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Swallows and Coconuts

Swallows and Coconuts

Slot Loevenstein

You might think this is a funny title for another blog of the Walking Peakers. In fact it is. And could I have known in May of this year that I was ever going to use it in one of my blogs? Never. I always say that I believe there is no coincidence and this proves it.

If you know our host of today well, or had the pleasure of joining her on an Outlander tour she did this year in may during the MPC2019 Event, you know why it’s no coincidence.

For those of you who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about, I am refering to swallows and coconuts, a famous scene from Monty Phyton, and how our host, Antonette de Groot, performed this scene together with the host of the Outlander tour at the Castle of Doune.

Why it’s no coicendence? Today she hosts us on a walk in her backyard and guess what, swallows and coconuts are involved. Well the swallows were , I haven’t seen any coconuts. Yet.

Smile you’re on candid camera

Antonette en Vera

Further introduction of Antonette is almost unnecessary. She takes your picture without you having the feeling there’s a camara pointed at you. She’s a very talented photographer. Until I met her, I was not a fan of photographers and hardly ever let anyone take a picture of me. I always thought I looked stupid on a picture. But she changed that, and many of the pictures you see in my blogs are made by her.

If you don’t know her from her pictures , you must know her and Annemarie, for together they are the face behind the Foodie Peakers. They started this Peaker group almost two years ago and have grown tremendously ever since.

Castle Loevenstein

To join for a walk, we communicate through an app. The one who is hosting the walk tells us where and when we have to be somewhere. At the beginning of this year, we made a calender of those who wanted to organize a walk. But as I told you in one of my other blogs, we also love to do things spontanously, and this was yet another walk not planned. But sometimes another walk is cancelled and an alternative is organized by one of the other Walking Peakers.

This morning we gathered on the parking lot near Castle Loevenstein. Although Scotland has over 3000 castles, in the Netherlands we have about 1300, and Castle Loevenstein is by far the most famous. It was built in 1361, on a strategic place where the rivers Maas en Waal come together.

In 1572, this Castle Loevenstein belonged to the Geuzen.

It’s our William of Orange who reinforced the Castle and made it a state prison. You might have heard the story of one of the most famous prisoners at that time who escaped in a rather spectacular way, Hugo de Groot. He was held prisoner in this castle and managed to escape in a bookcase.

But no time for reading today, we have some walking to do.

Swallows, Woudrichem and Gorinchem

As I told you in the introduction of this blog, I don’t believe in coincedence. During our walk we passed by a nature reserve called Struikwaard. When in 1995 the water level became extremely high, dykes were improved, and that’s how this nature reserve was created. More space was created for nature and the river, and a piece of agriculture land redeveloped. Also the safety of it’s inhabitants was improved.

In 1997 a wall for Sand Martins (a swallow spieces) was built, and ever since 1998 these birds breed here. Sometimes you might even spot some kingfishers. In the same reserve you find also beaver huts and a small herd of fjordehorses grazing.

Antonette told us that it was her uncle, among others,  who set up the foundation Atenatuur. The foundation is campaigning for more space in nature, and attention to climate change.

Woudrichem, a famous place

We continued our walk by crossing the Maas and walking alongside it to a beautiful little place called Woudrichem. Woudrichem is an old fortified town on the river Merwede with only 4600 inhabitants. In 2008 several scenes of the movie Oorlogswinter were filmed here. The film was also sold to several foreign countries under the title Winter in Wartime. In 2010 it even made it to the shortlist of the nine films nominated for an Oscar. Woudrichem was also the place were the television show Dokter Tinus was filmed from 2012 to 2018.

In this rather famous place we took the ferry to the other side of the Waal where we continued our walk to Gorinchem, another fortified town much larger than Woudrichem, with more than 36.000 inhabitants. Whereas Woudrichem belongs to the region Noord Brabant, Gorinchem is situated in the region Zuid-Holland. Both cities have a lot of history and historic buildings. In Gorinchem we took the ferry back to Slot Loevenstein.

Back at Slot Loevenstein, we had a lot of fun taking some group pictures. Although no coconuts were involved today, I know for sure you could hear them when we entered the castle. What I don’t know is if they were carried by swallows!

