An impressive and unique feature of this beautiful area are the vast fish(-breeding) ponds that have been dug in the valley of the Tongelreep since 1900. This was an initiative of the baron Van Tuyll van Serooskerken van Heeze, later continued by the Heidemij organisation. The large natural Greveschutven fens were also developed as a fishpond. Although the ponds are connected, they are separated by banks and locks. Due to the great natural value and vulnerability of the area, large parts are closed to the public.
The ecoduct – a nature bridge for animals – crosses the N396 and connects the Leenderbos nature reserve with Valkenhorst.
Valkenhorst has large fishponds that were dug around 1900 on behalf of Baron Van Tuyll van Serooskerken van Heeze. The Brabants Landschap organisation bought the ponds in 1978 and now manages them. - Photo by Johan Lazaroms
Valkenhorst is also a bird paradise, one of several in Brabant, but this wasn't always the case. This used to be an area for capturing falcons, an activity these heathlands were expertly suited for. After being trained, the falcons were sold to noble families all around the world. Valkenswaard was in fact well-know for this.
Nothing reminds of the old falconry days on your hike. When the sport started to decline around 1900, people sought out other ways to use these heathlands. Trees were planted and next to the Tongelreep (a brook) fishing ponds were dug, mostly for breeding carp, a popular food at the time. Fertilizer was added to the ponds and the fish were given additional feed: not unlike intensive cattle farming. Unsurprisingly, many other wild animals also benefited from this, including otters and fish-eating birds. Of course these freeloaders were hunted fiercely. When Brabants Landschap acquired the ponds in 1987, the fish-breeding activities were gradually closed down. The birds, however, stayed and now no longer need to fear rifle or stake trap. Many types of duck, geese, swans and birds of prey frequent these parts nowadays. Special species include the bittern and its miniature relative, the little bittern. The fishponds are now a nature reserve and therefore not acessible to the public.
For more information please visit the website of Brabants Landschap.