This time I hike the Southern Waterline trail in the Netherlands in the opposite direction. It is difficult to get very early to the village of De Heen, where I ended last time. It is easier to go to Dinteloord instead. I am wary of this part of the trail. In fact, this section is largely the same as Long Distance Footpath Floris V path and I read that this is a rather boring section. My plan is to add a trail from Natuurmonumenten at the Dintelse Gorzen to my trail. The Dintelse Gorzen should be a very beautiful nature reserve, but the Southern Waterline trail only goes past it. A good time to walk an extra detour through this area.
Before I reach the Dintelse Gorzen, I have to walk about 10 km through the polder and over dikes from Dinteloord. The local bus takes me to the centre of Dinteloord. I walk north towards the outskirts of this town. I pass a church with an unusual tulip-shaped tower.
Once in the polder, it is not as boring as I thought. The weather is beautiful and trail is not just straight ahead after all. The emerging spring also makes up for a lot. I have a wide view over the farmlands.
I walk past hamlets with cute names like Bloemendijk and Boompjesdijk. I also come across a mural close to my heart: an electricity house has been transformed into a nesting box with blue tit birds.
I can understand that other hikers find this a less enjoyable part, it does have a lot of asphalt roads. Fortunately, this changes. I reach the Steenbergsche Vliet nature reserve. I almost walk past the fence. It is an unpaved path through a swampy landscape with soggy meadows and along the little river Steenbergsche Vliet.
Further ahead are two young cows. They are curious and walk in my direction. I try to walk around them in a wide circle myself, but I almost go the wrong way and bump into a whole herd! As I approach the two, they quickly flee towards the herd.
Then a couple of boardwalk paths follow, unfortunately very brief. Through a fence I leave the nature reserve and am at the sluice complex of Benedensas.
Dintelse Gorzen nature reserve
I walk past the sluice complex first, later I will cross it to the other side of the Steenbergsche Vliet. But first it is the turn of the Dintelse Gorzen nature reserve. As I described in the intro, this nature reserve is not part of the trail of the Southern Waterline, but it is definitely worth a visit. Unfortunately, the area is poorly accessible by public transport. The nearest bus service is in De Heen, which is about 3 km away from the Dintelse Gorzen. At the entrance to the nature reserve is a car park for hikers coming by car.
So at the sluice complex, I turn right over the dike. At the information panel, I see that I have a choice of two trails: the blue trail of about 2.5 km and I can add a yellow trail of also 2.5 km. I choose the blue and yellow trails: a total of 5 km. I go down the dike and via a boardwalk into the nature reserve.
Highland cattle and konik horses roam the area. I can already see a highlander standing among the bushes. I do the trail the other way around and turn right immediately after the water. Who knows, I might meet the highlanders at the end. Not much later I see a whole herd and of course they are standing in the middle of the path. The surroundings consist mainly of grass, sand and shrubs, so I can easily get around the herd.
I have a nice view over the wide gorzen. There are many dry ditches, trenches and gullies that I can cross via bridges and steps. The ditches are a bit too muddy for me. At a lone tree, I take a break.
Halfway along the blue trail I switch to the yellow trail, which continues to the far end of the gorzen. First I pass through a beautiful birch forest, I bet it will look enchanted in autumn with its golden-yellow leaves.
I reach an open plain and cross it into an oak and poplar forest. I walk all the way to the bird-watching screen overlooking the Volkerak canal.
Once more I go across the open plain and with the Volkerak on my right back towards the blue trail. On the way, I come across the konik horses. At a suitable distance, I take a few photos.
Not much later, I am back on the blue trail and I’m walking through the forest. I see a signpost to bird-watching hut the Parrot. I have to take a look there. Once at the hut, I have a nice view of the gorzen and, as is often the case, not a bird in sight.
I don’t linger too long at the hut, there are no birds anyway, and continue with the last part of the blue trail. Soon I am at the ‘entrance’ with boardwalk over the water. The highlander I saw earlier has disappeared, but just after the water, I still see a few highland cows. Now behind a fence so I can get closer to take a photo.
I am back at the Benedensas sluice complex and continue with the ‘real’ trail of the Southern Waterline.
Opened in 1824, the Benedensas sluice complex served as a lock for shipping and was also used to drain the surrounding polders. The complex is called Benedensas because it lies in the lower reaches of the Steenbergsche Vliet (lower sluice). At the upper reaches of the Vliet, another sluice complex is located and logically called Bovensas (upper sluice). The sluice complex has been listed as a monument since the 1960s, but later lost its function with the construction of the Philips dam.
Sources (in Dutch): Brabants Historisch Information Centrum en Zuiderwaterlinie
I cross the first few sluices, but at the second part I can’t go any further. A button allows you to pull a foot and bike bridge towards you to cross the sluice. But it’s just break time for the bridge keeper, I have to wait 20 minutes. Then I can take a break myself. After the 20 minutes, I press the button and the bridge comes to me. A bell rings, and before the next bell rings, I have 8 minutes to cross.
Just after the sluice is a World War II bunker located with a watchtower on top. The tower is similar to the one at Fort Henricus from the previous part of the trail. Inside the bunker, there are information panels about the Southern Waterline and Benedensas. Once on the tower, I can overlook the whole sluice complex and the surrounding area.
Once I’m down the tower, I walk along a cobblestone road towards the village of De Heen. I walk past a paddock with deer and encounter signs of spring again.
Going along the Steenbergsche Vliet or not?
In the previous section of this trail, I skipped a part along the Steenbergsche Vliet to still be able to catch the bus in De Heen. I doubt whether to catch the bus now in De Heen or take the missed part along the Vliet towards Fort Henricus and then return to De Heen or even continue to Steenbergen. It has become the latter.
Other trail guide about the same region
At De Heen, I walk via a marina and holiday park to a grassy path along the Steenbergsche Vliet river. By now it has become very hot and I have already hiked about 18 km. If only I had taken the bus at De Heen. The grassy path doesn’t appeal to me because I’m a bit done with hiking. Unfortunately, I have to continue anyhow.
When I arrive at Fort Henricus, I go straight on to Steenbergen. Ideally, I would like to walk around Fort Henricus some more, but I want to get home as soon as possible as well. Going back to De Heen is no longer an option, because I would just miss the bus and then have to wait for 1.5 hours. How badly the tip of West Brabant is accessible by public transport. After another 3-4 km of struggling I finally reach Steenbergen, my hike has turned out to be about 25 km. This way, the trail does get very long for me.
Because of the emerging spring, I liked the section near Dinteloord up to the Dintelse Gorzen more than I had thought beforehand. In winter, it seems a lot less fun.
I would definitely recommend a round trip through the Dintelse Gorzen, even if you only take the blue trail of 2.5 km. It really is a wonderful nature reserve. Absolutely worth deviating from the trail.
Despite a lot of paved roads, I found this a super hike and give this part of the trail a 4 star rating!
More info:Trail: Section 2 Southern Waterline trail
Where: from Dinteloord to Steenbergen, Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands.
No. of km: +/- 25 km (including 5 km Dintelse Gorzen)
Hiking date: 28 March 2022
Materials used in illustrations: Coloured pencils for the map and watercolour paints for the illustrations
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More hike through nature reserves of Natuurmonumenten
Here are some more hikes where I passed through nature reserves managed by Natuurmonumenten.
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