpath. This is in contrast to the western area I had reported on earlier, which is blessed by a 3-lane system with dedicated “lanes” for hikers, cyclists and horse-riders.
I have nothing against cyclists. I am a keen cyclist myself, and if we had taken our bikes we would have joined them. But I totally against a local authority making a footpath simply by sticking arrowed footpath stickers at regular intervals along a cycle path.I believe the authorities need to make a dedicated footpath between junctions 1 and 12, at least.
Anyway, enough of the complaints. When you almost reach junction 12 you can look over the Zwin nature reserve with your binoculars and see the bird life. My friend Nicolas Aleman has provided me with photos of some marvellous paintings of birds. The paintings hang in a nature centre in Le Crotoy, France, but you can see all of these on the Belgian coast. Enjoy!