Sunday, 4 September 2011

A Saturday ride through quiet countryside

I went for a ride through the countryside yesterday. It took just an hour and a half to make a ride from home, through one of the heaths nearby, and back again. In Drenthe, it's very easy to find somewhere quiet to go for a few minutes:

There are many stiltegebieden or "silent areas" within easy cycling distance of Assen. Even though they are just a short distance from the city, they are about as quiet as it is possible for anywhere to be. The cycle paths don't stop at the city boundary, but continue in all directions through the countryside, so every location can be reached without having to ride on busy roads.

On the way out of Assen I came across a bridge which was opening for a boat. There was soon a queue.

Heading into the heath. This is the start of the stiltegebied. When you stop, you have only the sounds of nature to listen to.

If passing cyclists make the cycle path not quite quiet enough, there are places to walk to and seats to sit on where it is even quieter.

It's like being in the middle of no-where

It was a very nice day, so lots of people were cycling.

Cycling is something the entire population does. On average, Dutch people use bicycles just short of 6 times a week.

Even though this is only a 15 km ride from Assen, it feels remote, as if it is much further away.

The building in the background is in the city.

Some of the cycle paths in nature areas are made of crushed shells. When you read of the 29000 km of cycle paths in the Netherlands, note that recreational paths like this are not included in the total.

Some have been upgraded to concrete.

All sorts of people ride. Here a group of women on racing bikes have stopped at a cafe.

My bike on the other side of a field full of poppies
We came to live in this part of the Netherlands because we found it to be both beautiful and wonderful to cycle through. Our routes go through all the most scenic parts of the area. Book a holiday and you can experience it for yourself.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Planning a cycling holiday route at dusk

Judy and I went out yesterday evening to plan a new cycle holiday route. It's a time consuming thing to do as we have to stop at every corner and note what is around so that unambiguous instructions can be written for our clients. Nevertheless, I also managed to get a bit of video of Judy as she rode.

We now have a new shortish family friendly route to one of the swimming beaches in Drenthe. On the way, it passes over another "stiltegebied" or "silent area" where there is little, if any, noise other than that from nature. There are ten of these areas in Drenthe, most of them not far away to cycle. This is possible because the noise from traffic has been dealt with remarkably well.

If you'd like to ride this route for yourself, please get in touch with Judy to book a holiday.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Cycling Province of the year 2011: Drenthe

Our local paper reports that Drenthe has been voted as cycling province of the year for 2011. They say that "Recreational cyclists find Drenthe the most attractive". Who are we to disagree. We live in Assen, the capital of Drenthe, and it is from here that we organize cycling holidays.

One of the areas of Heath in Drenthe. Beautiful, and with no motor access.
5000 people voted in an online poll, giving a score for such things as the attractiveness of the countryside and the quality of cyclepaths. Drenthe scored well due to the amount of space (it's the least densely populated part of the country) and quietness.

Talking to a customer in May in one of the ten Stiltegebieden or "silent
areas" in Drenthe. This place is about 10 km from Assen and can only be
reached by foot or by bike. It's very nearly completely silent. You have to get
off your bike and stop to notice this. Usually you can't hear anything at all.
Drenthe really is a fabulous place to cycle. That's why we moved here and why we're sure you will enjoy your cycling holiday in this province.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Queen's day recreational ride

Yesterday was Koninginneddag. It's a nice event, very sociable. Judy and I decided that instead of staying in Assen we'd go to the village of Vries this time, have a couple of beers at the cafes, listen to a friend's music, and take part in the cycle ride which one of the cafes had organised. This was 33 km long, to be taken at a fairly relaxed pace.

Judy riding through the "desert" a few km from Assen

People celebrating in the middle of no-where.

We stopped at a bench to eat our sandwiches. At the left end of the
bench is space for a tree to grow through.

The plaque on the bench reads "listen to nature". As this is a stiltegebied,
or "silent area", nature is all you can hear except for the sound of passing

It turned out to be a very good spot for people-watching.

We made a video showing some of the other participants in the ride we were taking part in.

Many of the riders were quite elderly. Over 65s make a quarter of all their journeys by bike in the Netherlands. They don't only ride short distances to the shops and back, but also quite often go for tours in the countryside. Retired couples are often seen on matching "his and hers" bikes, and increasingly these days they'll buy electric bikes to make tours like this a little easier. The Netherlands is accessible by bike for people of all ages.

Some of the other riders on the same route

Teenagers going in the opposite direction

And of course there was also plenty of evidence of people at the opposite
 end of the age range also cycling today.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

To the German border and back

Mango at Bourtange
This video was made on Monday afternoon two weeks ago when I rode to the German border and back. I made the journey because we've a holiday customer coming in a couple of weeks who will take this route. I realized I had not ridden it for over a year, and it's important that we keep our routes so up to date as possible.

Bourtange is a star shaped fortress and village dating from the eighty years war between 1568 and 1648. At the time it was militarily important and guarded the only road between Germany and Groningen. Now it's a living museum.

Willow growing in a reserve
On the way to Bourtange I stopped a couple of times, to eat sandwiches, to take a look at some willow trees, to look at a deserted beach (Monday afternoons in April are not peak time for sun-bathing).

German cycle route signs. Those on the right point towards
the Netherlands, including Bourtange.
I didn't really need to carry on from Bourtange into Germany. It's not part of our route. However I thought it would be nice to have a German beer at the furthest point from home before turning around again. However, the owners of the cafe I stopped at had other ideas. It was shut. I've called past the same place a few times now, and never managed to get any refreshment at all. There are also cafes in Bourtanges itself and at other places along the route.
The pub with no beer. Again.
That was the furthest I had any reason to ride, so I turned around and headed home again. A 120 km afternoon bike ride, including a trip back in time and to visit a foreign country, a few stops for food and drink and to take photos, and I was back in time for dinner.

A very pleasant ride through lovely countryside.

Note the siren sounds in the video. If your holiday coincides with the first Monday of the month then you may well hear sirens at mid-day. It's nothing to be alarmed about, they're just tested once a month.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Photos from the last few days

Our eldest daughter Eliza, on the way home from school.
Bikes outside the post office, so close as possible to the door.
There is a lot of rebuilding going on in Assen at the moment. Due to it, directions have been put up to direct people to park their bikes elsewhere, but many bikes get parked next to the sign. Cyclists are always taken care of when there are road-works.
Judy took this photo while waiting for the traffic light to change on the way to college. There's another crowd of cyclists on the left too (at this simultaneous green junction).
The scene in a suburb of Assen yesterday, on a cycle path featured previously.
Photo from a stop on our afternoon ride today
Passing the pagoda in the Asian area of the Assen arboretum
Approaching a pile of logs
Photo of logs.
Photos taken, Judy heading back home again
Bicycle road on the way back into Assen on a quiet Sunday in March.
Bike basket that I made this week, with red and green willow.
A few photos from the last couple of days. First, a page out of the latest Vogelvrije Fietser (Fietsersbond magazine). Subscribe to this newspaper for a year and you get a free bike. Not a bad deal.

This month, the Vogelvrije Fietser also linked to our  bell test from a few months back.