Experience Nature – Oisterwijk Woods and Fens
On 14 August 2023, PostNL will publish the Experience nature – Oisterwijk woods and fens issue: a sheet of ten stamps in ten different designs. The denomination on these stamps is ‘1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for the Netherlands. A sheet of ten stamps costs €10.10.
The stamp sheet about the Oisterwijk woods and fens is part of the multi-annual Experience nature 2021-2023 series. In the series, four stamp sheets are issued every year, each comprising ten different stamps. The stamps feature images of plants and animals in unique Dutch nature reserves across the country. In 2023, it was the turn of the provinces of Flevoland, Friesland, Overijssel and Noord-Brabant.
The Experience nature – Oisterwijk woods and fens issue of 14 August 2023 focuses on the woods and fens of this nature reserve near Oisterwijk, in the province of Noord-Brabant. The stamp sheets issued earlier this year featured Marker Wadden in Flevoland (2 January), Strok en Skrins in Friesland (13 February) and De Wieden in Overijssel (12 June). The issue about the Oisterwijk woods and fens in Noord-Brabant will be the final stamp sheet in the series this year.
The Oisterwijkse Bossen en Vennen (woods and fens) nature reserve is located south-east of Oisterwijk in Noord-Brabant. The area, owned by Natuurmonumenten, covers some 450 hectares and is part of the Van Gogh National Park. Once a vast heathland with many meres, it began to be forested in 1801. Younger woodland dates from around 1840. Until 1912, the nature reserve belonged to the De Hondsberg estate, once attached to the former Durendaal castle. Today, it is a varied forest area with atmospheric meres, hidden heaths and the stream valleys of the Rosep, the Reusel and the Achterste stroom. Most of the meres in this nature reserve were formed after the last ice age. The names of some meres reflect their former use. Brewers cleaned their vats in the Brouwkuip, for example, and the Brandven owes its name to the fact that its water was used to extinguish fires. The Klompven at the edge of the settlement is man-made. Because this mere has the same peaty soil as the natural meres, it seems quite natural. The first purchase of the forested area by Natuurmonumenten dates back to 1913. Since then, nature has been given priority. It is the habitat for numerous unique plants and animals, such as marsh club moss, bog myrtle, little grebe, tufted duck and kingfisher.
Irma de Potter studied biology and health education at teacher training college, worked at the World Wildlife Fund and De Kleine Aarde, among others, and has been working as a Communication & Experience forest ranger at Natuurmonumenten since 2000. Together with her colleagues, she is responsible for managing and communicating about the Oisterwijk woods and fens. De Potter: ‘I think it is a very unusual area, specifically because of the combination of woods, meres, streams and heathlands. There is a lot of variety; you constantly stumble on different views. It is amazing to see a wood reflected in a mere. There are lovely spots, like the one along the Rosep brook, which regained its natural course 10 years ago. You have everything here that people love to come to nature for. But I do like to remind people that this is not their backyard; it is a habitat for plants and animals. The history of the Oisterwijk woods and fens is significant as it was the first Dutch nature reserve purchased by Natuurmonumenten in 1913 with subsidies from municipalities and donations from members. The purchase was necessary because otherwise the woods would have been cut down and the meres drained to build a resort. More than 50 years ago, we started transforming the monotonous coniferous woods and we now have a variety of deciduous trees such as beech, birch and rowan. I love seeing the marsh St John’s wort in bloom on the banks of the meres or a kingfisher shooting past like a blue flash of light. The walking route linking the 14 meres, which is about 10 km long, is still my favourite. The area is attractive in all seasons. Especially in autumn when the leaves change into gorgeous colours and there is a veritable explosion of mushrooms.’
The Experience nature – Oisterwijk woods and fens stamps feature the following ten inhabitants of this nature reserve: royal fern, kingfisher, water purslane, smooth newt, small red damselfly, black woodpecker, common frog, tufted duck, long-tailed tit and bog myrtle. Each has its own stamp. The stamp sheet also features many more images of flora and fauna typical for this area. The following are shown as monochrome images in a separate graphic layer: common frog (top left), marsh St John’s wort (top right and bottom left), bog myrtle (centre left), red squirrel (centre right), smooth newt (centre bottom) and long-tailed tit (bottom right).
The Experience nature - Oisterwijk woods and fens stamp sheet was designed by graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. On the sheet, the ten plants and animals are depicted in their natural environment, each on their own stamp. In some cases, the image or background colour continues onto the adjacent stamp and onto the sheet edge. All photos are incorporated in a graphic layer of different-sized overlapping circles, which break through the boundaries of the perforations. The circle pattern returns as small droplets on the sheet edge and the tabs. There is another graphic layer on top of the circles featuring monochrome images of animals and plants from this area. These images are almost abstract cross the perforations and connect the stamps to each other.