Thanks for the beautiful pictures, Antonette de Groot, Linda van den Ham and Ellen Overman😘

Those are the colors

Those are the colors

A bench in the typical colors of Terschelling

Red are the rooftops

Blue is the sky

Yellow are the culms

Green is the grass

White is the sand

Those are the colors of Schellingerland

Every municipality in the Netherlands has it’s own crest. This little poem describes the colors of the flag of Terschelling. The colors are not only to be found on the flag, but also on the crest of Terschelling. The Island belongs to the region Friesland.

There are almost 5000 people living on the island, and I can assure you in the summer time during the hollidays that amount is much, much higher. The island is very popular among young people who go camping together. I read somewhere that during this period the amount of people on the island is tripled.

Every year since 1981 the island has a famous festival, Oerol, which lasts 10 days and attracts about 50.000 people. Another famous thing on the island is the Naval College Willem Barentz. It has been there since 1875. This College offers study programmes for Ocean Technology and Maritime Officer, but it also takes part in several research projects.

Red are the rooftops

When we asked other Peakers to organize a walk in their backyard, I received a message from Antje.

She said she would love to organize a walk but thought it might not be possible. To visit Antje you have to take the ferry and most people won’t drive up to an hour and a half to go on a ferry for two hours (or one if you take the fast ferry), just to go for a walk.

Antje haven’t you learned anything from us in this past year? Everything is possible. Even organizing a real Walking Peakers weekend on your island, Terschelling. Three days of walking, talking, doing some yoga and listening to one of our own Peakers. And of course, let us not forget all the fun and laughter we will have with each other.

It felt like a schooltrip when most of us left home on Friday. In the days prior to this trip a lot of messages flew back and forth. What should we take with us, how much luggage was permitted on the ferry, did we have the same ferry, who was arriving at what time, etc., etc.? I can assure you it was nothing compared to a school class, and I should know for I have been a teacher for a very long time! And I did a lot of schooltrips!

Much to our supprise, every Peaker arriving on the Island was picked up by Antje. Finally on Friday night everybody was on the island. Everybody had a roof over their heads. Let the party begin.

Blue is the sky

The weather forecast for Saturday said it was going to be a very bad day with heavy showers and strong winds blowing. But hey, we are Peakers and we don’t let ourselves get stopped by some bad weather.

We went walking, having every neccesary thing like raincoats, rainlegs, caps and umbrellas put in our backpack. We prepared for everything that was coming!

Antje showed us on a map where our walk of today was going to be. She told us, it would mainly be on the west side of the island.

We saw some beautiful sights of the island and now and then Antje told us a little bit of history.

And blue was the sky, for most of the day!

Yellow are the culms, Green is the grass

It’s the end of September and I expected to see the first signs of autumn in nature. But apart from all the beautiful mushrooms, there were little signs of transformation. The temperature was still pretty high for the time being.

I have this thing with mushrooms, especially those red ones with the white spots. My fantasy overwhelmes me. All these dwarves running around with paint cans and paintbrushes in the middle of the night to make these mushrooms look as beautiful as they do during the day!

But there was more to be seen on this beautiful island. Only just departed we had a lovely view on the harbour of Terschelling. Never knew this harbour was the only natural bay in the Netherlands.

As we continued our walk, Antje gave us a lot of information about the island and its inhabitants. For instance did you know that there are 85 bunkers on the island and four of those bunkers are appointed to be project bunkers and now have a museum function?

Most of those four bunkers were covered with sand and it took a lot of volunteers, ceanes and shovels to remove over 4000m³ of sand. After setting up the original electricity wiring it is possible to do a guided tour in these bunkers.

When we arrived on the West side of Terschelling and stood there on a beautiful vantage point. I was surprised to learn a little history that left a heavy impression on the island. On top of this vantage spot there was a plaque of remembrance to the Second English War. In 1666 when we thought we had beaten England, they fought back, and on Holmes’s Bonfire they, not only destroyed a merchant fleet between the islands Vlieland and Terschelling, but also destroyed and burnt down the city Ter Schelling.

Terschelling is also famous for its lighthouse, de Brandaris.

