Dwingelderveld National Park
The unique nature of Drenthe
The province of Drenthe is home to the largest wet heathland region in Western Europe. Within the 3,700 hectares of Dwingelderveld National Park, heathlands and fens alternate with woods and shifting sands. Besides the lovely heather and bell heather, this is a habitat for many rare plants, birds, butterflies and almost all Dutch reptiles. A National Park since 1991, Dwingelderveld contains more than 60 fens and peat bogs around which varied and unusual flora and fauna have developed. Peat bogs are naturally low in nutrients, allowing raised bogs to develop. These are breeding grounds for special plants such as peat moss, bog asphodel, cranberry and bog rosemary.
In the wet areas, you will find bell heather, cotton grass, marsh gentian and orchids. Despite being a wet area, the Dwingelderveld is easy to explore on foot or by bicycle. Some fens even have raised pathways so that you can walk half a metre above the water. Thickets of junipers also grow in several places in the Dwingelderveld. In the olden days, at dusk, these bushes used to be mistaken for witte wieven (the spirits of wise women) and people were afraid to go onto the heath.
A habitat for an amazing variety of insects and animals
The nature reserve is home to many special animals, from adders and rare butterflies to roe deer and various species of birds. In Dwingelderveld, the green woodpecker, the black woodpecker and the great spotted woodpecker are the most common woodpeckers. There are also imposing birds of prey such as great buzzards gliding around. And with a bit of luck, you might catch sight of a peregrine falcon or rough-legged buzzard! On warm days, they soar through the air high above the land. The air above the fens is also filled with many species of colourful dragonflies, looking for prey or a partner. Another insect whose colour makes it easy to spot during a walk on open land is the dung beetle. They are often seen on droppings of the most common animals in the area such as sheep, deer and rabbits. Apart from the common dung beetle, the minotaur beetle also lives in this area. The male of this species can be recognised by the three bull-like horns on its thorax. And for the enthusiast, the highlight of a visit to Dwingelderveld is spotting the rare cranberry blue butterfly.
Covered wagon and sheep herding
In the Dwingelderveld there are two flocks of sheep, each of which is looked after by a shepherd. Apart from these two flocks, there are also sheep and cattle that graze freely in certain parts of the heathland and forest. These areas are fenced off so that there is a clear distinction. There are dozens of grazing animals in the area that the land managers use to maintain the natural surroundings. The Drenthe sheep eat twigs of heather and keep these bushes neatly trimmed. They also really enjoy nibbling on grass and saplings. Many activities are organised here during the summer months. For example, you can take a ride in one of the covered wagons across the heath and attend a sheep herding demonstration. The covered wagon also makes it possible for disabled people to access the wet heath.
Dwingelderveld National Park is a vast and diverse nature reserve in Drenthe. It includes expansive heathlands, forests, fens and sand drifts, making it a uniquely beautiful landscape. Peace and quiet reign here and visitors can enjoy its serenity and abundant flora and fauna. There are marked trails for hikers, cyclists and horse riders, while visitor centres and information points offer a deeper insight into the natural and cultural value of this beautiful national park.