Sallandse Heuvelrug

It had been a few years since I last mountain biked over the Holterberg and Nijverdal routes and having read on that there had been some improvements, I was curious to see what it was like. I got the chance last weekend. There were not 'some improvements'; it had been completely transformed. What was previously a route through an impressive landscape but mostly straight and straightforward paths was now composed of twisting paths making the most of the smallest height differences and requiring enough concentration that in most places if you wanted to take in the landscape, you had to stop. It has been turned into a a superb route, well worth going out of your way for.

From Wageningen, it is not too far out of your way, being only an hour's drive to the North, or 1 1/2 hours by train (there is a station at the start of the route in Holten). However, the flora and fauna is quite different, considering it is so close. For instance, there are some extensive patches of Cowberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea, 'vossenbes/rode bosbes'), which although not terribly rare is much less common than the normal bilberry (Vaccinium mytillus) that you see everywhere and tends only to be found in the north of the country (both here and especially in the UK).* It makes you wonder how it will respond to the warming climate.

[text continues below photo of Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi

 Not surprisingly, the area is showing the same signs of suffering from the extremely dry summer as the heathlands closer to home. The bilberries are recovering nicely, but there are still great patches of dead heather where there is a big risk that it will be replaced by grasses rather than heather regeneration. The mountain bike paths are beginning to get very sandy in parts - in some places it is even almost too sandy to cycle, and I was glad that I had reasonably chunky Nobby Nic tyres on to give at least some grip. 

[text continues under photo]

Sallandse Heuvelrug

The loose sand is worst on the Northern route by Nijverdal and Hellendoorn, so doing just the Holten route is always an option. The signposting for both routes is excellent, though I did't see signs connecting the two loops (perhaps there aren't any) and the gps track on was not always 100% the same as the route on the ground. I also found that with a combination of the twisty track and loose sand, it took me longer to go round than I had expected, so that is also worth bearing in mind. All in all, this is a great route now, fun mountain biking, a special landscape and even some rare plants to gaze at as you pass.

*In the first version of this article I wrote that this was Arctostaphylos, which is very rare. The leaves are a bit similar but the flowers are not, so I had no excuse. My apologies.

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