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.
The Zwin nature reserve near Knokke-Heist is one of Flanders’ natural treasures. There are two ways to describe it. One is that it’s a 159-hectare lagoon which sea water enters on each tide. It comprises dunes, salt marshes, salt pans and two large inlet channels with adjacent tidal flat and creek systems. The whole region extends 2.3 km along the North Sea coastline on the Belgian-Dutch border.
And the alternative? The Zwin is one of those glorious, mystical areas where sky, land and sea merge to create a wonderful wilderness. It’s where the eerie call of the curlew will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It’s where you can lie on your back in the sand and watch the clouds scudding overhead, taking your anxieties with them. And it’s a place full of contrasts. Sit on the seaward side of a dune and the wind will cut through your coat and chill you to the bone; move to the sheltered side and the sun will turn your face red in minutes.
First, a word of caution. If you are looking for a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll in a pretty park with a conveniently located waffle-van, then the Verdronken (Drowned) Land of Saeftinghe near Antwerp isn’t for you. It’s muddy, it’s exposed, and there’s no waffle-van for kilometres. But if you are looking for a huge dose of fresh sea air, some peace and solitude, and a touch of wilderness, then it’s definitely worth a visit. Continue reading
Someone asked me recently if I could recommend a walk along a coastal path in Belgium that is free from high-rise apartments and amusement arcades. I began to explain how Breskens fits the bill perfectly – and then realised to my embarrassment that Breskens is actually in The Netherlands, not Belgium. It’s an easy mistake to make if, like me, you forget that the stretch of “Belgium” along the southern bank of the River Schelde is actually part of The Netherlands. Anyway, as it’s so close to Belgium, it’s worth including in Discovering Belgium! So travel to Breskens, park in or nearby the Breskens-Vlissingen ferry terminal, and Go West!