Het Drouwenerzand – or, How Not To Manage Land
Spring has spung in The Netherlands, and with the rare and delicious blessing of sunny weather this weekend, we decided to go on another road trip. Carel found us an unusual National Monument to visit – a Dutch desert. It’s not big, of course, but it is a very different landscape from the usual Dutch array of rich grazing lands, trees, and canals. Het Drouwenerzand is an area of drifting, shifting sand dunes and sparse vegetation, caused hundreds of years ago by overgrazing, over-clearing of the heather and timber, and the mining of glacial boulders for use in building towns.
In relatively recent times, most of the area has been reclaimed and restored to its original healthy green state, but a portion of the desert was kept and made a National Monument – to which I promptly said “What, a monument on how not to do something? How very Dutch!” Honestly, I have no idea what the motivation was, but it does serve as a stark reminder of what can happen if you don’t take care of your land!
First we went downtown for a visit to the Apple store, to get a case for my new phone and ask how much it would cost to repair my grievously wounded iPad. As we drove there I was delighted to see the crocus were up and in full bloom. Carel is much more blase’ about them than I am, familiarity breeding contempt and all, but he was willing to stop and let me take some photos.
I love how Dutch this one is – bulb flowers and a bicyclist zooming by!
I just love that the city plants these flowers everywhere. Nature then takes over and they spread all over the place. Gorgeous! These were in the center of a large round-about which is big enough to be a tiny park, with benches, statuary, and little paths.
As expected the Apple store wanted too much and we will be taking it to a 3rd party repair place. 300 EU to repair a cracked screen? Are they MAD?! I got a bumper for the iPhone 4 though, and I am now much happier about handling it. All the photos on this post were taken with it. The camera is amazing, and the iPhoto app on the iPad is really flexible and fun to use for post-processing. Being able to make all my edits by touching the image instead of fiddling with the endlessly over-complex Photoshop is great. Of course, it can’t do a fraction of what Photoshop can do, but for basic image editing, it’s perfect. That was 5 bucks very well spent.
Having taken a zillion flower photos, we headed out to Gasselte, which is the little town closest to the nature reserve we wanted to see. The reserve turned out to be more difficult to find than anticipated since some genius had the bright idea of building an amusement park right next to it and calling it the same thing. We finally figured out where the nature park was, found a place to leave the car, saddled up the dog and started off. This map posted at the start of the trailhead gave us a clue we were in the right area, but it didnt have a “you are here” spot on it, so we guessed, and struck off into the woods.
The dog was absolutely thrilled to have her freedom and ran off at the speed of light, making mad loops and circles around us at dizzying speed, leaping logs, dodging low hanging branches, launching herself from the tops of hillocks in a manner that did my heart good to see. You’d never know she’s got serious back trouble!
I saw a gorgeous old tree all covered with moss, arms reaching to the sky.
It looked like some mossy stairway to heaven for fairies or something. It reminded me somehow of the story “The Golden Key” by George McDonald.
Oh, ever so dramatic!
We walked on, not really sure where we were going, but we kept turning left and assumed we would eventually arrive at the desert. Since we could see some clear sky through the trees ahead, we figured we were on the right path. We obviously weren’t moving fast enough for Daisy, who waited impatiently for us some distance ahead.
Finally we found the entrance to the area, which was guarded by a gate and a cattle guard. Carel lifted Daisy over it and we leashed her since we did not want her to trample the delicate landscape or to chase the local yak population. They’re not really aggressive, but the males do weigh 800 kilos (1800 pounds) and I wouldn’t want one of them to get annoyed with my little dog. She IS a cattle dog, after all, and her genes would tell her all the wrong things – HERD THAT COW! – which the cow would likely object to rather violently.
Scottish Highland cow
We came over a little rise and wow. What a very, very not-Dutch landscape!
The sun came out and made all the sand into gold…
Carel was off taking a photo, and I saw the chance for a really great shot of Daisy’s POV.
It was time to leave, and we made good our escape, having bothered noone and done no harm. I saw one thing that puzzled me no end, though.
What, there are beavers here? With no running water in sight? And if not beavers, then WHAT ATE THAT TREE?