In this post I tell you about two hikes on the Migration birds trail in the Netherlands: first hike from the Naardermeer to Naarden-Vesting and second hike from Naarden-Vesting to Hilversum Mediapark station. On the first hike, I walk through the Naardermeer nature reserve and then take a look at the fortified walls of Naarden-Vesting. Naarden-Vesting is not part of the Migration birds trail, but I added an extra detour.

On the second hike, I return to Naarden-Vesting, but now inside the city walls. I then walk through Bussum and – for a change – through the polder towards the Bantam estate, where I encounter real forest for the first time on this trail. Via the Spanders forest, Zanderij Crailoo nature bridge and the Bussumerheide (Bussumer heatherlands), I finally reach Hilversum Mediapark station.

Hiking map Migration birds trail Naardermeer - Naarden-Vesting - Hilversum Mediapark
Hiking map Migration birds trail Naardermeer – Naarden-Vesting – Hilversum Mediapark

First hike: Naardermeer – Naarden-Vesting

Naardermeer nature reserve

From Hakkelaarsbrug, I walk to the point where I stopped last time at the Naardermeer nature reserve. I already see a sign from Natuurmonumenten.

Naardermeer nature reserve
Many attempts were made to drain the Naarder lake. The plan to turn the lake into a waste dump met with much resistance. The association Natuurmonumenten was founded and bought the Naardermeer area. This made the area the first nature reserve in the Netherlands.

The Naardermeer nature reserve consists of a number of large and small lakes, surrounded by marshlands and peat meadows. Many birds and mammals feel at home here, such as purple herons and egrets, spoonbills, bluethroats, foxes and roe deer. Since a number of years, the otter has also found its way to the Naarder lake. Partly due to the construction of nature passages to make a connection with the Ankeveen lakes.

Sources (in Dutch): Wikipedia en Natuurmonumenten

The Galloway cattle from last time are nowhere to be seen this time. But I won’t take the unpaved path I skipped then, I still have enough kilometres to go. If I ever walk the Floris V trail or the Westerbork trail, I will sure get there some time. But now I continue with the Migration birds trail. I turn left and a little further I walk along the A1 highway. Between the trees, I see the bright red colour of many poppies on the verge. This makes the highway a bit pretty after all.

Soon I can turn right through a fence into the forest. I then walk along a grassy path between the trees; somewhere on my right is the Naarder lake, but I see very little of it.

But not to worry, opposite a beautiful house is a first vista at the lake with a couple of benches. I immediately make use of them for a break. I enjoy the view, the coffee and the birds singing from the reeds.

I walk along the edge of the forest where there are beautiful old trees. The grassy path gives way to a gravel path and I have a view over fields to my left. Dragonflies land on the path, but quickly fly on when I get closer. In the fields, I finally see the Galloway cattle, with the highway rushing by behind them.

A sign from Natuurmonumenten indicates a path towards a bird-watching hut. I’m going to take a look. It is a very nice path between the trees and ferns. This is how I like to see the paths. At the end of the path, the bird watching hut is on stilts. I climb a ladder and look out over the Naarder lake. Unfortunately, there were no special birds to be discovered.

I follow the path back and continue on. Not much later, there is another view over the lake, with a nice bench in front of it. What an idyllic spot!

I follow the bend in the road to the right and to the right once more is another viewpoint, called the Muggenbult (Mosquito Bump). Via a grassy path, I follow the signs of Natuurmonumenten and eventually, the path comes to a dead end at the Muggenbult. It is indeed full of mosquitoes. It is, however, a beautiful view of the lake, surrounded by reed beds and marshlands.

Behind me, a train rushes past, for the railway is not far away. If you take the train between Naarden-Bussum and Weesp, you can see the Naardermeer area from behind the window. I prefer to walk through the area. Via an extra round through the marshlands and back over the grass path, I am back on the Migration birds trail.

I walk past a piece of wasteland where swallows tumble around each other in the air. At Restaurant Gasterij Stadzigt, I am back in the civilised world. The restaurant is full and it is also a lot busier outside.