In 1323 the Medieval church Brandarius was built. The tower of the church was built as a beacon for the ships that sailed through the Zuiderzee to Amsterdam. When the church no longer existed, the lighthouse was built in 1592. It took two years to complete it.    

White is the sand

As soon as the idea of this weekend was born, we were told by one of our Peakers that she had a very dear friend living on the island and this friend gave, among other things, yoga classes. After having done this in Edinburgh we thought it was an awesome thing to do again. That was a good thought because on Sunday morning it was raining cats and dogs, not exactly nice weather to go walking!

As you all know yoga teaches you to control your mind, your heart and your body. I was surprised in Edinburgh how yoga filled up a gym with over 200 Peakers and today I was surprised again. You could hear a pin drop and after two hours I felt so relaxed. My headache from Saturday night gone!

In these past few years being a Peaker, I have met a lot of people and made a lot of new friends. Many of these new friends helped me to heal from my burn out. One of them is Brenda. Brenda taught me a lot about food, about hormones, the combination of food and hormones, and the effects on your body. She made me a custom mealplan.

For a long time I wanted to share this with the other Walking Peakers, and what better place was there than this weekend, to ask her to tell us all about it. Did you know that most of us get too much sugar during the day, more than we need and more than you would expect. Research confirms this, and by making us aware of this and showing us how to read the labels on products she gave us a very interesting work shop.

Those are the colors of Schellingerland

Before you know it, the weekend is at its end, and we all had to go home. But not before we thanked Antje for an awesome weekend in which she showed us her backyard. Mireille, thank you for a relaxing yoga class and Brenda, thank you for inspiring us to be critical ofwhat we eat. These people coloured our weekend!

Huge thanks to Antonette de Groot, Brenda van Wegen, Caroline Kooiman, Antje Sipkema, Linda van den Ham en Jeanette Groeneveld for sharing their pictures with me

It’s raining men..

It’s raining men..

Only in spontaneity we can be who we truly are

Although the title of this blog might suggest otherwise, it was definitely not raining this day. In fact it was an awesome day for a walk. The sun was shining, temperature rose above 25 degrees Celsius, and still it was raining. It was raining men; our men, our partners in crime.

So you might say today was a rather special day for a walk, because for the first time a lot of our men joined us. They are not members of MPC, but to us they are very important as they are our partners in crime. We women joined MPC, but we wouldn’t always be able to do all the things we do without the support of our men. Our men suddenly saw different meals served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They saw all kinds of fitness equipment filling the bedroom. Some of us were lucky enough to have a spare bedroom to make a separate fitness room. But maybe it was this one spare bedroom they thought of making their man cave!

Bikes were dusted, hiking boots bought and if the men had had any plans for the weekend, they had to re- schedule them. Throughout the year all kind of activities and walks were scheduled. Every two weeks another walk planned by the Walking Peakers. But today they were invited to join us. On todays walk it’s raining men, for they accompany us in a spontaneous walk of the Walking Peakers.

Only in spontaneity we can be who we truly are

In our schedule we made for this year, there were no walks planned during the month of August. A lot of Peakers are gone for the summer holiday. At least that’s what we thought. But sometimes we need to do a little less thinking or at least let everybody think for herself?  I am glad Jeanette did think for herself. She spontaneously asked if anybody fancied a walk, and within a few minutes a lot of enthusiastic reactions popped up in our app group, and a walk was arranged.


Spontaneous is the one word to describe Jeanette. With a big smile on her face, she’s always in for a little action, a joke or just a nice conversation. I met her less than a year ago when she joined me on my challenge, Walking the Dykes of Flevoland. And ever since we have done many walks together. Seeing her always puts a smile on my face.


Jeannette and her husband Jan live outside a little place called Werkendam, in the region of Noord-Brabant. Their house is built on an embankment, and as far as you can see there is grassland, fascinating skies and beautiful views. The only way to get to their lovely house is just one road. And at the end of this one road you find a gate leading to their property. They live there with their son and daughter, three dogs, a horse and a pony, a lot of chickens and a rooster. I asked other Peakers at the beginning of this year to show me their backyard, and that’s exactly what we did today. We literally walked in the backyard of Jeanette and Jan..

