'In The Maasheggen you don't have to queue bike'

Erik Willems (The Brembroeken)

It fills campsite owner Erik Willems with pride every time he hears his guests enthusiastically tell him about De Maasheggen. "It's also just a beautiful area," he likes to add. "Especially for cycling there. How often I hear that guests like the fact that they don't have to cycle in traffic jams, as they do on the Veluwe. Especially in the southern part of De Maasheggen you can still ride around without having to avoid oncoming traffic all the time. It is exactly that peace and quiet and the beautiful nature that makes many of my guests like to come back to The Maasheggen."

Erik Willems started four years ago, together with partner Suzie Klaassen, camping and guesthouse De Brembroeken in Vortum-Mullem. Located on the outskirts of De Maasheggen. "We are just outside the core area of De Maasheggen, but feel very connected to it ", says the camping owner. That connection also has to do with his own family history: "An important part of the land has been owned by our family for more than 100 years."

Especially 40-plus
On the spot where his grandfather's father once started a farm, Willems and Klaassen now receive tourists. Whereas at first they only rented out vacation homes, for the past three years the campsite has also offered space for up to 25 caravans and campers. Unlike many other campsites, De Brembroeken does not have annual pitches. New guests report to their site every few days. "That creates dynamism," Erik Willems believes. "We don't have guests here who stay in the same spot for a whole year, but our visitors are mostly 40-plussers who like to get out and explore the area." They often do so on foot or by bicycle. Especially the longer bicycle tours, which include crossing the Meuse River towards the national park De Maasduinen, are popular with guests of The Brembroeken.

His enthusiasm and keen interest in the environment make Erik Willems an important ambassador for Maasheggen UNESCO. Also literally. In 2021, he and three other entrepreneurs took the ambassador training course. In addition, last summer Suzie and he organized a Maasheggenmarkt on his property for the second time and, together with Stichting Landschapsbeheer Boxmeer (SLaBox), they offer workshops Maasheggenvlechten. "Whether it will stop there? Maybe not. For example, we are thinking about developing our own Maasheggen product. And perhaps in the coming year we will organize more frequent tours for our guests."

Keep explaining
Erik Willems knows from experience how important it is to keep telling the story of De Maasheggen. "A while ago I read a review on the Internet in which someone complained that the hedges obstructed the beautiful view of the Meuse. It shows how important it is to keep explaining what makes The Maasheggen so special."
When asked what the enthusiastic ambassador misses about De Maasheggen, things remain quiet for a while. "Nothing," is his final answer. Willems is happy with how the area is developing and, also for the future, sees plenty of opportunities for cyclists and hikers, for example, who want to explore De Maasheggen. Without recreational traffic getting the upper hand. "It is important that the current balance between people and nature remains. With room for the occasional new idea or initiative."

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