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‘Achterhoek’ best region in the country to explore by bicycle

More tourists but areas get smaller

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AALTEN - Picturesque, tranquil. Historic with its centuries-old manors, castles, farmsteads, villages and towns, and in many other ways vastly different from any other region of the country. The eastern Dutch region known as the ‘Achterhoek’ also is considered the most bicycle friendly in the country. Among pedalling sightseers, it is rated highest because of the area’s abundance of dedicated bicycle paths and of quiet country lanes.

The Achterhoek literally the ‘rear corner’ of the country and of the province of Gelderland is a wooded and often rolling landscape around such towns and villages as Winterswijk, Groenlo, Lichtevoorde, Varsseveld, Ruurlo, Zutphen and Doetinchem. In the east and south, the area borders with Germany, to the west is the River IJssel and to the north, the Achterhoek in every other way seamlessly merges with Twente although politically a part of the province of Overijssel.

In a recent survey, six popular tourist areas were compared for their appeal to recreational bicycle tourists. The Achterhoek competed with the Veluwe and Gelderland Valley in the centre of the country, the northern province of Drenthe, the heavily diked delta area between the Great Rivers (the Meuse and the Waal/Rhine), the region around the cities of Arnhem and Nijmegen, and the Utrecht Ridge, the northslope of the Rhine between the towns of Rhenen and Driebergen.

Scoring points for the Achterhoek region were the abundance of road signs, the area’s picturesque streams and brooks, its tranquility, and the easy access to various nature parks. Lauded as well were the province’s attention to tourist markers and panels, the availability of rental bikes at numerous outlets and the information provided on websites.

In a country of just over sixteen million people, around eleven million make a recreational bike ride of two hours or more at least once a year. The number of such bike trips is increasing still, although urban expansion and encroachment into what is called ‘green space’ over time could have a negative impact on this phenomenon. It could put undue pressure on the remaining space.

In a subsequent survey, more areas attractive for recreational bike trips will be included. The survey was commissioned by the National Bicycle Platform Foundation.

The Achterhoek also is home to such towns as Bredevoort, which in recent decades has gained a reputation as the (antiquarian) book sellers’ capital of the Netherlands, Borculo, which made headlines when it was devastated by a tornado in 1925 as well as the villages of Zeddam, Neede, Eibergen, Delden and Dinxperlo, and the twelve centuries-old village of Zelhem.