At the beginning of October we are just days away from winterising Meander as another enjoyable boating season in the Netherlands comes to an end.
A lovely island mooring near Elburg these are the kind of moorings we love best
Following a non straightforward recovery from a cataract operation at the beginning of May, Nigel needed to be near enough to an airport to travel home several times for check ups leaving myself and the dogs somewhere convenient, so we decided that the Netherlands with its good transport links to and from Schiphol airport were the best option for this. Initially, when we first arrived in Belgium we had some great help with heavy jobs and car shuttles from Alistair on narrowboat Vector for which we were enormously grateful. He and partner Sabine, who we met when we first arrived at Leopoldsburg in 2016 are now touring France in their boat, last heard of on the Somme! When we came back from our first dash home for an emergency clinic appointment, they had already departed so Sabine never did get her promised Warburton’s crumpets that we were going to introduce her to.
Alistair and Sabine’s Vector amongst the waterlilies on the Beverlo canal
This season we have met up with some fellow boaters, some of whom we have seen before and made some new acquaintances. It’s always good to meet up with like minded folk, share experiences, have a few laughs and a wine/beer or two!! It was a welcome surprise to get a message from Voirrey Johnson who along with husband Andy lives on barge Bella Fortuna, to ask if we could meet up in Weesp as she was in Amsterdam alone on her boat while her hubby was in the UK. We first met them last year and have kept in touch via facebook. It just happened to coincide with one of Nigel’s trips home so we met up for lunch and a catch up one Saturday in early August. As you can probably guess from the photo, it was a hot day!! Voirrey and Andy have three cats on their boat so we exchanged fur baby tales and enjoyed our meet up. I have to admit I was rather preoccupied as while we were eating, I was anxiously awaiting the latest news of Nigel’s consultation back in the UK.
Toasted sarnies in Weesp, ladies wot lunch!!
Also in Weesp I met up with John and Hilary Berridge on barge Iskra and their dog Bert. They had their car with them and kindly took me shopping which was a good opportunity to stock up without my “old lady trolley”. When Nigel got back we went to the same restaurant as I had been to with Voirrey for a meal together. I found out that Voirrey and Andy know John and Hilary too and had spent some time with them earlier this season!
We chanced across Joel Whitworth in Gorinchem, a young lad from Salford who lives permanently on his little boat in the Netherlands and Belgium. He recognised our boat as he was cycling past one afternoon and stopped to say hello. He helped us moor in 2016 when we arrived in Den Bosch and straight away we recognised his Northern accent. It turned out his brother lives in Breighmet, only a stones throw from our son! Three hours later he was still chatting away, but we couldn’t feed him as our fridge was bare and we were going out for pizza. We passed his boat very slowly the next day as expected so having been to the boulangerie that morning I sellotaped a bag with two croissants to our boat hook and held them out to him, he was thrilled!!
We have visited some new places this time as well as revisited many favourite spots we have been to before.
We loved this sculpture in Oudenbosch if you enlarge it you may see a familiar figure on the bench behind plus a whippet
Oudenbosch Kerk, a smaller copy of St.Peter’s Basilica in Rome
Noyou are not seeing things, there really is a plastic cow dangling from this tower.
Tree house on the Linge, near Leerdam
Large family of swans in Willemstad
We’ve lingered when we wanted to and then had weeks where we’ve moved on each day. We’ve had days of blistering heat, biblical rain and high winds (not all at once, thankfully)
Very lucky to be able to see and photograph this Purple Heron
In nearly 40 degree heat, ice cream is essential!
Cooling the whippet!
Eel fishing boats at Elburg
Many of you will already know we lost our beloved almost 15 year old border terrier, Dash on 22nd August, definitely not a highlight of the trip. I had been wanting to visit the town of Blokzijl for some time, this year we included it in our itinerary but now sadly it will never have happy connotations despite its prettiness for that is where we said goodbye to him. I had been dreading this inevitable event happening away from our own vet in the UK but as it happened, the staff at the Dutch veterinary practice we visited could not have been kinder or more helpful. The vet agreed with us that his time had come and it was accomplished swiftly with dignity for him and empathy for us.
