Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wednesday 26 September

A beautiful start to the day, with nice cloudscapes. Fortunately, the showers appear to collapse as the morning wears on. At 10 o’clock, we cycle away south towards the Posthuys restaurant, which is about 5 miles away. The route takes us through the dunes bordering the North Sea beaches, but the one down side to today’s weather is the stiff breeze from the south – which we experience as a headwind. Unlike on Sunday, I have little difficulty with the cycling, and we duly drop into the Posthuys at 11, to enjoy a cuppa and some applecake with warm cranberry sauce. The ginger cat that I remember from our 2008 visit is still around – or could be a successor. Need to check pictures at a later stage. The earlier cat only had one eye. This one has two and knows exactly how to pose for piccies. We set off for the walk to the Kroonspolders, just across from the Posthuys. The Kroonspolders were a land reclamation project by civil engineer Mr Kroon between 1905 and 1930. The polders were, however, too wet to be of any use, and 15 years ago the two areas closest to the Vliehors (to the south) were reconnected to salt water. We encounter a couple, toting a huge telelens hitched up to a camera. We had spotted some large white birds some distance away, and my small camera (in spite of its 18x zoom) can’t easily make them out. Theirs can, and the creatures turn out to be spoonbills. The colony on Vlieland has grown over the years; in the past, they would appear on the eastern shoreline, within feet of the main road. However, our discussion falls flat when the man appears to know everything, and his wife comes out with the clanger of the year: “Are there many birds here, do you know?” We quickly head away south to the end of the dyke and disappear into the northeastern fringes of the Vliehors. A landscape of colours, water and the distant shimmering outline of Texel – which gradually is obscured by towering clouds as a shearline approaches from the south. Whilst we enjoy an early crop of blackberries, the downpours commence and the temperatures plummet. We make it to the army camp, which used to be the home of a tank regiment, which boasted of the nickname “The White Mice”. Defence cuts have removed the tank boys from the Vliehors, which is now just a target range for military aircraft. As we settle down for lunch on the Lifeboat Path crossing, a military vehicle emerges from the Vliehors, having just hoisted the red flags. This closes the range for civilian access, and bombing is about to commence. After lunch, we head north along the beach, which is fringed by hundreds of gulls of different shapes and sizes. We cross back over the Pad van 6 crossing to do the Bomenland circular walk. As regulars, we are surprised to find beehives in a clearing, and keep a respectful distance. A cup of tea later and we head northeast, the short distance to Dodemansbol on the eastern fringe of Bomenland. Dodemansbol [Dead Man’s Hill] is named after the dead that were disinterred in 1907 when the main road was constructed. The remains belonged to sailors who had come ashore in Vlieland over the centuries, suffering from contagious diseases such as smallpox and plague. They were never buried in hallowed ground, in fact 4 miles from the nearest church yard in Oost Vlieland. A plot, surrounded by wooden fence planks has been maintained and a headboard has been erected, bearing the following lines, famous with every visitor to the island:

Hier rust het stof uit vroeger dagen – [Here rests the dust from days long gone]
Verborgen in een houten kist – [Hidden in a wooden chest]
Wilt eerbied voor deez’ rustplaats dragen – [Please respect this last resting place]
Daar zulks plicht en menslijk is – [For duty and humanity]

Behind this simple gravesite, the Forestry Commission has erected a large bird hide, from where those interested can observe birds feeding and resting on the nearby area of the Wadden Sea, which will run dry at low tide. Today, hundreds of shelduck were in evidence. Our return to the cycles, which we parked just past the Posthuys, took us past the viewpoint on the northern fringe of Bomenland, which reminds me of someone I lost in 2008. The plaque says enough: “Look around you and revel in the beauty of the world”. At 3.15pm, we made our way north, back to Oost Vlieland. The wind behind us, we made short shrift of the 5 miles, doing on average 12 mph. However, when we went in search of a snackbar in the village, all three of them had shut for the day, for various reasons. Disappointed, we returned to the “Snik” via the IJsbaan (Ice Rink) and the Kampweg.

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