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Der Wildpferdefang in Dülmen, © Gerhard Pieper

Hohe Mark-Westmünsterland Nature Park


Wild horses and blazing heath

Wild horses, blazing heath, a zoo and much more: The Hohe Mark Nature Park offers exciting activities for kids and adults.

At the point where Münsterland, the Rhineland and the Ruhr Area meet lies Hohe Mark Nature Park, one of the largest in North Rhine-Westphalia. Here, the expansive park landscape of Münsterland alternates with forests and busy lakes, both natural and man-made. Silbersee II near Haltern, for instance, was once an ordinary quartz sand excavation site. Nowadays it is a favourite haunt of swimmers, while bird-watchers can with a bit of luck spot the rare sand martin, which breeds on the north-west shore.

In nearby Dülmen, the famous wild horses owned by the Duke of Croy are a big draw for visitors. The wild horse sanctuary in Merfelder Bruch with its almost 400 wild horses is home to the last remaining herd in Continental Europe. The hardy and good-natured animals are mostly left to fend for themselves. The sanctuary only provides hay at a small number of feeders in particularly cold and snowy weather. In spring, summer and autumn, visitors can observe the peacefully grazing horses and their lively foals on walking paths or on a guided tour. One unmissable event that draws locals and tourists alike is the annual wild horses round-up in Merfelder Bruch, an extensive area of moor and heathland. This is the time when catchers chase after the wild year-old stallions in order to capture them with their bare hands. Strength, skill and stamina are called for here, as the nimble horses are quick to get away. Once caught, they are either sold at auction or raffled and tamed in order to start a new life drawing carriages or as trekking ponies.

Multi-attraction nature park with seal of quality

The wild horses are of course well worth a trip to Hohe Mark by themselves. But there is much more to see and do in this nature park, which was awarded a seal of quality by the Association of German Nature Parks in 2009. In winter, an impressive spectacle awaits visitors to the Westruper Heide, as the old heather is set ablaze to make way for new growth. There is also plenty to see in the historic zoo at Raesfeld Castle, where herds of fallow deer and red deer were recently re-established. Children will love the nature playground, where the attractions include balancing poles, a low rope course and pine-cone throwing.

Further adventure awaits at Heidhof in the Kirchhellen Heath in Bottrop. This former farm property of the industrialist Friedrich Grillo has been transformed into a nature activity centre. With its campsite surrounded by nature, idyllic cottage gardens with splendid shrubberies, herbs and medicinal plants and a forest playground, there are plenty of sights and activities here for young visitors. Guided tours and excursions for school-kids, families and adults are also offered. Then to round off the day, visitors can cook supper at one of the barbecue areas – possibly savouring freshly-caught game from the nearby forests.

Wild horses round-up in Merfelder Bruch: Annually on first Saturday in May

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Be inspired: images of your NRW

Die Wildpferde auf Koppel, © Gerhard Pieper
Der Wildpferdefang in Dülmen, © Gerhard Pieper
Die Stute mit ihrem Fohlen, © Dirk Werlein

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Kall Königsberg mit Blick auf das Kloster Steinfeld, © Naturpark Nordeifel e.V.
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Narzisseblüte in den Eifeltälern, © Naturpark Hohes Venn - Eifel
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Torfmoor in Hille, © Gemeinde Hille
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Panorama am Heimatblick, © Rhein Voreifel Touristik e.V.
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Der Rursee im Nationalpark Eifel, © Nationalpark Eifel - Nationalparkverwaltung
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Ansicht auf Königswinter-Rheinfront, © VVS Archiv
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Erfrischender Wasserlauf im Naturpark Schwalm-Nette, © Naturpark Schwalm-Nette
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Die Flamingos am Zwillbrocker Venn teilen sich ihren Lebensraum mit Kolonien von Lachmöwen, © Biologische Station Zwillbrock e. V.
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Flamingos in Münsterland: Zwillbrocker Venn