In mid-August 2021, I have three weeks off, so that means a lot of hiking! I have already picked out several trails, including the second-to-last trail from the booklet Green Heart hikes: the Bethlehem trail. I am also very curious about the Groene Jonker nature reserve that is not far from the Bethlehem trail. I have heard great stories about it. I decide to combine the two trails. Both are around 5 km. But how do I get to the trails? That’s not easy as it is difficult to reach by public transport. Via an approach trail of approx. 3 km from Mijdrecht, I succeeded in making it a substantial hike.

Another option to reach the Bethlehem trail by public transport is from the TOP (Tourist Transfer Point) Heinoomsvaart. This approach trail is also approx. 3 km. There is a bus stop near the TOP (bus 123 between Woerden and Mijdrecht/Uithoorn) and also a car park. You then come from a different direction (see map below).

Hiking map Green heart hike Bethlehem trail and Groene Jonker
Hiking map Green heart hike Bethlehem trail and Groene Jonker

On the road early from Mijdrecht

At a quarter past 6 in the morning, I get off the bus at the Driehuiskerk bus stop in Mijdrecht. Never before have I started a hike so early. My mother lives in Vinkeveen and I spent the night there. So I can get going very early. From there, it’s a 10-minute bus ride.

I am not really looking forward to the approach trail, because it is a long, straight road of 3 km. Long, straight roads are not my thing. Fortunately, the sky colours in lilac, orange and pink thanks to a beautiful sunrise, make up for it. I walk across the Molenland towards the small river Kromme Mijdrecht. In no time (time goes faster with such a beautiful sunrise) I am already at the Bethlehem trail at the Bovendijk.

Before I really start on the Bethlehem trail, I want to go to the Groene Jonker nature reserve. It is still early, so I have more chance of seeing some unusual birds. So I go straight ahead first and follow a small part of the Bethlehem trail anyway. I have written down the intersection numbers of the hiking trail network (see info block at the bottom of this blog for the numbers), but on my left I see a number that does not belong to the trail (see dotted line on the map). This one goes straight through the field. I doubt whether I should take this path, but I go straight on over the paved road after all. In retrospect, I am very glad, because the path ends up somewhere else and the grass appears to be soaking wet from the dew, so no sodden shoes for the time being.

I follow the bend in the road to the right and arrive at a camping site. I have to go all the way around the camping to reach the Kromme Mijdrecht river, but I see a small road in between. I see the Kromme Mijdrecht river on the other side. I cut off a bit by sneaking across the camping. On the other side, I can immediately cross the Kromme Mijdrecht river via a brightly coloured drawbridge.

On the other side of the bridge, I pass another camping site. There are lots of campings here; later on the Bethlehem trail, I will also pass by the Amstelkade camping. By the way, I crossed the border of South Holland here. The Kromme Mijdrecht river forms the border between the provinces of Utrecht and Zuid-Holland (South Holland). I never knew that the border of South Holland was so close to where I used to live.

I go straight ahead on the Sluitkade. At the end of this road, at the intersection with the Hogedijk, there is a large villa.


Nature reserve Groene Jonker

I go straight ahead a little further on the Hogedijk and there I see the sign of Natuurmonumenten with a black-necked grebe on it. Who knows, I might see this bird later on. There are no cars on the neighbouring car park, which has the name Roerdomp (Bittern). Judging by the markings, there is also an Long-Distance trail going through here, I believe it is the Marskramerpad (Merchant trail).

Sign at entrance Groene Jonker nature reserve
Sign at entrance Groene Jonker nature reserve

I turn right onto the grassy path. When I look down, I see a fat, black, hairy caterpillar walking on the ground. Later, I looked up which caterpillar it is and which butterfly it belongs to. At first, I thought it was a peacock butterfly, but it turns out to be a caterpillar of the white ermine. It is a moth, and what a beautiful moth it is! It looks like it is wearing a king’s cloak, amazing! Of course, I have to make an illustration of this creature.

Witte ermine
The white ermine is a moth that is common in the Netherlands. The moth has white wings with black dots. It has a kind of fur collar and fur on the legs. The body is orange on the back and white on the abdomen with black dots. The caterpillar is brown-grey with black bristles on raised warts and with a red or orange stripe down its back.

The butterfly/caterpillar is found in forests, heathlands, dunes, shrubbery and grasslands. The host plants are nettles and sorrel, but also shrubs such as elder.

illustration white ermine

Source (in Dutch): Vlinderstichting

A beautiful path has been made in the nature reserve where you can follow the Groene Jonker trail. At the information sign, it says that the trail is one-way, you walk a whole circle through the area and eventually end up at this sign again.

At first I see reeds, reeds and more reeds everywhere I look. Perhaps summer is not the best time to be here. I also hear the sound of many geese, but I cannot see them.

At one point, I have a wider view over a lake and in the distance I can see a lot of birds. Unfortunately, I do not recognise any unusual ones. They are mainly greylag geese, coots and mallards. Here and there, a pair of swans swims among them.

I take my time on this trail, I stop every now and then to take photos. I indeed have a lot of them. On the way, I pass several benches, one is even heart-shaped. Unfortunately, they are too wet to sit on.

