Life under the sea is better
Than anything they got up there
-From the movie: Little Mermaid-
A couple of weeks ago I bought a book by Cameron McNeish. It is a beautiful book, mostly worth reading. It also made me think: This man has so much passion and love for his native country of Scotland, as well as for all the walking and climbing he has done during the past forty years. He calls his book There’s Always the Hills. I have lived almost all of my life in Flevoland, the region in the Netherlands that lies beneath sea level. It feels like there is no greater difference between those two things, up the hills and below sea level, and maybe that’s what attracts me most about Scotland. Isn’t that what they say: opposites attract?
But anyway, in my last post I promised you another story about my backyard, Flevoland, the region I have been living in for over 49 years. Hey, that calls for a celebration next year! Flevoland is not a very large region, encompassing 1419 km2. In comparison, Scotland, for example, is 77,933 km2 and Edinburgh is 264 km2. Despite its smaller size, I am continually surprised by the beautiful spots this region has in store for me. Walking through Flevoland is like walking in my backyard. There are hardly any great distances, and that’s an additional advantage for someone who may not always have that much time to go on walk far away from home.
This area is over 6000 acres and was created at the end of the 1960s as a polder, meaning that part of the sea was enclosed in dikes so that land could be reclaimed. Originally, Oostvaardersplassen was meant to be an industrial area, but large pools of water remained standing in the new polder. As a result, the builders decided to plant reeds and leave the wetland for what it was. Soon many types of birds found their way to this part of Flevoland and settled down. The Graylag Goose made the continued development of this natural area possible. They keep the reeds in check by eating them, which assures the Oostvaardersplassen can provide a home to a variety of birds and plants.
In addition to the Graylag Goose, there are many more birds to be seen in the Oostvaardersplassen. So take with you your binoculars to see starlings, lapwings, several types of ducks, wading birds, and many more. And don’t forget your camera!
Don’t get me wrong…I don’t know enough to name all the species of birds as they fly over.
At those moments, I regret not having paid more attention in biology class. I am sure my teacher back then thought the same thing when I couldn’t distinguish a daisy from a dandelion. I do know the difference between a duck and a goose, and I do know a woodpecker, but that’s mostly it. As I have been walking more and more, however, I have learned a lot.
On one morning during an early walk, I snapped this photo of a tree full of birds, so numerous that you could hardly see the branches. I am sorry I can’t tell you what kind of birds they were (for they were not ducks, goose or woodpeckers), but I do know it was a wonderful view and for a moment, Hitchcock’s movie The Birds came to my mind.
All these beautiful birds attract flocks of birdwatchers. I have never seen so many fancy cameras and telephoto lenses, at least not in a place where there are no celebrities. But maybe, in a way, these birds are some sort of celebrities to these birdwatchers! Maybe the photographers are the bird paparazzi.
As we walked on we had to take a meandering course. We didn’t lose track; the road was blocked with horses. In the 1980s about eighty Konik horses were released into the nature area, and now there are over 900 of them. Signs warn you that these horses can be unpredictable and that you best stay at a distance of 25 meters. If you do want to pass them, do not go through the herd! Since I am a rule follower, we decided to take a detour around the horses. Before doing so, however, we stood still and observed these wonderful creatures from a distance. The wild horses looked back at us with no interest at all, for we were only some of the many who pass by them each day.Oostvaardersplassen is a place that inspires discussion. Some say that there are far too many animals, and that the horses don’t belong there. Others want the area to remain as it is. I recently signed a petition to connect this area and other natural areas so the animals can travel and have more space.
Another place I love to walk is Roggebotzand. This wooded area is situated in the northern part of Flevoland along the lake called Vossemeer. The soil is sandy, and therefore there are a lot of conifers in the forest. It’s a really nice walking wood, and whenever I have little time but need to go for a walk, I take my car and drive for about 15 minutes to reach it. I have several routes I walk, and every time I discover new places, new routes, and new views. It never gets boring around there.
Roggebotzand is an active place. There are a lot of runners and mountain bikers in this wood. The mountain bikers have made a nice path through parts of the forest. In April of this year I’m planning on going over there to do some mountain biking with the Dutch Peakers.
The little ones will find that the “Goblinwood” area is especially exciting. Goblins guide the children along their trek, which ends with eating pancakes in a beautiful goblin house. Pets also enjoy Roggebotzand. Up until October of last year we had Bernese Mountain dogs, and walking with them in this wood was a weekly habit. We even scattered the ash of our first dog in this peaceful area.
Another special thing about Roggebotzand is that part of it is a memorial. In 1999, people started planting trees in memory of people who died of cancer. We planted a tree in this memorial wood for my mother who died of cancer in 2006. As of today, more than 25,000 trees have been planted.
I know that I haven’t told you everything about my backyard, but I hope my two posts give you a nice portrait of the beauty of Flevoland. For you see, “Living under the sea is better, than anything they got up there…” Perhaps for my next walk, I will find some hills that Cameron McNeish would enjoy.