I don’t just walk around The Hague as a city guide. Twice a week, together with other volunteers, I go out with residents of a nursing home. We often walk through one of The Hague’s beautiful parks: Meer en Bos, sandwiched between Laan van Meerdervoort and Machiel Vrijenhoeklaan.
A genuine lake
The Hague’s best known body of water is, of course, the North Sea, and we also have several large ponds, such as the Hofvijver and the pond in the Haagse Bos. But we also have a genuine lake, namely the Seglake (Segmeer), sometimes also called Wijndaler Lake. On a map dating from 1712, it is indicated as ‘t Seg Meertje.
This dune lake is located in a dune forest where, according to excavations, people already lived in the Bronze Age and at the start of our common era. The current Meer en Bos park is a small remnant of this once larger dune forest.
Ownership of Meer en Bos
It is documented that in 1606, a certain Maarten Adriaanszoon van der Voort bought this fish-rich lake, together with 50 ‘morgen’ of land. One ‘morgen’ of land, by the way, was the amount of land that a farmer could plough in one morning (morgen is the Dutch word for morning). In 1644, Adriaen van der Mijle became the new owner. He was an in-law of Jacob Westerbaen, who was the founder of the Ockenburch estate. The families regularly visited each other.
Later, the estate was owned by the famous Cats family. In the 20th century, the land came into the possession of the municipality.
Buildings and landscaping
It seems unlikely that Meer en Bos was a lavish and richly-appointed estate like Sorghvliet or Clingendael. The map from 1712 shows the Meer Woning, now better known as the Taverne Meer en Bosch.
Opposite the farmhouse is the remnant of a 19th century garden wall, with buttresses and capped with a row of tiles.
The books and websites I have consulted do not agree on whether there ever was a (large) manor house on the estate.
The structure of the garden is still clearly recognisable. From the spot where the pond used to be (now almost empty) run four avenues and one diagonal avenue lined with beeches.
At the end of the 18th century, an earthen wall was erected around part of the park, on which now there is a walking path with a nice view. The reason for the construction of this wall is not known. However, walls of this type were usually built to keep out drifting sand.
The waterfowl on the Seglake are very visible. More hidden are the birds on the special bird islands. These are resting areas for birds managed by the local bird protection society. These resting areas are specially designed and planted in order to offer breeding opportunities and food for as many bird species as possible. During the breeding season, the birds are carefully counted by the caretaker of these bird islands. He is then the only one allowed into the resting area.
In every season there is much to enjoy in Meer en Bos. But I would especially like to emphasise spring. First the snowdrops bloom, later comes the wood anemone. And at some point you get the impression that someone is busy chopping onions in the park. Then you smell ramsons (wild onions), which can be found on several patches.
Depending on the weather, in April or May the park turns purple with bluebells.
The Hague has many more beautiful parks. If you want to get to know them, take part in my bicycle tour “Green parks of The Hague”. I’m hoping to be able to plan this tour soon. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.