On a hot summer day, I travel to Den Bosch (also called ‘s-Hertogenbosch in Dutch) to continue on the Southern waterline trail. First I go back on the path for a bit to admire Fort Crèvecoeur, then I continue my walk along the Maas river until the town of Maren-Kessel.

Hiking map Southern waterline trail: Den Bosch - Maren-Kessel
Hiking map Southern waterline trail: Den Bosch – Maren-Kessel

Where is Fort Crèvecoeur?

At the Treurenburg bus stop in Den Bosch, I get off and immediately cross the road to walk a loop past Fort Crèvecoeur. I pass a water pumping station and set foot towards the fort. I had skipped this fort last time, but I shouldn’t have done that. In fact, by now it is summer and the lush vegetation is obscuring my view of the fort. Before I know it, I have already passed the fort. Only an information panel lets you know that Fort Crèvecoeur must be here somewhere. The fort grounds are not passable either, as they are used for military purposes.

Fort Crèvecoeur
Fort Crèvecoeur was built in the 16th century to defend the city of Den Bosch at the mouth of the Dieze river in the Maas river. The name Crèvecoeur means heartache in French and is due to fallen soldiers and nuisance from sieges by several enemies in the past. The Dutch, French, Spanish and German forces all occupied this place.

Today, the fort is used as a military depot and training ground.

Source (in Dutch): Zuiderwaterlinie

Through the Maas river floodplains

That was a waste of time. Quickly on with the trail. I go under a railway bridge and immediately end up by the river Maas, on the outskirts of Den Bosch. The Southern waterline trail goes over the dike, but the floodplains are also passable and that seems more fun to walk through. This is an excellent decision, as I walk through a sea of yellow flowers close to the waterline. I pass a herd of cows and sand martins make tumbling swoops around me in the air.

A little later, I can go no further and head up the dike. After a bit on the dike, I can once again enter the floodplains, again deviating from the trail. I take my chances and go down the dike. These floodplains are a lot more densely overgrown and I hope the path does not lead to a dead end.

Were it not for the fact that I bump into a herd of cows. They approach me in the middle of the path. Chicken that I am, I go back towards the dike. From now on I follow the actual Southern waterline trail, until I actually have to enter the floodplains according to the trail itself.

Oud-Empel and Empel

The trail leads me through a place called Oud-Empel, with beautiful houses and a small chapel.

I soon left the town and again have beautiful views over the floodplains. I can hardly see the Maas river from here.

I take a break at a small lake and am joined by a Roman 😄. Obviously not a real one, but a metal silhouette of a Roman, because the Roman Temple of Empel once stood on this spot. You can turn a wheel and an audio clip is played where the Roman (Emperor Trajan if I am not mistaken) tells a story about this place. More information on the website of Erfgoed ‘s-Hertogenbosch.

I deviate even further from the Maas river, as I have to cross the lock at Empel. This huge lock is a waterway junction between the Máxima Canal and the Maas river. A nature park has been created on the other side of the lock. The trail doesn’t go through it, so neither do I.

Not much later, I come to another lake, this time the Groote Wiel lake. This lake is indeed a lot bigger than the previous one. By now it has become quite warm and I take a break to eat, drink and rub my nose with sunscreen.

Finally into the floodplains

The next opportunity to catch a bus is in Maren-Kessel and I’m only halfway there, so I need to speed up a bit.

Other trail guide about the same region

The next town is called Gewande. This town is not very big, the most interesting sights are a few beautiful houses and farms, a remnant of a lock and a little square with a crucifix.

I still walk on asphalt and it does start to get a bit boring. But if you look carefully, you will come across some nice things there too, like this caterpillar of the cinnabar moth.

Finally, the trail enters the floodplains. First I take a look from a vantage point over the Maas river, then I walk past beautiful little beaches on the shoreline.

The stretch through the floodplains is a short one, as there is a lock in the way. I have to cross this first to re-enter the floodplains on the other side.

This part through the floodplains is more difficult and I plough through nettles, thistles and past blackberry bushes (Why do plants along footpaths always have spines?!), until I reach a fence. This fence is bordered with barbed wire and is also blocked by – yes – a herd of cows. Ah no, now I have to go back again! Strange that the Southern waterline trail first doesn’t go through the floodplains (where it can) and here it does (where it can’t). Swearing and with sweaty head 🤬, I go back to the dike via the shortest possible route. From now on, I will stay on the dike, even if the trail says not!

Towns of Het Wild and Maren-Kessel

Meanwhile cooled down, although it is not getting any cooler today, I walk past the hamlet of Het Wild. I barely give the floodplains and the Maas a glance and walk as fast as I can towards the end point.

Near Maren-Kessel, the trail goes back into the floodplains once more. Shall I risk it? I see it’s a mown grass path, so I’ll give it a go. In any case, it’s a lot easier to walk on.

Once at Maren-Kessel, I go up the dike and am once again greeted by a Roman. A Roman temple once stood at Kessel too. From here, I walk to the nearest bus stop.

Final thoughts

This section of the Southern waterline trail was super, despite the fact that Fort Crèvecoeur is actually impossible to see in summer and that the trail-makers made strange decisions about where you can and cannot enter the floodplains.

The trail goes from Den Bosch to Maren-Kessel entirely along the Maas river, with beautiful views over it and its floodplains. I would definitely go into the floodplain at Den Bosch and not at all near Blauwe Sluis because of an unexpected blockade.

Tip: the floodplains along the Maas near Den Bosch and Empel are managed by Natuurmonumenten, there is no marked trail, but you can wander through the nature reserve at your own ease.

More info:

Trail: Section 10 Southern Waterline trail
Where: from Den Bosch to Maren-Kessel, Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands.
No. of km: +/- 16.5 km
Hiking date: 7 July 2023
Materials used in illustrations: Coloured pencils for the map and watercolour paints for the illustrations
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Trail guide:
wandelgids Zuiderwaterliniepad

🚌 Info public transport:
  • Starting point: bus stop Treurenburg, Den Bosch – bus 165 between Well and Den Bosch or bus 166 between Druten and Den Bosch
  • Ending point: bus stop Kerkplein, Maren-Kessel – local bus 662 between Maren-Kessel and Oss Central Station

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More hikes with unexpected blockages

While hiking, it sometimes happens that you encounter unexpected blockages (oddly enough, with me usually a herd of cows 😂). Below are a few more hikes where my path was blocked. You have been warned in advance!

Blocked by a herd of cows…
Lost at a golf course…
Blocked by a goose…
Blocked by a closed dike…

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