Eighteen Corona Hikes in the South Wing
Before the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, traveling companion A. and I were quite regularly hiking all over the Netherlands. But then, in March 2020, public transport was suddenly declared “for strictly necessary journeys only”. For a while we dutifully adhered to that rule. But at a certain point it started to feel uncomfortable. Car owners merrily drove all over the place, but consciously carless people like us, suddenly saw our environment limited to a radius of a few kilometers around our own homes. And since A. lives in Leiden and I live in Rotterdam, joint walks were prohibited according to the letter of the law.
So after a few weeks, we switched to a more flexible explanation of the measures. And thus the phenomenon of the corona hike arose: a walk in the area between Leiden and Rotterdam, the start and end of which can be reached with minimal use of public transport.
It resulted in the fascinating map below. Over the course of more than a year, we have stretched a kind of web between our homes. We made a total of eighteen corona hikes with 13 railway stations and 3 metro stops as starting and ending points. Most walks were around twenty kilometers, but between Gouda and Rotterdam and on the Moerwijk-Kijkduin-Delft hike we hit the 27 mark. In total, therefore, we hiked just under 400 kilometers in just over a year.
The area between Leiden and Rotterdam is known among planners as the South Wing of the Randstad agglomeration. A rather urbanized area; those railway and metro lines are there for a reason. So this heartland of the province of South Holland may be easily accessible, but can you make a nice walks there? The answer, after almost four hundred kilometers, is: yes, but thorough planning is recommended.
If you do your best you can make very green walks because there are quite a few parks, green strips, forests, groves, estates and nature reserves in the region. We had of course visited a few of them in the past, but we saw gems such as the Ockenburg estate, the Hubertuspark and the Nieuwe Driemanspolder for the first time this past year.
And even in an urbanized area such as the South Wing, there are still some remnants of open polder landscape, such as around the tiny village of ‘t Woudt.
But A. and I are versatile walkers; we don’t shy away from an urban area or two. I am even judged by A. if I do not include an industrial area in the route.
The highlight in terms of urban beauty is my former hometown Delft, also richly equipped with cafes, at least in the few months that those were allowed to be open. Delft is therefore a kind of spider in our hiking web: many of our corona walks started and/or ended here.
During our walks we also “discovered” a number of nice recent architectural projects. The Sports Campus in the Zuiderpark in The Hague, for example, or the Hague’s city office on Leyweg. And of course the beautiful new station Lansingerland-Zoetermeer, although all that beauty offers no excuse for two important defects in the building: there is hardly any shelter from the wind and there is no cup of coffee to be had.
We didn’t even hesitate to explore suburbia; more specifically the so-called Vinex suburbs from around the turn of the century. Those Vinex locations have a bad reputation, which is a bit unfair; neighborhoods such as Wateringseveld and Ypenburg are remarkably varied, with lots of green and water. And therefore they are a lot more successful than the boring sixties and seventies neighborhoods where I grew up.
In the train on the way to our last covid19 hiking adventure, A. made the appointment for her vaccination. My first shot was already doing its benificial work then. In that same week, the link between “public transport” and “necessary travel” was officially lifted. The era of corona walks seems to be coming to an end. And that’s a good thing, because I think we’ve seen this South Wing by now. Experience has shown that, forced by the circumstances, many beautiful walks can be plotted even in a limited area. But now I am really looking forward to day trips to more exotic places such as, to name three at random, the Betuwe, South Limburg or Texel.
For avid hikers who want to follow in our footsteps, here is the map again for inspiration, but in a slightly more readable version, on which you can zoom to the finest details.