“Uitkerkse Polder” with its salty meadows is located alongside the eastern
Flemish coast and was founded in 1991.
of the typical Flemish phenomenon of sprawling, an intact poldercomplex has
become a rare and unique landscape.
While the open space of 1400 ha in the
Uitkerkse Polder has become a rare and vulnerable area within the European
Union, it now is the centre of attention in a Belgian Life project.
Because of the salt in the soil
and the water (outside the intertidal holdings!), quite some halophilous
plants found an ideal habitat here, such as Annual Sea-blite, Salicornia,
Sea Aster, Sea Hard-grass and Sea Arrow-grass.
number of birds found their homes in the Uitkerkse Polder. It is e.g. an
important breeding area for meadow birds like Avocet, Bluethroat, Common
Tern and Marsh Harrier.
area is perhaps most known as an outstanding wintering area for thousands
of waders, ducks and geese (Pink-footed Goose, White-fronted Goose…). Up to
90% of the entire Svalbard population of Anser brachyrhynchus winters in the Oostkustpolder, i.e. the
area between Ostend
and Knokke-Heist in which the Uitkerkse Polder plays an important role.
extraordinary salty concentrations in this poldercomplex are due to
centuries of seepage of the seawater, which enriched the soil.
those characteristic salty meadows and thus the plants and animals are
threatened by the development and intensification of modern agriculture. Farmers
drain and excessively manure the wet grasslands in order to create arable
the Uitkerkse Polder has been designated a Natura 2000 site, we can
guarantee the conservation of this precious and vulnerable biodiversity of
plants and animals. Moreover, thanks to the LIFE-instrument we can, more than ever, intensively
restore the different habitats.
Visitor Centre Uitkerkse Polder
0) 50-42 90 40
Whole year round from Tuesday
to Saturday from 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Open on Sundays from 10 a.m. to
During school holidays also
open on Mondays from 1.30 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.
The visitor centre
The visitor centre is an ideal starting point for
walks and bicycle rides throughout the Uitkerkse Polder. Without having to walk
for miles, you will find three bird hides in the neighbourhood of the
visitor centre. Furthermore, you and your children will have the chance to
take part in a short educational walk of 1 km around the visitor
centre. After the walk, you can visit a multimedia exhibition or have a
Do you feel like it? Then hurry and click this link:
Activities in and around the visitor centres.
Information and requests for walks for schools and
groups can be obtained by e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org or call
(+32 0) 50-42 90 40 (during opening hours).
In the Uitkerkse Polder you can enjoy the typical
flat Flemish landscape. It is an open landscape without any trees or
hedges, with only a few farms here and there. This gives you a feeling of
freedom. Because the sea flooded this area several times throughout the
centuries, the plants that grow here are adjusted to these salty
circumstances. These internationally protected salty meadows attract a lot
of geese that spend winter here. You can observe them from November 15th
until February 15th.
How to get there?
The visitor centre is situated in the eastern pas of
the meadow bird area and can easily be reached. All you have to do is
follow the signposting starting at the church of Uitkerke
You can also opt for public transport and use the so-called belbus. You
have to book this bus at least two hours in advance. Call (+30 0) 78-15 11
What are Natura 2000 and LIFE?
In order to preserve what’s left of Europe’s precious nature, the European Union created
Natura 2000 is a network of protected areas within the European Union. The aim
of this network is to guarantee the conservation of rare and vulnerable
plants and animals.
In order to finance all this,
the European Union also created LIFE. LIFE is a fund for all governments
and nature associations in the European Union. This way, major projects can
be financially supported and thus made possible.
LIFE and the
The Life project in the Uitkerkse Polder, entitled “Uitkerkse Polder: a
surplus value for nature and people”, aims to:
restore the unique salt meadows (Salicornia-vegetations
and Glauco-Puccinellietalia) on a large scale and the breeding species
associated with them (Recuvirostra
avocetta, Sterna hirundo, Circus pygargus, Circus aeruginosus, Platalea
leucorodia and Luscinia svecica)
recover the disappeared inshore variety of Kreken (large shallow
inlets and bays)
create outstanding migrating, foraging and wintering conditions for
birds (Anser brachyrhynchus, Anser
albifrons, Platalea leucorodia, Asio flammeus, Pluvialis apricarius,
Philomachus pugnax and Limosa lapponica)
promote and develop nature oriented tourism in order to ensure
social and economical embedment of Nature 2000
order to realise all this, we’ve already taken several actions. This
resulted in two Life projects:
the first Life project we
already established, among other things, the following: we bought 95 ha of extra domain, we
recovered 114 ha
of grassland and 10 km
of trenches and we also built a new bird hide.
The aims of the second Life
project, which started at the beginning of 2003, are increasing the area’s
natural value even more and organising more activities for the broad
value for nature…
In order to realise this, we need to create the necessary management
schemes and a monitoring survey of the first results.
planning on buying 120 ha
of grassland, of which 30
ha of arable land, in order to restore the
halophilous grasslands. We will recover another 90 ha of halophilous
grasslands by restoring salty meadows, extending the existing “core areas”
and creating new ones.
order to obtain optimal development and management of salt and hay meadows
(and their associated species) recurring management (grazing management,
hayfields) will be started.
By 2008, we want the Uitkerkse Polder to be one of the finest bird areas of
Flanders and one of the most important
junctions on European bird migration routes!
Of course, we are also putting people at the heart of the process. We
co-operate with a lot of volunteers and farmers and thus increase the
involvement of the local people.
is to develop the socio-economic potentials of the area and therefore we
are going to expand the visitor centre in order to be able to greet our
guests more adequately. We will also elaborate a new exhibition and place
new signposting and information panels. We will build another new bird hide and a watchtower too.
we even want to start a mobility plan to limit the nuisance for the neighbours
and the natural values! Therefore we will use a wide scale of push and pull
measures to introduce a modal split: we will create different Park &
Walk-areas to limit the increasing use of motorised traffic and we will
publish a brand new guide for hikers and bikers. Because car free is care
these efforts will result in large-scale restoration and long-lasting
conservation of the salt meadows, the development and conservation of
Kreken, Magnopotamion and Calthion/Arrhentherion meadows and
of course new and outstanding breeding, foraging and wintering conditions
for the birds. Respecting the natural values and socio-economical embedment
of the Natura 2000 area, new and increasing visitor facilities will be
installed. This way people will be aware of our precious nature and
everyone will be able to enjoy it!