From here, I can go to the Naarden-Bussum railway station, but I want to take a look at Naarden-Vesting. I turn left towards the fortified town.


Naarden-Vesting outer walls

At the access road to the fortress, I decide to walk mainly on the walls today. I go over the outer walls and have a view at the fortified town and the canal. Now and then, a bunker pops up among the trees.

Of course, I am looking for special birds. I see a bird with a pink breast, I wonder if it might be a bullfinch. But it was probably a normal chaffinch with very bright colours.

Common chaffinch
The chaffinch is a common bird in the Netherlands. They are common in forests, gardens and parks. The male has a blue-grey cap and an orange-pink breast. The female is very similar to a female house sparrow. They have a descending song with a rise at the end, the so-called finch stroke.
Hey, that used to be the name of my primary school (Vinkenslag)!

The chaffinch breeds between March and July in a nest made of grass and moss, with a finishing touch of feathers or animal hair. The eggs are powder blue with grey dots.

chaffinches with nest

Source (in Dutch): Vogelbescherming

The checklist below lists all the birds I encountered on this hike (and the 2nd one as well).

Birds seen between Naardermeer and Hilversum Mediapark
✔ Barn swallow✔ Eurasian magpie✔ Marsh tit
✔ Black-headed gull✔ Eurasian oystercatcher✔ Mute swan
✔ Carrion crow✔ Eurasian reed warbler<✔ Northern lapwing
✔ Common blackbird✔ European herring gull✔ Reed bunting
✔ Common buzzard✔ Egyptian goose✔ Sedge warbler
✔ Common chiffchaff✔ Greater Canada goose✔ Sand martin
✔ Common chaffinch✔ Great crested grebe✔ Song thrush
✔ Common cuckoo✔ Great tit✔ Western jackdaw
✔ Common starling✔ Greylag goose✔ Willow warbler
✔ Common wood pigeon✔ Grey heron✔ Whinchat
✔ Cormorant✔ House martin✔ White duck
✔ Eurasian blue tit✔ House sparrow✔ White wagtail
✔ Eurasian coot✔ Mallard✔ White stork

After three quarters along the outer wall, I enter the fortress. It is warm and crowded, and I decide to take the time in my next hike to look inside the walls. I go via a different exit in the direction of Naarden-Bussum station.

Canal within Naarden-Vesting
Canal within Naarden-Vesting

2nd hike: Naarden-Vesting – Hilversum Mediapark

Naarden-Vesting from the inside

Two weeks later, I return to Naarden-Bussum station and Naarden-Vesting for the continuation of my hike on the Migration birds trail. This time, I will be looking inside the walls of the fortress. I walk via a different route and a different entrance to Naarden-Vesting.

Along the access road lies a so-called raveline with fortifications on top. A ravelijn is an outer structure of a fortress in the form of an island in the canal. In this case, a peninsula, because I can walk there without getting my feet wet.

At the Utrechtse Poort, I look out over the canal where many swallows fly. A number of them are sitting quietly on the fortress wall. But which swallows are they, shore swallows or house swallows? It is difficult to tell.

I take a photo of the historic entrance gate, exactly with a woman on it getting out of her car just on the other side. The next photo is without a woman 😁. Note the details, not only of the gate itself, but also the colourful flowers on top!

I go under the gate and reach a cute little square. I have only just arrived, but I take a coffee break and let the surroundings sink in. I don’t know what it is about today, but I’m not feeling very well. Maybe it’s the weather, it’s cloudy and a bit oppressively warm. Actually, I want to go home again, but I don’t go back so soon after a one-and-a-half-hour train journey.

Square in Naarden-Vesting
Cute square

I just go on through Naarden-Vesting. Step by step, I get there. I walk through beautiful old streets and determine my own route. You can’t get lost here, there’s a wall around it after all. Under the roofs of the houses, I can see the bulbs of swallows’ nests, so they are house swallows after all.

After first walking a few streets on the outskirts, I enter the city centre. I walk past the Town Hall and the immense Great Church. Wow, again all those details, I love that.

