Category Archives: Nettetal 2012

Nine days in Nettetal on the border of Germany and Holland near Venlo.

Nettetal – in Holland in search of poffertjes (Thursday 16 August 2012)

I am going back to England tomorrow so today was my last full day (and my last chance for a cycle ride) in Nettetal.

In the morning I had the delight of an hour and a half’s video conference training thingie for work but was then able to take Poppy out to the supermarket to buy our fresh rolls for lunch (and two more rolls for the freezer for me to use for sandwiches tomorrow morning for the journey). Poppy is getting exceptionally good off the lead when cyclists go past – no point in chasing them as there are dozens of ’em, she just stands out of the way. This holiday has been good for her learning to cope with shared space roads.

After lunch I was ready to set out on my final cycle ride, yet another downloaded GPS track but this time one that was heading over to the Netherlands for some variety.

I wasn’t sure if the track was clockwise or anti-clockwise but decided to do the ride clockwise today so I ended up in Venlo. I had spent some time on Google and had apparently found a restaurant in Venlo centre that serves poffertjes, the little pancake thingies I love. I put a waypoint on my Garmin satnav for the poffertjes restaurant and headed off on the ride.

Rather than cutting the corner from Sassenfeld across to Breyell I followed the route to Lobberich (where the previous person had started/finished) and had a chance to cycle through some unfamiliar bits of the town. I finally got up close and personal with the church whose spires are often visible on the skyline and help me to orient myself when cycling around lots of similar-looking fields.

From Lobberich I went to Breyell, crossing the A61 motorway, then found myself cycling along a long, straight road past loads of fields. I played chicken with this tractor but let him win – he had a double trailer so I had to go onto the grass verge and let him have all the tarmac.

I arrived in Steyl crossing over a single track railway with one of the oft-seen little wayside chapels

Steyl morphed into Kaldenkirchen again and I went through the town centre again, including passing the waffle Eiscafé. Here is a picture of it so you know where to stop for one of those wonderful waffles if you are ever in Kaldenkirchen

Kaldenkirchen has lots of random artwork scattered around, including a few of these blobs in the middle of the pedestrian precinct – an interesting item to catch out unwary cyclists who aren’t entirely looking where they are going

As I left Kaldenkirchen I once again found myself in the huge area of woodland that I went through yesterday, although today’s route didn’t spend as long in the wood fortunately. Plus it had been dry so I didn’t get covered in mud as yesterday. It was very obvious that I was approaching the border with Holland

There was nothing to mark the actual border, though, and when I returned home and looked at the GPS track it was clear I had cycled a good half mile right along the border. These things don’t seem to matter much anymore.

I had to go off route at one point as they had dug a giant hole in the ground where the route used to go (the GPS track was over a year old)

This was a bit hard work on the trike – very sandy in places, a steep downhill and then a steep uphill. I had to walk up the last 50 metres as I had run out of traction on the sand.

When I got to the top (and the path turned back into non-sand) two chaps stopped me and asked me how far it was to Germany. I pointed back the way I had come and said that a sign a quarter of a mile away was a German sign. We had a bit of a chat – these two chaps were out for a cycle on their electric bikes just so they could say they had been to Germany. Rather like me, really, but going the other way. The chaps were Dutch but we all spoke in German. When they found out I was English they said “Oh, lots of gold medals” so our olympic success is well known!

I continued on, crossing a couple of motorways before arriving at a sign for

Although I just skirted round Tegelen this time and instead headed over to Steijl. I saw a couple of cafés in Steijl and half thought about my poffertjes but a quick look at the menus showed they didn’t have ’em, so I carried on.

My GPS track had a crossing of the Maas river at this point and I was slightly surprised to discover there was no bridge – instead there was a chain ferry which cost 60 cents.

It actually rather reminded me of Reedham Ferry in Norfolk as there were cafés at both sides of the river where you could sit with your cup of tea or beer and watch the ferry go back and forth and various other river craft try to dodge it and the chains.

This is looking back at Steijr church

It was very attractive on the other side of the Maas, lots of open fields, masses of cyclists, smooth road surfaces. I arrived in Hout-Blerick and then continued on, crossing under the A73 and arriving in Blerick.

I could see Venlo across the river and soon enough crossed over on a railway bridge with a huge cycle track to the side.

This was the sign pointing over the bridge – indicating which way for Germany (Duitsland)

Once I was across the Maas again I went off-route and headed for my waypoint for the poffertjes café. I was most disappointed to discover that they only do poffertjes in winter, they don’t consider them a summer option, so I had to settle for apple pie and cream instead.

It was OK but not as nice as the German equivalent. You’d think that, being only about 2 miles from Germany, some of the cake expertise might make its way across the border but it appeared not. Still, it was nice to sit out in the pedestrian precinct and watch the world go by.