When we finished our coffee and tea, we started our walk by following a path called the “Jannemanpad.” The path is named after Jeannette’s husband Jan. It’s not an official name. To walk in his own backyard, and to keep connected with the regular paths, was only possible when Jan mowed a path. He has mowed that path ever since. He likes to do this, it’s a kind of hobby to him.

Room for the rivers

Not only was walking with our husbands a special treat today, but also the area we walked in. As we walked Jan and Jeanette told us the history of it.

The area is called “Noordwaard” polder and is as large as about 6000 football fields. If you know the Netherlands a little bit, you can find this area in the south west part of the Netherlands, between the Brabantse Biesbosch and the river Nieuwe Merwede. In 2009 they started to de-polderisate this area and it took about five years to complete this project. Part of the polder was reassigned and changed from an inner dike area to an outside dike area. All this was done to make sure that when it is high tide it’s possible to have a flow-through of water to the sea. This will take place when the water reaches a height of two metres above NAP ( Normal Amsterdam Peil). This NAP is a reference height used in the Netherlands to do measurements. Before 2009 most of the area had an agriculture function. After the realisation of the project, the area is no longer suitable for agriculture. You can imagine the landscape of the area changed after 2009. They used a topographic map of 1905 to remodel the area. And today we had the opportunity to walk in this beautiful area. It was quite an experience to walk in an area so full of nature.

Thank you Jeannette and Jan for inviting us on this beautiful day. And we will be back, for you promised us a boat trip and a sleepover. We don’t know when yet but we figure something out for next year.

Today’s walk was not planned but spontaneously organized, but that’s who we are. We are a group that does things spontaneously and that’s truly who we are. We are thankful our menfolk could join us on this part of the journey.

Thanks to Antonette de Groot, Jeanette Groeneveld en Vera de Koning for taking the pictures.

Believe you can..

Believe you can..

Believe you can and you’re halfway there

                                                                       Theodore Roosevelt

Just an idea

From one idea another idea was born. Walking the dykes of Flevoland to show other Peakers how beautiful my backyard is was the first step to many more walks. I invited other Dutch Peakers to show me their backyard. All over the Netherlands, 22 Walks are organized by Dutch Peakers, and today we are halfway done. We have already walked 9 out of 12 regions of the Netherlands over 11 walks for a total of 167km (103miles)!

I never imagined this initiative would be such a success! Many Dutch Peakers have walked with me, and every walk is like a little party. I take the garlands and my Peaker sisters do know how to hang them. I am so proud of all of you walking and talking with me.

Hosts of todays walk

If I mention the words curly hair and red lips, a dedicated Peaker from the first moment, I think a lot of you know who I am talking about. She’s also a mom of three kids, and when she not busy being a Dutch Peaker she works as an assistant Office Manager in a Practice for Physical Therapy. Of course I am talking about Gerona, and she and Ella took us through the polder of Zuid-Holland and Utrecht, and showed us amongst other little places, Haastrecht and Oudewater.

Ella is born and bred in the Hague, but has lived in Boskoop for the past 20 years. It was her husband who took her to this lovely polder for the first time, and she has loved it ever since.

I admire Ella for her persistence. She’s the one that pushed way past her boundries when she walked with me in Flevoland, and I have never ever heard her complaining. She’s a tough lady.

Oudewater

Today we walk in the regions of Utrecht and Zuid-Holland. It is our third walk in this area, and Gerona told me today that if you want to have a clear picture of what represent the Netherlands the most, then this is it. The flat landscapes alternate with meadows, woods, little villages and of course, mills.

I drove all the way to Oudewater this morning where Ellen and Gerona were waiting for us  in a parking lot in the centre of the village. A large group of 18 Dutch Peakers took the trouble of getting here on a beautiful Sunday morning in June.

Oudewater got it’s city charters in 1265, and was therefor the oldest city in what we call in the Netherlands, the Green Hart. It is a sparsely populated so called green area, between the large cities of Rotterdam, The Hague, Zoetermeer, Leiden, Haarlem, Amsterdam and Utrecht.

