Two Dutch Girls on a Road Trip to Wiltshire

Road Trip 2017 (2) - Richmond to Chawton to Salisbury.

Good afternoon! Would you like to join me for the second part of my road trip in the South-West of England? A long time wish of my daughter...

Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Oostvoornse Duinen - Wetlands Supreme!

For those of you who enjoy hiking (but walking is fine as well), I have a tip for you that will give you entrance to one of the oldest and most varied dune landscapes of The Netherlands:
The "Oostvoornse Duinen".

The Sea Dunes

It being our Autumn break, I went there yesterday with my regular hiking companion, who used to be 2, 3, 4...and is now 22 years old.

My son and I enjoy walking together, and this part of our island of Voorne is our favourite.
It was a typical Wetlands day: misty, damp, grey cloud cover and threatening to rain (and sure enough half-way through it did start to rain and wouldn't stop).

Oostvoorne is a small town, part of the larger municipality of Westvoorne (comprising of  Rockanje, Tinte, Brielle and Oostvoorne). To get there you take the largest motorway (which thankfully still is a two-lane) N218 and then follow the signposts to the starting point of our hike: the carpark next to the Natuurmonumenten/Zuid-Hollands Landschap Education Centre ("Bezoekerscentrum") on the Duinstraat 12a. (Adjacent to the comfortable restaurant called De Meidoorn).


The landscape has slowly evolved over the centuries. It used to be mostly sand dunes, but due to landowners planting tree plantations and acid rain it is now a very green area with lots of trees, shrubs, berry carrying shrubs and grasses and reed beds  as well as sand dunes. In order to keep the grasses in check, large areas have been fenced in (this IS The Netherlands after all) so that herds of sheep, ponies and cows can graze there in relative freedom.

Contrary to what you might think, the bottom line doesn't mean that there is no danger of meeting a wolf, but that you have to keep your dog on a leash. We don't have wolves (yet) in this part of the Wetlands.

My son and I decided to take one of the longer walks; the walk around a dune lake called Het Breede Water. (2 hours)
To get there, you have to take the path to the right next to the education centre and along the attractive lake called the Tenella Plas. Again, this being the Netherlands, there is no danger of getting lost: the paths are mostly signposted by means of coloured arrows. The Breede Water route is clockwise, signposted with a white arrow.

Tenella Plas

Tenella Plas

At first there are still some small farm houses dotted around (much sought-after to live in these days), and the typical meadows that belong to them.

Actual farming is forbidden now though, the landscape has all been given back to 'nature' (which is a laugh, really. It is as well tended as a garden!)

As soon as you have crossed the horse bridlepath, you enter a wet area, so wellingtons are a good option from October onwards. In fact, if we have a wet winter and we usually do, many of the paths are extremely muddy.

You now walk along a sandy/grassy path adjacent to one of the old pine plantations (on your left). To your right are the older dunes, with many berry carrying shrubs which attract numerous birds.

As a girl I always laughed to see the sparrows and blackbirds get drunk on the orange berries of the meidoorn.

After approximately half an hour you can view the largest dune lake, the Breede Water, on your right hand side. There is a viewpoint ("Uitzichtpunt"), from where you can spot the waterfowl whilst they cannot spot you.

Breede Water

Cormorant's Island

In Spring the Breede Water is an overcrowded place, with cormorants, swans, ducks, geese, herons (both white and blue) and spoonbills making their nests there.
Yesterday is was deserted.
I used to take my son's friends around the lake as a birthday treat (picknick), and since his birthday is in April, those boys always walked demonstratively with their noses pinched because of the stench of Cormorant's Island.

This area has so many happy memories for me! I came here with my Mum (and dogs), and then with my kids (and dogs).

To my dismay the favorite climbing tree of my children has been chopped...

Just look at this... This was 12 years ago.
As I said, you walk around the Breede Water clockwise, so at the half-way mark you enter the proper dunes.

This is the closest thing we Wetlanders have to anything slightly resembling a hill (tiny), and it used to be all SAND when I was a girl!

Breede Water from the other side, black pines in the background

I hope you will be able to follow those white arrows, for this is the (only) point where the path is a bit tricky (hard to see), and you could get lost.
Still, you are always in sight and reach of your GPS satellite, so don't you fret!

When you have almost reached the point where you started walking around the Breede Water, you again enter the forest.

The Beeches are just starting to turn

You'll know when you have not strayed when you again reach the Tenella Plas.
Do go and visit restaurant De Meidoorn before you start you car! They do lovely Dutch grub and the ambience is very friendly.

I hope you have enjoyed this route. Whenever you are near - come visit Voorne!

Google Maps pointer: type in Tenellaplas Oostvoorne.

Viggo's Blog - Box-Dwellers Anonymous

Hi fans, Viggo here!

My recent traumatic experience with the vet has given me the incentive I needed to take another big step: I proudly announce I have become the CEO of BDA.