For the typography, Janse used his own font, which he designed especially for the Experience nature series. The font, which consists of tiny circles, was given the name Fdot. The explanatory texts on the sheet edge are set in the TT Milks Light and Demibold in capitals (2017, Ivan Gladkikh for Typetype). In the captions, the designer creatively expresses his associations with the names, features and appearance of the plants and animals depicted, adding a touch of humour.
The Experience nature series was designed by graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. While the focus was on various animal and plant species in the period from 2018 to 2020, in 2021-2023 the focus will be on unique Dutch nature reserves and their flora and fauna. The 14 August 2023 issue highlights the residents of the Oisterwijk woods and fens in Noord-Brabant.
The nature reserves were chosen in consultation with experts from the nature conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten. A number of considerations played a role in the selection of these diverse landscapes. Each area had to have plenty of interesting flora and fauna, for example. There had to be enough diversity, so every species could be represented: from plants, trees and mammals to insects, reptiles and amphibians. Janse: ‘I also wanted to have a decent choice of beautiful images and it had to have a captivating story attached to it. The common factor of this issue about the Oisterwijk woods and fens is the wet, marshy character of this nature reserve. Meres in particular play an important role in this regard, including the so-called stroomdalvennen (stream valley meres) so characteristic of this part of North Brabant. The area also has many wooded areas and heathland. All within a stone’s throw of Oisterwijk. I have been there a few times, including when I drove my son’s rugby team to the Oisterwijk Oysters for an away game. In fact, their fields are in the middle of the woods. Near by the Staalbergven, one of the larger meres in the area.’
List of candidates
For the Experience nature – Oisterwijk woods and fens stamp sheet, Janse drew up a list of plant and animal candidates, of which ten finally remained. ‘I did this for all of the landscapes in the Experience nature series at the same time. That way we could show a nice range. After all, many plants and animals occur in multiple nature reserves in the Netherlands. This way, we avoided repetitions. Most of the animals and plants on this stamp sheet can be found in or near water. In the still water of the meres, but also on the banks of the streams located in this nature reserve. There you can spot the kingfisher, for example, as it prefers running water. Of course, the woods have not been forgotten. For example, the stamp sheet features a black woodpecker carving out a nest amongst the trees. And the royal fern growing underneath.’
Balanced overall image
When distributing the plants and animals across the Experience nature – Oisterwijk woods and fens stamp sheet, Janse’s aim was to create an overall image that was as beautiful and balanced as possible. Initially, he creates a substantive distribution so the same species do not end up in one place. Janse: ‘But I sometimes change that again in practice. The composition is always a guide, with a balanced distribution of colours and shots from close-up and far away. Although in the case of these stamps of the Oisterwijk woods and fens, most of the pictures were taken from afar with a telephoto lens, giving them a shallow depth of field. Another common factor is the pinkish-orange colour that you see everywhere. Most of the photos were taken at dusk on a beautiful quiet autumn day. This is when the sun is low, which can create all sorts of hues you would never see otherwise. Just look at the colour palette of the common frog, much more colourful than you’d expect. When selecting the colours, Janse looked at previous issues in the Experience Nature series, both from this year and from previous years. Each stamp sheet in this series should be unique, and that also extends to the colour composition.
From the flora and fauna in De Oisterwijk woods and fens Janse selected ten representatives to be featured as main characters on the stamps. The white images play an important part in the design, he explains. ‘If I get the chance, I will allow one of these images to continue across as many stamps as possible. In this case, I managed this with the smooth newt, which wriggles upwards across an impressive six stamps. At the top left, a common frog scowls at the viewer. A squirrel hides on the right of the stamp sheet. The long-tailed tit on the lower right and the long-tailed tit on the stamp on the lower left side look each other straight in the eye. The long-tailed tit on the lower right is much larger, though. Which is funny, because this is a juvenile, while the smaller long-tailed tit is an adult bird.’
Royal fern and kingfisher
On the top row of stamps, Janse contrasted the insubstantial green of the royal fern with the colourful blue and pinkish-orange of the kingfisher. ‘Distant images of ferns tend to create a green haze that makes the individual plants disappear,’ says Janse. ‘In this picture, however, you can see every detail, right down to the fine serration of the feathery fronds. You can see how the fern grows upwards, towards the light. The kingfisher next to it sits in a distinctive pose, on a branch on a steep bank along flowing water. Waiting patiently for fish to swim by. It is a distinctive bird. Not only because of its colours, but also because of its short tail and long bill.’