In the 16th and 17th century this city was well known for the production of rope. This rope was made out of hemp, a product that grew in the surrounding area of Oudewater. This rope was specially made for the ships of the United Oostindie Compagnie. A lot of the ancient buildings in the city still remind you of that time, and are on the list of National Heritage.

It was not the production of rope that caught my attention, it was the “heksenwaag” that interested me. I’ve always had an interest in witches. Between the 16th and 18th century, if they found you guilty of witchcraft, they weighed you here. If they thought you weighed too little you could end on the stake. Sounds familiar? Wasn’t it Geillis in Outlander who ended on a hay stake?

According to the Oudewater history from that period, a lot of people were weighed, but none of them were actually accused of being a witch. Although our hosts gave us some nice witch candy in the end, we were not weighed……

I don’t know what it is with these witches, but it always fascinates me. I love reading stories that involve witches and seeing movies with withches. Witches of Roald Dahl is one of my favorite books. I even like face painting them.

But all kidding aside, today we actually walked not one region but two. On the first part of the walk through the polder we crossed the border with the region Zuid-Holland. And as I told you before we began and ended in Oudewater, region of Utrecht. We enjoyed our lunch in the grass near Haastrecht, bought cherries,and cherry ice cream along the way, and crossed the IJssel. All of it took place in the regions of Utrecht and Zuid-Holland.

Believe you can..

Such a large group of Dutch Peakers walking today’s walk. Many of them didn’t know they were capable of walking the distance when they first joined the Dutch Peakers Walking. Most of our walks are between the 10km and 20km, and occasionally a little bit more than 20km.

Most of the time you hardly notice the distance you walk. You walk and talk and before you know it, you have passed another km. Today was such a day. With so many Peakers I do have to pay attention to the environment, because before I know it, the end of the walk is near and all I have done is talking. I will be like those Japanese or Chinese tourists and have to look back at my pictures to see where I walked today!

You’re halfway there

Back in Oudewater, sitting on a lovely terrace with a nice cold drink, I suddenly realize we’re halfway done with our walks. And halfway means my mind is already making plans for another challenge next year. But first things first, this challenge is only halfway so there will be several beautiful walks ahead of us, with lovely Dutch Peakers and a lot of talking.

And who knows who will meet me halfway on the other half of this challenge!

All the beautiful pictures you see are made by Titia Bisschops-Schaar, Jeannette Groeneveld, Linda van den Ham and myself.

A little West Highland Way in the Netherlands

A little West Highland Way in the Netherlands

A friend is someone

who helps you up

when you’re down

and if they can’t

they lay down beside you

and listen.

When I started this walk I couldn’t have known that somewhere over the ocean way back in Bonnie Scotland our Peaker sister Ellen made a tough decision. She was walking the West Highland Way, with her son and had to stop because of knee problems. That evening I posted our group photo telling everybody that this walk was almost like walking a part of the West Highland Way, totally unaware of her decision.  This one is for you, Ellen. Maybe this way we can help you up if you’re down….

The weather

For a few days the weather has been a little threatening with heavy rain showers and strong winds.

As I leave home for another walk of our challenge, the 10th to be specific, it’s raining. We’re almost halfway through our challenge. But we don’t let ourselves stop over a little bit of rain. We are Peakers after all. This is my tough Peaker voice speaking. You see, I don’t like walking in the rain. When I walk and it starts raining, okay. But if it’s raining before I even start, that’s not my cup of tea. Looking at every weather app I could find this morning,  I saw that my positive thought, it’s going to be better later on, was confirmed. I drove to Rheden, little place in the neighbourhood of Arnhem in the region of Gelderland. And the further I went, the better it got. It was dry when I arrived.

Our hosts for today

Our hosts for today are Nicoline McCarthy and Miranda Kooiman. Miranda lives in Arnhem and Nicoline lives in Elst. They both are Dutch Peakers, and when they came in contact with each other, it turned out that Nicoline is a member of the same triathlon club as Miranda’s husband. It is a small world after all. Nicoline lives with her family of 4 kids in Hummelo.She studied Social Geography and is a self-employed cartographer. Miranda lives in Arnhem with her husband and two sons. She does the administration for three Primary schools and recently started her own business as a virtual assistant. And what I like most about her she teaches nature lessons to toddlers once in a while.

