Saturday, December 31, 2016

Return to Drenthe III - Dwingelderveld

I'm at a gateway to the Dwingelderveld National Park, fietspad crossroads in the park's northwest corner, about 2.5 km from the village of Dwingeloo. It's very peaceful, just the oaks and some lower trees and the lazy cheeping of birds. Morning overcast but it is now clearing and looks to be quite warm with just a slight breeze. But as I sit here at this knooppunt I notice a fair amount of activity, mostly elderly couples with matched bikes, including some e-bikes. It's Friday.

I visited this national park last summer to get a taste of it for the guide--but now I'll make it the main course. At that time I enthused about the beauty of the area and its many lakes.

(original date of this entry: June 3, 2016)

kp 86 -> 56
Dwingelderveld national park
Sign: 'Het Dwingelderveld is het grootste natte heidegebied van West-Europa. Je vindt hier zeldzame dieren en planten.' (Plug it into google translate if you must.) The sign is on the edge of an enormous flat field with a birch tree for shade. I hear a cuckoo calling. It's a fantastic day with a slight breeze, not too warm.

In the 1930s and 40s the area was bought up by conservation groups and was made into a national park due to its unique ecosystem with 'a riparian vegetation of peat moss, cotton grass, bog cotton and cranberry.' The park covers 3500 hectares which includes 2000 of forest and 1400 of heath. It's a sort of bird sanctuary.

A signage variation in Drenthe: Below the hexagonal route markers (e.g., Dwingelderveld route) are knooppunten with the note 'volg deze route' so as to avoid excessive signage. Efficient!

kp 57 -> 83 -> 43
Another outstanding tour, though not quite what I expected. Soon I reach the heart of the Dwingelderveld which is a giant flat field. None of the lakes that I recall on this end. It is lovely to ride through on this sunny breezy day but could be rough in colder wetter conditions. It is a wasteland studded with ball-shaped shrubs in endless succession. Way over at the other end of the field, at the end of a winding sandy path, looms the radio-telescope.

JIVE radio-telescope
The scope is a surreally large object in this landscape. I learn that it is not just any telescope but the JIVE telescope, which coordinates the signals from around Europe at places like the Adriatic coast of Italy, central Spain and somwhere in England, as well as at nearby Westerbork, which has row of 14 telescopes that receive a mosaic of images. The relatively low ambient light levels of this remote corner of Holland makes it a good spot for stargazing. So the Netherlands Institute for Radioastronomy (ASTRON) placed the huge telescope here, and it's made significant discoveries in the Milky Way.

ASTRON map showing locations of global telescope network

Beside the telescope (kp 83) there's a nice shaded picnic area.

kp 43 -> 32
Dutch cyclists
Taking my time looping the park before heading west to Ruinerwold. Tantalizing picnic spots and benches all the way. The trail cuts through the swamp district. Lilies blooming hot pink upon the swamplet in front of me. I know I am on the east edge of the park because I can hear the drone from the A28. But within this protected realm it is possible to ignore the mundaneness of contemporary provincial Holland--except in the faces of some of the cyclists who seem determined but joyless, taciturn.

Dwingelo to Ruinerwold

kp 58 -> 54
At the exit from Dwingelderveld national park is an atmospheric old cafe of some sort. Outside is a table with boxes of used books. I grab three (€1) and drop a coin in a jar. One was Volle Maan, a PG Wodehouse novel translated to Dutch; I chose it for its vintage cover.

Now outside the park headed for Ruinen. Lovely as well but in a different way, old farmsteads interspersed with planted fields. I'm having my last tuna salad sandwich by a little bridge on the brownish Ruiner Aa. Horses graze in the fields of tiny yellow flowers. Distant thunder.

Tryntje & Martin, Ruinerwold
The rest of the way was pleasant if unspectacular, paralleling the road behind vast cropfields, just sprouting up now. Again using citymaps2go, I found my Vriend op de Fiets with lightning speed in Ruinerwold, which is just east of Meppel. Why I chose it to spend the night is unclear. My hosts are a typical elderly couple, Tryntje and Martin. Tryntje is very nice, speaks little English. She brought me a cold beer and we had a chat. (Martin chose not to participate.) They're both from here, or actually an even smaller village to the south. Both their parents had farms but they are not farmers. Tryntje's brother migrated to Canada, started a farm in Alberta. But he wasn't prospering there and it was too cold, so he moved his family to Vancouver Island, where they've got a herd of cattle and organic veggies. Tryntje visited him when he was still in Alberta. She took a bike ride there but found the landscape monotonous--endless fields of the same grains. For someone who's spent her whole life in a humble but gezellig village like Ruinerwold, North America must seem daunting, inaccessible.
Spring field

Now they're inside, watching TV, while I sit in the rear garden where beets, lettuce and potatoes grow. Beyond it is a strip of greenery, then a corral for horses, though the horses are now at 9:30 pm ensconced in a brick stable. It feels so peaceful and rural back here. Why did I choose Ruinerwold? I don't know but it's nearby some more good cycle excursions. One more, then back home. Continued ...


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