This acronym stands for Box-Dwellers Anonymous.

It has come to my attention that there are many more macho (and not half as macho) cats like me who are struggling daily with their box addiction.
And since my woman has been true to her word this time and has walked (through the rain; a tiny point in her favour) to the supermarket to get me a box, I often have to do without! And I get antsy and prickly and have to take out my frustration on her newspaper or song lyrics (for some reason she goes totally bonkers when I do that...)

To help you battle your nerves when you are aching for a box and can't have one, I have devised a Plan. I call it the Viggo 5 Steps Plan for BDA.

Step 1.
Find a friend. Any friend. This could even be your dog. Or another cat. (See photo for reference).

Step 2.
Use your friend as a substitute box. I know this takes stamina and above all determination, but remember: You Can Do It!

Step 3.
If you have trouble sitting in or on a weird place (see above photo for reference), remember that we are CATS. And we are INVINCIBLE.

Step 4.
This step is very important. Crucial, even.
IMAGINE you are in your box.
Yes, I know, it is hard, sooooo hard. But with a little practice you will be able to manage it eventually.
It only took me a couple of hours, and I was in my box at the time, but hey, if I can do it, you (probably, if you are as clever as me) can, right?

Step 5.

There, there. That wasn't so hard, was it?
You can order your own special BDA badge through my woman. She has a new name (ridiculous! but what can you do?): Song Smith. Has a nice Siamese Cat ring to it, though, now I come to think of it.

To help you along in your box-waning days, or just for those special private moments under the bed, I'll leave you with my Box Gallery. 
Tarrah! Until next time.

My latest doer-upper

My weekend box

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

What's In A Name? SongSmith, that's what.

Hi there! 
Today there was an article in my daily newspaper about internet protocol for teachers.
It made me think.
And think.
The gist of it was that, as a professional who works with young adults on a daily basis, I should not make myself (meaning my personal life) available to them, since they need me to be a grown-up roll model whom they can look up to and rely on.
(The incident which sparked this off was a teacher who had accidentally sent a photo of his penis to his entire school class of 14 year olds through WhatsApp. I mean: yeah...)
In other words, they don't want a heart-broken 57 year old with marriage issues in the process of getting a divorce and feeling absolutely shitty most of the time.
The article further advised me to make myself (and my issues) hard to find. Thus: use a pseudonym.

Now, so far not one of my guys has bothered to look me up, I'm sure. (Otherwise I would have been told, 'cause they wear their hearts on their sleeves)
But, just in case they do, or my employer does not like my issues either (let alone my songs and poetry), I have decided yet again to change my name.
Sigh - deep sigh.
Since you are reading this, not a lot (nothing) has changed. You can still read my stuff, and (far more important) Viggo's Blog.

I feel totally silly now.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Be Thankful!

Good afternoon to you, where-ever you are.
Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin.

This drizzly afternoon me and my two almost-grownup-offspring took ourselves to...
(okay, if you suffer from a Christmas allergy now skip the following paragraph!) 
the local Christmas decorations show.
In October! Yes...I know.
For Wetlanders like us this is almost unheard of. We used to have a guy called Sinterklaas for the last couple of hundred of years or so, and it was like swearing in church if you so much as mentioned Christmas before Sinterklaas had safely left our country on December 6th. But due to hassle and bother to do with his (presumed) racist tendency to surround himself with black helpers called Zwarte Piet, a lot of people have had it up to their eyebrows with all the hullaballoo. Including me. 

So...we went to our local garden centre Aralia which is renowned for its Christmas decorations. This is a family tradition (only we usually went around Dec. 15th) which always cheers us up.

And it was when we were walking slowly along the beautifully decorated aisles that it dawned on me. Or rather, it cloaked me slowly like a veil falling gently around my shoulders.
I watched other ordinary women like myself (no men in sight except for my 22 year old) making their way towards "the festive season", their faces relaxed, their eyes lit up with wonder and admiration (okay, okay, and with greed for some of them) whilst looking at the gorgeous displays. And I realized we are having it soooooooo good. 
Even women like me (money too tight to mention right now), but definitely those women who were loading their carts and baskets with festive stuff. We have it so good!

We live in proper houses, heated houses, with running hot water and a fridge and washing machine. With all kinds of appliances to make our work lighter and easier. Most of us with some sort of job to put food on our tables and fags in our pockets (not mine - but you get the drift I'm sure).

We do not have to bribe border guards to let us pass. We do not risk our lives and loves in leaking overloaded boats in the Mediterranean Sea. We do not walk for days on slippers in freezing temperatures.
I know many of my pampered and slightly-less-pampered fellow Wetlanders view these human rivers making their way towards our small country with trepidation. Cynics are quick to point out to me that many of these refugees do have the latest iPhones and post on Facebook.
It confuses me, I have no easy solution for this problem.
But what I do know, is that we Wetlanders should be thankful that we can visit a garden centre and buy ourselves some pretty lights.