Baby Dash, first days at home in 2004
He adapted well to boat life when we retired
What a cracker he was, Dash in his prime
There followed a very sad few days where the pair of us and Belle hardly knew what to do with ourselves but gradually things improved and Belle has settled into the role of single dog. Will it stay that way, not sure!! But she’s getting much more exercise now too, as are we, 15 year old dogs can’t/don’t want to walk far!!
Once Nigel knew he didn’t need to go back to the eye clinic until October (to be assessed for the other cataract to be removed) and once Dash had left us, we decided to carry on in a northerly direction towards Friesland.
First we wanted to spend a week or so on the Turf Route, having poured over charts to ascertain bridge heights and water depths etc and to assure ourselves it was “doable” in our boat. So glad we did, it was almost the end of the season there so it was quiet but the weather turned very hot again whilst we were on it.
It was just what we needed after the sadness and emptiness we were feeling, the walks in the woods at Donkerbroek were especially welcome and quite therapeutic for Belle too, thanks to Jill and Graham for the recommendation.
Most of the bridges on the Turf Route are operated by students. I imagine they go back to Uni in September with more muscles than they had when they started.
Easy does it
Well worth a 2 euro tip!!
Loved this bridge gently closing behind us
Nature tower in Donkerbroek
Tight fit into the lock
From there we headed up to Groningen where we had a few days of city life, climbed this Belfry for stunning views and visited the very interesting maritime museum. In Groningen we at last met Jill and Graham Budd on their peniche, Francoise. I had “known” Jill for some time via our facebook group of lady boaters and had ever so nearly met in Portugal last winter and then earlier this season in Meppel but finally we got to meet and share drinks and a natter, two nights running in Groningen.
Grass cutting team heading to one of the Marrekrite moorings, not ours unfortunately, the grass was about 12 inches long!!
Pretty ponies near Blokzijl
White windmill near Groningen
One of many Marrekrite moorings we stayed at in Friesland
Another Marrekrite Mooring, just two of us until this group of youngsters arrived to camp overnight
The next leg of our journey found us heading further north to the solitude of Lauwersmeer and wild island moorings again before starting our return journey south through Friesland…. Dokkum, Leeuwarden, Opeinde, Grou, Tjeukemeer, Hasselt, Zwolle, Muiden, onto the Vecht then a short distance on the Amsterdam/Rijn Canal (hold on tight!!). The weather had changed by now, much wetter, much cooler and not so pleasant for cruising so we didn’t linger anywhere long apart from a couple of very wet days in Heusden which was the last place we had seen John and Hilary in 2016.
Love these decorated bridges
Another island all to ourselves on Lauwersmeer
Heading out of an enormous lock onto the Waal
A three chamber lock, one on the left going in where we have come out and the one on the right heading the same way as us exiting from the next chamber, we felt like the meat in the sandwich!
We were quite swiftly back in Belgium and are pottering for a few more days at Blauwe Kei before returning to our winter base in Leopoldsburg where we will winterise the boat and then return to the UK. When we arrived here Nigel cycled to Leopoldsburg to get the car which started at the first turn of the key, or rather first press of the button! It was his first drive since 2nd May! It was strange for me too driving for the first time since July, felt very fast after boating pace.
This lock was 142 x 14 metres in which we were all alone the difference in level was just 20 cms!
A deeper lock, 5 metres down into Flevoland
Belle on the ramparts at Heusden
Must be autumn when the fungi are bigger than the whippet!
Great when the bridge opens just as we approach, especially in the wind, doesn’t happen all the time!
Turf Route sunset
There’s that cow again!
Misty Moisty morning
Early morning on Lauwersmeer
Just beautiful, worth an early morning rise for!
A buzzard catching the first rays of the early morning sunshine
Future plans are on hold for the moment, we like everyone else, are waiting to see what the future holds after 31st October. And Nigel needs to have the other cataract removed, fingers crossed more straightforwardly this time!
And a final goodbye from Dash, gone but never forgotten….