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Geestmerambacht: a great recreational park in North Holland

Posted on Mar 8, 2021 by

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North of Alkmaar, between Koedijk, Heerhugowaard and Broek op Langedijk, lies the best recreational park in the area: Geestmerambacht.

After I moved to Alkmaar one year ago, I started doing many bike trips outside the city. That’s how I discovered, one day, the Geestmerambacht park. I didn’t know about it, I just hopped on my bike one day and went North, instead of my usual trip towards the seaside, and stumbled upon the green fields, where cows and wild geese were grazing, and it felt very peaceful. I came back many times after that, to discover the forest as well and to sunbathe on the grass near the lake, watching the occasional bunny hoping around and cooling my feet in the water.

The cycle route to Geestmerambacht

One of the recreational areas in North Holland, Geestmerambacht is a green oasis which has something to offer for everyone.

Activities you can do in Geestmerambacht park: walk through wild flower meadows and forests, swim in the lake, have a picnic, cycle on the bike paths (including a mountain biking path), horse riding, golf and water sports, bird watching or fishing. If you are lucky you might meet a few Scottish Highlanders — there’s a large herd living here. The park is quite big, surrounding the Zomerdel lake, and you can enjoy your time there without feeling crowded. The lake has sandy beaches and there’s even a nudist area.

It’s a good place for foraging; I found an abundance of blueberries in the forest, a pleasant treat when you didn’t bring lunch. Geestmerambacht is the choice of families for a summer weekend, as there are special play areas for kids, and they can camp in the park or rent a bungalow to spend a few nights.

The history of Geestmerambacht is interesting. It goes back to the Middle Ages, when the “Geestmannen”, the inhabitants at that time, transformed the swampy soil into a more useful terrain. Around 1800, growing cattle was a lucrative business, but then a cow plague broke out so the people living here switched to horticulture. The fertile mud from the ditches was a necessity for their fields, so they dug ditches that became wider and wider and created the “Realm of the Thousand Islands” near Broek op Langedijk. Just look it up on the map, you’ll understand where the name comes from!

It looks pretty, but the area was very hard to exploit and people were struggling to get something out of the lands. Also, water quality was terrible, since the ditches were being used as sewers for the villages. In 1950 the agricultural organisations started putting pressure on the government to rebuild this area, and in 1962 they made the decision to reconstruct the Geestmerambacht through land consolidation. That made possible to create a recreational area next to the existing nature reserve, “Kleimeer”. There was a big need for sand, for roads and residential area, sand that was extracted from the place that now forms the lake Zomerdel. And that’s the story of how Geestmerambacht got its current shape!

I am ever amazed by the ability of Dutch people to transform their land, to just dig up and move it from one place to another, covering lakes or creating new ones! And grateful that they created this beautiful area where I can cycle today, enjoying the nature.

How to get to Geestmerambacht: the easiest way to get there is by car. Or you can take the train to Alkmaar or Heerhugowaard and then cycle to it along the pretty villages in the area, maybe make a stop at the windmill Molen de Gouden Engel for an apple pie or to buy some flour.

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