Water purslane and smooth newt
The colours of the stamps above return in the stamps with the water purslane and the smooth newt, only the other way around. Janse: ‘You can recognise the water purslane by its red-green leaves and the reddish stalk that lies along the ground. It blooms with tiny flowers until autumn. The photographer has focused on the top leaves, making the rest a little blurred. On the stamp next to it, we dive into the water. You see a pale green smooth newt. You can tell that it is a juvenile creature because its gills are still outside its body. It swims among the aquatic plants. That is also where they are born. In contrast, the transparent newt at the bottom of the stamp is another older animal; you can tell by the spots on its belly.’
Small red damselfly and black woodpecker
Damselflies and fens are a great match, says Janse. ‘Damselflies like standing water in wooded areas to protect them from the cold. It is one of the few damselflies that are completely red, hence their name. I wanted to portray one sitting on a twig. They are difficult to photograph while flying anyway. The background is blurred. Which is good, because you would hardly notice it against a busy background. The red returns in the black woodpecker on the stamp next to it, but very subtly. You can tell from the place of the red crown that it is a male. The red combines nicely with that small yellow eye. The shooting angle is interesting; you can see that the photographer must have been looking diagonally upwards from below the tree.’
Common frog and tufted duck
The common frog is surprisingly colourful. The soft grey-blue has the same colour mood as the pink background, which again seems to be borrowed from the water purslane stamp. ‘Yet different photographers took the pictures at different locations,’ says Janse. ‘The frog’s belly is beautiful too; it looks like it is made of gold. The light must have been unusual when this picture was taken. The photo of the tufted duck on the stamp next to it was taken just before the autumn dusk. The duck itself is a striking black and white with a red eye as detail, while the water has all kinds of pastel shades. You can even see the duck’s head mirrored in the water, including that little red eye. The belly of the transparent newt between the two stamps creates a link.’
Long-tailed tit and bog myrtle
The stamps at the bottom of the sheet feature the long-tailed tit and the bog myrtle. Janse: ‘When you ignore the tail, the long-tailed tit is a cute spherical bird. Here it sits on a twig with bright red hawthorn berries. You often see these funny little birds fluttering around in a group. The pinkish-orange returns on the stamp with the bog myrtle next to it. In this case, it is almost salmon pink. The bog myrtle likes wet feet, so it feels at home near fens. The round pink circle in the background looks like the sun, but is the reflection of other bog myrtles. The image had enough space for the transparent head of the long-tailed tit. I continued the colours from both stamps in the lower right-hand corner onto its head.’
The issue about the Oisterwijk woods and fens in Noord-Brabant will be the final stamp sheet in the Experience nature series this year. Once again, designer Frank Janse has designed stamps that are linked to each other on the stamp sheet. ‘After all, in nature, everything is also interconnected,’ he concludes. ‘The matching colours play an important part in the relationships between the images. The same applies to the circles connecting the images, combined with the transparent flora and fauna. Just look at the frog’s head in the top left and that of the long-tailed tit in the bottom right. There are also connections elsewhere in the visual language. For example, the twig with the damselfly runs parallel to the erect posture of the newt. I try to vary the viewing directions as much as possible so there is no unnecessary repetition.’
About the designer
Frank Janse (Vlissingen, 1967) graduated as a graphic designer from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2001. Janse is a specialist in corporate identity, branding, infographics and communication campaigns. Until 2019, he worked for various advertising and design agencies, including Room for IDs, and he also worked for himself as Frank Grafisch Ontwerp in Gouda. In 2019, together with Leene Communicatie, he founded the new company Leene Visuele Communicatie, which designs communication tools focusing on content and information design. Leene Visual Communication works for clients including housing corporation Rochdale, PostNL, Randstad Group Netherlands, the Dutch central government, Vattenfall and the organisation for health research and care innovation ZonMw. Since late 2022, Frank has been the Design Director and Co-owner of VormVijf in The Hague. VormVijf works for governments, companies and organisations with the (mostly organised) citizen as its most important and largest target group. The agency connects strategy, design and content with the ambition to innovate, surprise and create impact. On the instructions of PostNL, Frank Janse has previously designed various luxury storage systems and personal stamps, including the 2017 themed collection on bird species of the Netherlands. He also produced the designs for the Experience nature series from 2018 to 2022.