‘Cycling through the Heathland’ is a 4-kilometre route that takes you straight through the Hoge Kempen National Park, the only national park in Belgium. You cross the heathland of Mechelen, which with 700 hectares is one of the largest heathland areas in Flanders, between interchange 550 and 551 on the cycle path network. Vast pine forests alternate with endless heathland landscapes.
One of the highlights of this route is undoubtedly the 300-metre-long wooden cycling bridge, which forms a beacon in the landscape. Just like a roller-coaster, the cycling bridge is made up of a fine-knit structure of beams and columns. Between the wooden structures, a concrete cycle path gradually rises (maximum 4%) to 6.5 m high then descends after 30 metres. The walls of the bridge offer a nod to Limburg’s mining heritage and are made of local pine wood. The ‘cycling pontoon’ thus clearly refers to its environment; a culturally historic landscape in which masses of pine trees were planted to fulfil the demand for wood for the coal mines. The weight-bearing structure was made of Azobé, a very strong wood variety.
At the top of the cycling bridge, you have a broad view of the Hoge Kempen National Park. In the distance, you can see horses grazing and various other animals in their natural habitat. From the cycling bridge, cyclists can enjoy a unique experience in this extraordinary natural setting. The cycle path, 3.5 m wide, offers plenty of space for cyclists and walkers to pass each other in two directions as they move over the bridge.
The new, iconic wooden cycle bridge forms a genuine feature in the landscape. The cycling bridge also provides a safe crossing point over the ‘Weg naar Zutendaal’ and offers a beautiful view of the natural environment. In the south, this construction was incorporated in an old woodland avenue and, from here, connects to the existing cycle path network.
This cycle path is the third in a series of innovative cycling projects which enable the unique Limburg landscapes to be experienced via the cycle path network. This new experience demonstrates that Limburg continues to innovate in cycling tourism.
Cycling through the Heathland in the Hoge Kempen National Park
Designers: Maat-ontwerpers in collaboration with Bart Lens.
Engineering: Witteveen+Bos Belgium N.V.
Collaborators: Visit Limburg, Province of Limburg, Limburg Sterk Merk, Visit Flanders, the municipality of Maasmechelen, The Agency for Nature and Forests and the Kempen and Maasland Regional Landscape.
Client: Visit Limburg.
Photographers: Frank Resseler, Kurt Vandeweerdt.