Handel is a village in the province of North Brabant (Netherlands). It belongs to the municipality of Gemert-Bakel. Handel is the oldest Marian pilgrimage site in North Brabant. Its history dates back to 1368. Possibly the devotion dates from even earlier times, but in a fire in 1709 the archives were lost, so nothing can be traced with certainty. Thousands of visitors come every year.

Behind the church is a processional park, in which lies the "miraculous well," whose water is said to have medicinal properties. Another legend says that the statue of Mary that is in the church was found in a tree. This so-called "Marian tree" was struck by lightning and split open. The statue of the Virgin Mary was then found in the middle of the tree. The now dead Marian tree still stands in the forest.

One of the most famous and largest pilgrimages to Handel is the Handel Procession, which is walked by about a thousand pilgrims each year. This procession also leads along the Kèskesdijk. This road that leads from Gemert to Handel is flanked by seven kèskes, which are small chapels with a niche. In this niche there is a group of statues referring to one of the Seven Sorrows of Mary.

Nature center De Specht in Handel


Municipality of Gemert-Bakel has traditionally been rich in associations whose objectives are deeply rooted in nature. Especially the preservation and/or expansion of nature and landscape values in Gemeente Gemert-Bakel is of high priority. From these associations came in 1994 the explicit wish to build an information center, the nature education center or NEC. Later renamed as Nature Center the Woodpecker.
For many years, Nature Center De Specht, located in the picturesque village of Handel in the municipality of Gemert-Bakel, has been an ideal place to enjoy nature in all its beauty. Many have managed to find their way to our center during the 4 seasons.
With great care and dedication we receive interested parties to take a look at what nature offers us.
The building was built in 3 months entirely by volunteers and made possible by sponsorship from local businesses. On July 7, 1995 the Nature Education Center was festively opened.
Stichting Natuurcentrum De Specht in Handel aims to actively provide nature education to adults and children from Gemert and the surrounding area, by:

  • organizing lectures with outdoor excursions
  • organizing short courses
  • organizing exhibitions
  • guided tours
    • for groups of interested individuals
    • for groups of elementary school students
    • for groups of secondary school students

The board recognized early on the importance of youth activities. Accordingly, a youth department was established in 1997.

  • MiniSpechtjes: provide 4 Wednesday afternoons for about 30 undergraduate students (elementary school)
  • Youthspecht: provide a monthly Saturday afternoon activity for about 40 upper school students (elementary school)

Youth Woodpecker website: www.jeugdspecht.nl

With equal care and dedication we present to you this website where you can find all kinds of information about us as Nature Center De Specht and its surroundings. We would like to invite you to look around at our website Specht Handel and we hope to see you in our nature center.

Flora & Fauna

For any nature lover, Nature Center the Woodpecker is a true paradise. Numerous special birds and insects are found in this area.

Hiking trails

For beautiful walks through the Brabant countryside, Nature Center 'De Specht' in Handel is an ideal starting point.

Strijbosscheweg 51
5423 SX Handel
T. 0492 - 32 50 21
E. info@despechthandel.nl

The Heerlijckheid Gemert-Bakel consists of 7 Church villages. Gemert, Bakel, De Mortel, Handel, Elsendorp, De Rips and Milheeze. Each village has its own rich history. Each village here is unique. Click here for a short introductory film about Gemert-Bakel:'Kom ook naar Gemert-Bakel'. It is definitely worthwhile to come and visit the church villages. For a day out, a weekend trip or an overnight stay in nature. In Gemert-Bakel there is plenty for adults and children to see, do and experience.


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