From the heart of the city of The Hague into the Hollandse Duinen National Park
The hectic bustle of the city and the tranquillity of a walk in the great outdoors, with its wealth of cultural history – I would recommend this walk to anyone visiting the Hollandse Duinen National Park. It's easy to combine with travel on public transport – an environmentally-sustainable mode of transport – and the train from The Hague Central station takes you very close to the Haagse Bos (The Hague forest). How unique is that?
You start your walk at the station square, heading off towards Malieveld and then turning right onto Bezuidenhoutseweg. You will pass the Koekamp deer park first. 'Koekamp' translates as 'cow camp', which is a strange name considering that there are plenty of beautiful red and fallow deer to be seen here, but no cows!
This deer park was once home to the cows kept by the Counts of Holland, who settled here at the Binnenhof in the 13th century. It was only in the 16th century that they started to keep deer in this cow pasture, too – just for show – but the name has always remained the same. Next, you'll pass junction 75, cross the A12 and then … stop to take in the difference as you find yourself enveloped by peace and greenery: welcome to the Haagse Bos!
Ancient forest floor
A forest floor that's been just that since the last ice age makes the Haagse Bos an ancient forest in a certain sense. However, when you look around, you'll soon see that the trees aren't actually very thick and certainly aren't ancient. This is because 75% to 85% of the forest's trees were lost in the Second World War: some were felled for the creation of the Atlantic Wall, while others were destroyed when the allies bombed the forest (although they did mistakenly do major damage to the Bezuidenhout residential district at the same time). Some of the last trees were taken during the Dutch famine of 1944–45. People were cold and needed to cook. Not having any fuel, they decided to take trees from the forest. After the Second World War, the forest was replanted with beach and oak trees in particular.
Keep walking straight on until you reach junction 69. Shortly after passing junction 69, you will see a tree-lined meadow with 12 linden trees that were planted by the 12 Queen's Commissioners in 2000 (Queen Beatrix was still on the throne at this time). These 12 trees symbolise the green Millennium Development Goals. Walking on, you will find yourself approaching the Robin Hood play area, the ideal place for children to burn off their energy. Classic concerts were put on at the Walther Boerweide in the past, led by the conductor and director of the Nederlandse Militaire Kapel (the Dutch military band). They played there because of the country retreat that Sociëteit de Witte (a private club) had here.
After crossing Laan van NOI, you approach the Grote Vijver ('big pond'), for which we have King William I to thank. When this king came to live at Huis ten Bosch palace, he set to work on transforming his 'back garden'. The land there was boggy at the time. He turned part of the garden into an English landscaped park. By excavating soil and placing it on the side, ponds were created on one side, while the other side of the garden was improved and became safe to walk on. A wide range of water birds can always be seen on the big pond; it's a wonderful sight!
Huis ten Bosch palace
After passing junction 86 and heading towards junction 26, you will see Huis ten Bosch palace. It was built to a design by Pieter Post in 1645 and was originally called the Sael van Oranje ('hall of orange') after its beautiful gold-coloured hall. This beautiful building has been the residential palace of our royal family for many years now. The balcony on this side of the palace is well-known as the place where new governments pose when they have just been formed. At this stage, you can choose to either retrace your steps via junctions 26, 28, 69 and 75 or continue along the cycle path to complete the NS walk through the Hollandse Duinen National Park and then take a bus back to The Hague Central station. If you opt for the latter, the walk will take you through the parts of the forest that grow on the barrier beach. Keep an eye out for squirrels as you walk, because they are regularly spotted here!
Jenny van Leeuwen, forester