National Park De Alde Feanen
EARNEWÂLD (NL) - Some people have jokingly referred to the ‘De Alde Feanen’ national park, which is located between Leeuwarden and Drachten in Northern Friesland, as the largest amusement park in Europe. However, Henk de Vries, director of the nature protection organisation ‘It Fryske Gea’ (the Frisian landscape), and Henk Dijkstra, who is director of the ‘Frysk Lânboumuseum’ agricultural museum, believe doing so is sacrilege.
After all, the park, which covers an area of 2,500 hectares and which is home to 450 plant types and 100 different types of bird, is an oasis of peace which is used primarily for walking, cycling and boating. The attractions, pubs and cafes, restaurants, hotels, B&Bs and boat hire companies are concentrated in Earnewâld, on the edge of the reserve. There, on the shores of the ‘It Wiid’ lake, there is a feel of times gone by: an easy-going atmosphere and a friendliness which are rare these days but which are entirely in harmony with the nature nearby.
In Earnewâld you will not find any roller coasters but electric boats, canoes, bicycles and luxury water launches from which you can enjoy to the full a unique living environment for people, plants and animals alike. The name ‘De Alde Feanen’ refers to a former peat extraction area dating from the 18th century and is Frisian for ‘old fens’. The area was once the domain of hunters, turf diggers, farmers and fishermen. As coal and natural gas became increasingly popular sources of fuel, the area developed back into a huge low fen swamp with innumerable ponds and waterways and, consequently, islands as well. It is a captivating area of natural beauty in which you can easily get lost if you do not have a map or GPS system.
Earnewâld is the tourist centre with a number of attractions which are typical of the area and extremely worthwhile seeing. Since the Spring of 2008 ‘De Stripe’, which is a museum and historic shipyard specialised in traditional Frisian sailing ships (referred to in Frisian as ‘skûtsjes’), has been joined by two other major attractions with similarly regional orientations, namely the ‘De Alde Feanen’ national park information centre and the ‘Frysk Lânboumuseum’ farming museum. These are accommodated under one roof in Earnewâld, and are easily accessible via road and water.