Visiting Oirschot Heath, The Netherlands: trees and the Medieval roots of their symbolism

Flag of The Netherlands
Flag of The Netherlands | Source
Open terrain, Oirschotse Heide
Open terrain, Oirschotse Heide | Source
Flag of Oirschot
Flag of Oirschot | Source
Coat of arms of Oirschot
Coat of arms of Oirschot | Source
Map, Oirschot municipality, Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands, in 1865
Map, Oirschot municipality, Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands, in 1865 | Source

Ever-present nature and historical allusions

Oirschostse Heide , or Oirschot Heath (1), in North Brabant (Dutch: Noord-Brabant ) province of The Netherlands, is the name given to heathland, where the public may walk along certain designated paths. When I walked through Oirschot woodland, I probably did not see it to its full advantage, because of seasonal restrictions (it was in winter).

However, a large variety of flora and fauna is present here. Among species found on Oirschot Heath are birds such as the nightjar, the crossbill and grouse, and various species of butterflies.

It should be noted that Oirschot Heath, which has a size of 1440 hectares is designated a military area, and, while the public can access some paths in the area, it is important not to stray from the paths.

Oirschot is sometimes known as the gateway to the Campine (Dutch: Kempen), a large area along the Dutch-Belgian border which has remained relatively unchanged for centuries.

Interestingly, both the coat of arms and the municipal flag of Oirschot display representations of oak leaves; in the case of the coat of arms, a whole oak tree is shown, while an oak leaf is to be found in the hoist of the flag. An oak has featured in the arms of the town since the 14th century. This was apparently connected with a legend connected with the Holy Oak Chapel (Dutch: Kapel van de Heilige Eik ) in Oirschot, which in the Middle Ages was made of wood, but was made into stone in the 17th century. The original, Medieval chapel was built because the legend of miraculous healings associated with an oak tree was given a permanent shrine, while it may be suspected also that stories of the healing properties of trees are actually pre-Christian in origin.

Seeing some of the natural endowments of a place such as Oirschot, and reading about some of its official emblems from many centuries ago, one can thus easily see how the Medieval ecclesiastical powers used simple symbols from nature to reinforce the perceptions of their adherents.

June 22, 2012

Note

(1) The adjectival ending of the noun Oirschot alters the spelling of the word when combined with the Dutch word for 'heath', as in: Oirschotse Heide .

Also worth seeing

In Oirschot itself, the Sint-Petrus' Bandenkerk dates from the 15th and 16th centuries and has a 73 metre tower. The remains of a late Medieval castle, Kasteel Ten Bergh, belonging to the former Lords of Oirschot, are to be found in Spoordonk, within the Oirschot municipality.

Eindhoven (distance: 12 kilometres) has the excellent DAF musuem, tracing the history of the company and its famous motor products and a number of large churches of architectural distinction.

Best (distance: 6.7 kilometres); noted features include: buildings of particular architectural distinction in Hoofdstraat; 'De Platijn' clog museum , at Broekdijk 12; the Bevrijdende Vleugels (Liberating Wings) museum details the World War 2 activities such as those of the 101st Airborne Division, Operation Market Garden, and others.

...

How to get there: Airlines flying to Amsterdam Airport from New York include Delta Airlines and KLM. For North American travellers making the London, England area their base, Eindhoven Airport is served by Ryanair from London Stansted Airport, by VLM from London City Airport, and by Aer Lingus from London Gatwick Airport. The Dutch railroad company NS (Nederlandse Spoorwegen) maintains rail services from Amsterdam to Eindhoven. There is car rental availability at Amsterdam and Eindhoven airports. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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