The last bit of research to be done was the city of Utrecht. I wanted to add a section on the Utrechtse Heuvelrug, the protected forest zone 'extending 50km east of Utrecht city between the towns of Zeist and Rhenen, with at least seven medieval castles.' The 23,000 hectare forest is the second largest in the Netherlands, with its southern half devoted to a national park.
(original date of this entry: Aug 1, 2015)
kp 85 -> 42
From Veenendaal station, I took Kerkelijk south to kp 85. At kp 39, I enter the Utrechtse Heuvelrug (east end). Then a substantial climb along a busy suburban highway (N416) -- dull stretch. At kp 41, I enter the park on a proper trail, which is a section of the LF4b.
Many touring and racing cyclists here. Once again the matched pair phenomenon. There's something positively biological how the Dutch pair up with appropriate mates, then perform similar activities together in similar garb with similar gear. Undoubtedly this makes them strong and healthy but it also makes them seem like an alien species--perfect humans inhabited by an alien life form.
The trail is very nice here--sandy with frequent curves and a gentle roll. Deciduous forest, berries, opening on heath dotted by trees, then continuing through pine forest.
Beautiful stretch. After climbing a bit I arrive at an open sandy patch, then zip down a sandy trail alongside varied trees. At kp 65 there's an open field and entrance to the Amerongse Bos. Posted map shows many cycling trails threading through this forest.
A bit west there's an information center in an old tobacco drying shed. Within is an exhibit displaying old farm tools.
The castle of Amerongen -- started in 1286! -- is stuffed with paintings, tapestries, maquetry, a vintage harpsichord and plenty of other relics of the aristocracy. Docent William Brouwer, who fits the usual profile of castle guides--elderly, jaunty and redolent of old money--showed me around, told me that it was the place where Kaiser Wilhelm signed his abdication in 1918.
|Utrechtse Heuvelrug National Park via Amerongen|
kp 17 -> 18 -> 11 -> 12
This is the road to Leersum, lots of traffic. Coming into town you turn left to kp 11 which skirts the town. To the west suburbia gives way to pastures. Then toward kp 12 you're back in a busy traffic zone, finally reentering Utrechtse Heuvelrug and all's quiet.
Beautiful still woods with a gradual ascent to the Leersumse Veld: heath, small deer. The forest opens to fields, then more forest and an RV park in a field. At kp 82 you go over the highway to enter the Gelderse Vallei. Big cornfield, trail follows railroad tracks east.
|North of the forest (kp 83)|
kp 22 -> 23 -> 66 -> 20 -> 43
kp 85 is the top of the Prattenburg forest, another old estate with its own castle. It is the best entry to Utrechtse Heuvelrug national park from the center of Veenendaal. The park can also be accessed from the train stations at Maarn, Driebergen, Rhenen, and from the north end, Amersfoort (via the Leusderheide).
It's a good tour. You get a hefty dose of the national park, a major castle with gardens, suitable for lunch or high tea, and a taste of the Gelderse Vallei. The forest is peaceful and varied, and fun to ride through. Slightly hilly--the highest point 68m or so in Amerongse Bos. From there you could easily cross the Nederrijn and follow the dike along the river in either direction. Fietspaden crisscross the entire forest and it's very easy to navigate any course you choose (e.g. from Doorn to Maarn) via knooppunten; maps are displayed at each point.