Zigzagging through the streets, I reach the inner walls with bastions, bunkers and cannons. I walk out of Naarden-Vesting via the same exit as last time. On the bastion to my left, I see a couple of goats. They have a nice view!

I am still not feeling well and doubt whether I should go back to the station, but I continue through Bussum anyway. I walk through the residential areas, cross the railway track and not much later I turn right through a park-like area. There are also some remains of a fortification wall to be seen. I leave Bussum and for a change look out over the polders. I am a little tired of the polders by now. I am on the other side of the Naardermeer area and here I see the Galloway cattle again. They are always somewhere else.

I follow the trail along the Karnemelksloot and have to sit down at every bench. A nice walk is not possible today. Suddenly, I have oncoming traffic; it is a flock of sheep. The farmer leads them to the right place.

When the herd has passed, I turn left. Swallows fly around me and I have started to feel like hiking again.

The landscape is changing a bit as well. To the right are still polders, but to the left I can see a forest edge. Unfortunately, the trail does not go through there. A little further on, I cross a road and can finally enter the forest.


Bantam estate and Spanders woods

I walk through a small gate onto the Bantam estate. Now I really feel like going on again – change of scenery makes walking more fun. You notice that it really is an estate. There is room for the untouched nature of the forest, but also patched up areas with lawns, conifer hedges and rhododendron bushes. Unfortunately, these bushes have already finished flowering.

Even though the mood has returned, I am still not making much progress. At a dried-up stream, I sit down on a bench to take in the surroundings. I am also busy taking photos of fungi and mushrooms. The next stages of the Migration birds trail will go through the forest for the some time, so I won’t be very fast if I take photos of every mushroom.

A sign tells me that I have arrived in the Spanderswoud (Spanders woods). A forest with many straight lines of pine and spruce trees, but also along avenues of beech, oak and birch. Now and then there is a clearing. The markings of the trail are on trees at this point, so I have to watch carefully.

The trail only goes through the Spanders woods for a short while. I cross the road and continue on a cycle path.


Zanderij Crailoo nature bridge and Bussumerheid (Bussumer heatherlands)

It is not indicated, or maybe I wasn’t paying attention, but the booklet says that I am walking over the nature bridge Zanderij Crailoo. The nature bridge has been built to provide a safe crossing for animals (and people) from one side of Hilversum to the other. The path goes up a little and below I can see a nice boardwalk path. Unfortunately, my t trail does not go there. I save it in my memory for another time.

I don’t see much of the nature bridge, because there is a large fence along the path. On the left are woodlands with a fence in front of them and on the right are open plains with a fence in front of them. The animals crossing do not want any prying eyes. Fortunately, I have some vistas later on the path.

The path descends, I seem to have crossed the bridge and I am walking towards the Bussumerheide (Bussumer heatherlands). How beautiful it will be here in August when the heather is in bloom. I immediately decide to do the next part in August.

Along the path a group of Highland cattle is standing. I take a quick photo at an appropriate distance. Via a narrow sandy path through the heather, I walk towards Hilversum Mediapark station. The approach trail to the Bussumerheide is well marked. In August, I will pick up the trail here again.


Final thoughts

To be honest, the Naardermeer nature reserve was a little disappointing. I had expected to walk closer to the lake. The trail mainly goes around it. If you want to get closer to the lake, you can walk towards a bird-watching hut or a lookout point. That made the trail a bit more fun.

Naarden-Vesting is not part of the trail, but it is a nice addition and variation. After having gone through the polder for a bit on the second hike, I found it a breath of fresh air (almost literally) to be in the woods. Both hikes are worthy of a three star rating, so it were fine hikes.

Trail: Section 7 and Section 8 Long distance trail 2: Migration birds trail
Where: from Naardermeer to Hilversum Mediapark station, Noord-Holland, the Netherlands.
No. of km: +/- 14.5 and 15 km
Hiking date: 4 June and 19 June 2021
Materials used in illustrations: coloured pencils for the map and watercolour paints for the other illustrations
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Trail booklet:

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