Miranda and Nicole chose to walk in this area because it is a varied piece of nature, through the forest, over the moor, with beautiful viewpoints along the way.

Arnhem is probably the place you remember from history class. The Battle of Arnhem occurred during WWII. It was part of Operation Market Garden in September 1944. Unfortunately the operation failed, mostly because the allied forces couldn’t take over the brigde. The North and West part of the Netherlands could not be liberated, and that caused the hunger winter. Today there was no hunger for us because Miranda and Nicole were waiting in the parking lot with coffee, tea and delicious homemade pie with dates and coconut.

Posbank

The area is certainly beautiful and various. Right from the start it made me remember my walk last year in Scotland when I walked the West Highland way. The moorland we walk through is popularly known as the Posbank but its original name is Herikhuizerveld. The Posbank owes its name to Mr. G.A. Pos, former chairman of the ANWB (AAA). When this Mr. Pos worked for 25 years for the company they built him this semicircular stone bench, located at a beautiful viewpoint. At the site, you are standing 90 metres above NAP (sealevel). For me, coming from 6 metres under the sea that’s pretty high. Compared to climbing the Glen Coe, which I  did last month, it’s nothing. But nevertheless, the view is beautiful and amazing, especially for a country which is almost flat.

Ganesha

Those of you who follow the stories of the Dutch Peaker Walking, know our history with the elephant. It all started with walking the dykes of Flevoland last year. On one of the legs we had Ella walking with us and at the beginnng I told her the distance of the leg would be aproximately 18km. She had never walked any further than 10km. Somewhere along the way, I saw it would be far more km than I told her, and I was hesitating whether I should tell her or not. Eventually I did and that’s when Vanessa started this song about a little elephant. We sang it together to keep Ella walking when it became tougher. Ever since that walk, when somebody is so over it ,we start singing the song, and that is how the elephant became symbol of the Dutch Peakers Walking.

I was totally surprised when I received another elephant today from Pauline. This one is called Ganesha, a Hindu God who takes away all obstacles in life and protects all travellers.

We walkers,  are we not all in a way, travellers? Remember what I told you in Ain’t No Arthur High Enough about Robert Louis Stevenson? We travel not to go anywhere but to go…

Thank you so much for this little elephant Pauline, and may it keep us safe on all our walks in the future. I am not quite sure about the obstacles. I believe sometimes it is okay to bump into a little obstacle in life. I try to learn from it and hope that a next time I have learned enough to do it differently, think differently or react differently. But if this little guy keeps me safe from the big obstacles in life, I don’t mind.

Stowaways

Every now and then we have a stowaway joining us on our walks. Today Pauline’s daughter joins us.         

Jamie studies at the London School of Economics. She is earning a Master in International Development and Humanitarian Emergencies. I walk and talk for a little while with her, and I admire the way she is living. She is a young self-aware woman with a purpose in life. There is not much in life that I would do differently if I had the change to do it all over again, but there is one thing. I would definitely go abroad for a Master’s degree, explore the world, and meet other people in life. I can never make up for the time I didn’t, but I do admire our young people who do. They are becoming the global citizens of tomorrow.

Jamie told me she was leaving for Mumbai in India for two weeks, to do some research for the foundation her mother is working for, Khazana Foundation. The goal of this foundation is to provide basic financial skills to children who have no access to the banking system. They provide the Mumbai slum’s children with a saving account, teach them about longterm goals, provide education about the banking system and how money works. But that’s not all this young lady did. In undergraduate studies, she also minored in jazz and singing at the Royal Conservatoire in the Hague. Quite an impressive stowaway!

Thank you for being a friend

Every walk I meet so many new friends and hear so many interesting stories. I have not told you about Stefanie who works as an Environmental Expert for Boskalis. I promise to tell you more about her and the interesting work she’s doing next time she joins us for a walk. For now I lay myself down and think back on yet another wonderful day with my Dutch Peaker Walking group and listen to Thank You for Being a Friend by Andrew Gold.

Thanks to Linda van den Ham, Jolanda Schooneman en Stefanie Ross for making these beautiful pictures.