Eighteen Corona Hikes in the South Wing

Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, traveling companion A. and I made hikes 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.

Pavement tile on Dutch railway platform asking to keep 1,5 metre, or vijf tiles, distance, because of covid-19
The Five Pavement Tiles Society

Covid hiking

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 train and 3 metro stations 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.

Map with 18 hikes in the area between Leiden and Rotterdam, The Netherlands, made during the covid-19 pandemic by the author and travel companion A.
A web of hiking trails

South wing

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.

Footpath through Annie M.G. Schmidt Park in Lansingerland, the Netherlands
Annie M.G. Schmidt Park in Lansingerland

Green

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.

Path covered with leaves in Balei Forest near Zoetermeer, the Netherlands on a raily day in autumn
Balei Forest near Zoetermeer in autumn

Landscape

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.

Hiking Trail with bridge through the fields between Schipluiden en 't Woudt, Midden-Delfland region, the Netherlands
Hiking trail between Schipluiden en ‘t Woudt

Urban exploration

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.

Old Delft Canal and the Old church in Delft, the Netherlands on a sunny day in winter
The Old Church in Delft

Architecture

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.

Railway and metro station Lansingerland-Zoetermeer, the Netherlands, seen from the south
Lansingerland-Zoetermeer station

Vinex

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.

Watery urban environment in suburb Wateringseveld, The Hague, the Netherlands
Watery Wateringseveld

The End

In the train on the way to the last corona walk, 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.

View from Kijkduin, the Netherlands towards the Sand Engine, the Northsea and Europoort/Maasvlakte industry
Europoort, Sand Engine and Northsea as seen from Kijkduin

Footsteps

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.

Click here for a larger version of the map

Frans Blok

My work explores the border regions of photography, painting and computer visuals. With my company 3Develop I do work in commission but I use the same techniques, skills and software to make free work. I am originally an architect and I live in Rotterdam; for that reason the architecture of that city is a major (but not the only) source of inspiration. But also travel to countries like Iceland and Britain, or walks in the Netherlands, provide much material. Seeing and showing quality and beauty, that is what my work is about.

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