The grassy path winds through the nature reserve. I still mainly have a view of high reeds, with occasional glimpses on a lake.

I keep following the grassy path and also look down now and then to see if I come across other unusual animals, insect or flowers. I see lots of little snails. The horn-shaped houses are still transparent.

The grassy path is now varied with short boardwalks, sometimes overgrown with reeds. I had expected a long boardwalk path. A pity they are so short, because I love boardwalk paths. See my blog post about the Visserijgriend near Hoogvliet on the Great rivers trail.

In the meantime, I have followed the bend and am already on my way back. The path runs slightly upwards towards the Hogedijk. Here is a look-out point with a view over the whole area. Now I can finally overlook the reeds.

From the look-out point, I go back onto the grassy path. In this section, there are a few more vistas on the water and on plants with a purple-pink glow.

Purple-pink colour
Purple-pink colour

I have now returned to the information sign. I saw a path to the right earlier, I want to have a look there too. So I follow a part of the trail again and then turn right. There is nothing special to see here, not much different from the rest of the trail. I end up at another car park, I believe with the name Kievit (lapwing).

Here I go up the dike and then turn right to return to the Bethlehem trail. I pass several farms with beautiful flowers in the garden and a large horse chestnut at the driveway.


Kromme Mijdrecht river and social care farm Bethlehem

Via the Sluitkade, I return to the drawbridge. I turn right before the bridge and walk along the camping. There are some nice little boats along the quay and on the right, I see several houses with their own drawbridge. What a wonderful sight!

Suddenly I realise that I am not on the right side of the river. Fortunately, I have not gone too far. I quickly go back and cross the drawbridge. After the bridge, I turn right. Here I have nice views over the little river. On the other side I can see beautiful houses, one of which used to be a windmill.

On the left, I can see the fields of the Wilnisse Bovenlanden. Here and there is an information sign about the layout of this polder landscape. I also come across a piece of woodland with a path through it. I can’t resist taking this path. I walk along a grassy path again, but now the view is not blocked by high reeds. From here, I can take a path through the fields, but I choose not to. I go back in the direction of the Kromme Mijdrecht river. This path appears to lead to the point I passed earlier in the morning.

Lots of fields along the Bethlehem trail
Lots of fields along the Bethlehem trail

After another stretch along the Kromme Mijdrecht river, I pass Social care farm Amstelkade and a camping with the same name. This farm used to have the name Bethlehem, which is also where the trail name comes from. I guess I did not follow in the footsteps of Joseph and Mary, although I did not expect to. Apparently Bethlehem is still displayed on the front of the farmhouse, but I completely overlooked it.

Just after the camping, I turn left and have to cross a field after all. According to the trail, I should keep going straight on. However, the path sometimes goes to the left and that is why I have turned left twice, only to turn back and go straight on after all. There is no longer a path anywhere to be seen, but I walk straight on until I suddenly see a crossing over the water. There I can get back onto the public road.

I quickly cross the road and turn left onto the bicycle path. This part of the trail on the Bovendijk is downright boring. That is why I did not take any more photos. At the intersection with the Molenland, I turn right and walk back along the approach road to the bus stop.


Final thoughts

Apart from the part along the Kromme Mijdrecht river, I found the Bethlehem trail a bit boring. If you overlook the frontage of the care farm, as I did, you don’t understand where the name of the trail comes from. I don’t think Joseph and Mary saw much grasslands on their way 😂.

On the other hand, the nature reserve De Groene Jonker with lots of birds and water is very beautiful and definitely worth a four star rating. I will certainly return in another season without the obstruction of the high reeds. I gave this hike an average of three stars.

Trail: Bethlehem trail and Groene Jonker trail
Where: Mijdrecht, province of Utrecht, in the Netherlands
No of km: +/- 16.5 km
Hiking date: 11 August 2021
Materials used in illustrations: coloured pencils for the map, watercolour paints for the other illustrations
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Hiking booklet (not for sale anymore):
hiking booklet Groene Hart wandelingen

About the trails
The trail through the Groene Jonker nature reserve can be found on the website of Natuurmonumenten (in Dutch).

You can hike this trail by following the 6-sided ANWB signs. Unfortunately, the trail is not marked well (anymore).
The hiking trail can still be found on the toproutenetwerk.nl (Toeristisch Overstappunt – Tourist Transfer Point): TOP Heinoomsvaart (in Dutch).

The trail can also be followed using the orange-blue numbers and arrows of the hiking trail network in Utrecht. From TOP Heinoomsvaart you follow the numbers: approach trail – 13 – 85 – 91 – Social care farm – 63 – 62 – 73 – 38 – 85 – back to TOP Heinoomsvaart – 13.
Please note: a part of the trail is not accessible during the bird nesting season (between 85 and 91).

Alternative trail: at intersections 91 and 62 you can choose to go through farmland. To do this turn right instead of going straight on. At intersection 62 you can skip no. 73 and lose a part of the trail along the Kromme Mijdrecht river.

Would you like more information about Hiking in the Green Heart? I wrote an extensive blog post about the booklet that is no longer for sale. Here you can find information about all the trails described in the booklet and where you can find them online now.

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