Interesting facts about The Hague Forest
One of the oldest remaining oak forests in the Netherlands, The Hague Forest (Haagse Bos) is a vast, rectangular wooded area, neatly tucked away between road intersections, stretching from The Hague’s Malieveld in the city centre, all the way towards Wassenaar, north-east of The Hague. It's really and truly one of the prime nature hotspots in South Holland.
Find out about the forest's connection to the Dutch monarchy, whether its ponds are real or fake... and other interesting nuggets of information.
Fun facts about The Hague Forest
Here are some things about The Hague Forest that you may or may not have known:
The word "Holland" got its name from the forest when it was much larger
The Hague Forest was originally part of a bigger wooded region, from which the place-name “Holland” was born. The forest originally stretched from Hoek van Holland in South Holland all the way to Alkmaar in North Holland. This vast forest land was simply called Die Hout (The Woods), which eventually became Houtland (Woodlands). Houtland eventually evolved into “Holland”, and that’s how Holland got its name!
The only surviving parts of this primaeval forest are The Hague Forest and the Haarlem Woods (Haarlemmer Hout), making them the oldest two forests in the country.
Major roads drive through it
It’s approximately 100 hectares in size – so big that two motorways cut through it – the A12 and Laan van Nieuw Oost-Indië.
It's faced massive deforestation over the years
A bit like what's currently happening to the Amazon, over the years, a lot of the forest has been cleared. It was used to provide fuel, lumber for building in the city, and for defensive buildings for protection against enemies.
The Binnenhof, nowadays one of the oldest parliament buildings in the world still in use, was built in the 13th century, during the reign of William II, followed by his son, Floris V. For the building's construction, large sections of the forest were cut down.
During the Eighty Years’ War, the Dutch War of Independence, space was needed for city residents, and so more of the forest was felled. In 1571, a lot of forest land was decimated to build defences against the Spanish.
Conservation laws to save The Hague Forest were made in the middle ages
The forest was a popular hunting area amongst the Dutch counts, and for this reason, there were strict rules in place from mediaeval times that protected the forest from being cut down completely.
In 1576, the “Act of Redemption” was signed by William the Silent, stating that no more of The Hague Forest could be cut down or sold, a law that still stands today.
During the French occupation, when Louis Bonaparte was in charge, the preservation law was disregarded and the forest was doomed to be cut down. Luckily, due to protests and work delays, the plans for cutting down the forest never came to pass.
The ponds are artificial
The ponds in the forest, although may seem natural, were created artificially, sometime soon after the French occupation. Looking at them, one would never guess that the central lake and other small bodies of water were man-made, although, on the other hand, in a country full of canals, this fact doesn't seem too out-of-the-ordinary.
The National Forest Administration of the Netherlands has owned and governed the park since 1899.
The forest was used as a German rocket launching area
The Hague Forest was used as a rocket launching location by the German army during World War II. The Allies tried to destroy the facility but accidentally bombed some of the buildings in the nearby Bezuidenhout district instead.
One of the main royal residences is located in the forest
Palace Huis Ten Bosch, one of the three official residences of the Dutch Royal Family, is located in The Hague Forest. Although it was built in 1645, it has only been a prime royal residence since 1981 when the then Queen Beatrix moved in with her family. Nowadays, her son, King Willem Alexander, lives there with his family.
The Hague Forest - a natural forest steeped in history and interesting facts
For some, it’s reminiscent of Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London - a green oasis where you can take a break from the urban hustle and bustle. The Hague Forest AKA Haagse Bos is not only one of the oldest remaining forests in the Netherlands, but also one of the most surprising in terms of its adventurous backstories.
Have we left out any interesting facts about The Hague Forest? Let us know in the comments.