Nature in central Limburg: moments of pure happiness
Nature abounds in central Limburg. There is Grenspark Kempen-Broek near Weert, and the Maasplassen lakes in Roermond’s backyard. Go further north and you enter De Peel National Park. Head east of Roermond, however, and you’ll discover less well-known nature reserves: Meinweg National Park and the Roer Valley, managed by the Dutch Forestry Commission (Staatsbosbeheer). We asked forest ranger Mark Daemen what makes these areas so special.
Two very different nature reserves
The Roer Valley and Meinweg National Park lie in the farthest corner of Limburg, right up against the German border. The two nature reserves overlap, but are very different. The Roer Valley is flat and dominated by the river Roer, with picturesque farmhouses and vast expanses of farmland. Meinweg National Park, on the other hand, is wooded and undulating, sparsely populated and with abundant purple heathland. If you travel from the Roer Valley through the national park to the German border, you gain almost 50 metres altitude.
If you travel from the Roer Valley through the national park to the German border, you gain almost 50 metres altitude.
Roer meanders through the valley
The Roer Valley is an ancient agrarian landscape that has been farmed for many centuries. ‘But that doesn’t make it any less beautiful,’ says Mark Daemen. ‘There are whole stretches with only a handful of buildings where the river meanders freely through the landscape. Beavers make their home here, and if you look closely you’ll their tooth marks on trees. Another exotic species is the colourful kingfisher, which nests here in the steep bank walls.’
Walking and cycling along the river Roer
Cycling is the perfect way to explore the Roer Valley. ‘There are splendid cycling trails, but be sure to stop once in a while to watch the fast-flowing river and relax under the rustling leaves of poplar trees. There are wonderful views of the many small villages along the way. One of them is Sint Odiliënberg, whose ancient church with its two spires can be seen from a distance.’
Wild and rare animals in Meinweg National Park
The landscape changes as soon as you enter Meinweg National Park, a woodland nature reserve covering almost 2000 hectares. It is home to various species that are rare in Limburg and even in the Netherlands. ‘The Meinweg is the habitat of a large population of wild boar. They're timid by nature, but you may catch a glimpse of them. You’ll certainly spot traces where they’ve rooted about in the earth. The Meinweg also has a large population of adders, a rare and protected species of snake. They’re poisonous, but you needn’t worry. As long as you keep your distance and don’t try picking them up, they’ll leave you alone.’
A special place
The Meinweg is located in the border region with Germany, famed for its many monasteries. The best known, the Monastery of St Ludwig, was demolished in 2015. The old monastery grounds are closed to the public, but nearby is St Ludwig's Chapel, a national heritage site that is open to visitors. ‘It’s a special place and I always enjoy being there,’ says Mark. ‘The chapel, the tree-lined avenues and the cemetery have a special aura about them. The green surroundings, the lovely chapel and the serenity of the setting all combine to bring a moment of pure happiness.’
Mountain biking and walking in Meinweg National Park
The national park is ideal for adventurous types who enjoy being out in nature. 'The undulating landscape makes it a popular place with mountain bikers. There are several different MTB routes, but you can also simply cycle there, even across the German border.’ Walkers will enjoy exploring the many kilometres of trails. ‘They can take a break along the way at the De Boshut Café and visitors centre. Kids will have a ball there!’