The route back from here was the same one I took a few days ago, heading up through Venlo (yes, there seems to be a bit of a hill) and past the Venlo Airfield memorial. This is the actual sign on the border:

And here is Alfie with front wheels in Germany, rear wheel in Holland

I zoomed back past the Krickenbecker See and heading back on the familiar route to Sassenfeld. I rounded a corner at one point and found myself behind one of the amusing horse-drawn wagons which you see periodically and are usually full of Germans drinking.

I was behind this one for a good five minutes, crawling along at their speed and having a chat with the people in the back who all looked very cheery. After they’d got over the fact that I wasn’t Dutch we had a nice chat and one of them decided to practice saying “Leicestershire” to me. He was disappointed to discover I was from Essex. I didn’t want to overtake this wagon as it was almost as wide as the road and I didn’t know what the horses would make of me and my flags. Eventually they turned off onto the main road and I crossed over onto a side road, waving at the friendly boozers as I left.

I got back at 5pm, having had a very enjoyable ride, and have now disassembled Alfie and put him in the car ready for our trip home.

It’s been a great place to stay and to visit by bike – I can heartily recommend Sassenfeld and the general Nettetal area as a relaxing holiday destination by bike or on foot. Great food, fab cakes, lovely scenery, brilliant cycle paths. Just bring your mosquito repellant!

Total distance: 28.22 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 39 minutes
Average speed: 10.6 mph
Average heart rate: 114
Maximum heart rate: 153
Calories burned: 897

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Nettetal – Waffle in Kaldenkirchen (Wednesday 15 August 2012)

After a morning walk with the dog into Lobberich so I could visit an Apotheke and buy some mosquito bite cream (which they had) and some Brötchen for lunch from the supermarket, I had my lunch and did a bit more work and then it was time to take the trike out for a ride.

It was really hot today – I think it’s about 31 degrees – and last night’s rainstorm hadn’t made much difference to the humidity.

The route is yet another that I had downloaded from GPSies.com. It goes further south west than the other routes I’ve done, including visiting Kaldenkirchen which I have been through on the train several times but have never actually stopped at.

I headed off on some roads that I took yesterday on the group ride with the Lobberich people, including crossing the motorway on a bridge and then going under what seemed like a rather scary railway bridge. When we went under it yesterday there was a huge freight train going over and it was scary that you could see the underside of the carriages – it seems a very basic design!

I arrived in

Which is apparently twinned with that previously-unknown UK town Fenland.

As I went through Kindt I saw several fields of asparagus that had been left to grow (as you have to at the end of the season)

On the way to the village of Born I saw a couple of horse-and-carts together, with a Jack Russell terrier looking like he was having a fab time on the second cart!

As I went through Bruggen I saw this fantastic bit of drainpipe

And a restaurant with a handy train engine outside

And more asparagus in rows…

After Genholt the route went a bit more into the countryside and the tarmac surface changed to forest track.

Because it had rained yesterday there were some puddles and I got a bit muddy from time to time as I went through them (I don’t have the front mudguards on the trike at the moment).

Some of this route was parallel with the Dutch border, about a quarter of a mile from it, and I noticed some Dutch voices passing on bikes.

It was almost six miles of woodland cycling which was cooler (good) but muckier and harder work (less good!)

Eventually I arrived in Kaldenkirchen with spots of mud up my arms (I was wearing a vest top) so I looked a bit like a dalmatian. The route took me into the centre of the town (where the church was wrapped up for restoration) and deposited me conveniently at an Eiscafé (Ice Cream Cafe).

I parked Alfie beside the opticians opposite

And then ordered myself a waffle with strawberries and kiwi fruit. Get a load of this work of art!!!

It was absolutely delicious! Unfortunately I didn’t have a cup of tea with it due to a lack of foresight in not replenishing the teabags in my cycling bag. I didn’t want to risk German tea so had an orange juice instead. I was pretty thirsty after riding 19 miles on a hot day, some of which was on sandy paths (hard work!)

As I was finishing my waffle the heavens opened but I was sitting under a parasol so remained dry. I watched the rain and then it stopped just in time for me to head off again back home.

From Kaldenkirchen it was just a short journey to cross under the motorway and then I found myself back at the series of fields with random topiary – I liked these corkscrew trees, rather reminiscent of the drainpipe in Schaag

And as I was crossing the road in Leuth I noticed this rather surprising sign

Dunno if this has the same meaning in Germany. It didn’t seem to be doing much trade and I hastily pedalled on.

The roads around Sassenfeld seemed quite wet so they must have had a bit more rain than I did on my ride. It was a nice trip out anyway; I think my last ride tomorrow may head over to Holland so I can do some more riding there. Maybe I will be able to find some Poffertjes!

Total distance: 26.63 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 34 minutes
Average speed: 10.3 mph
Average heart rate: 118
Maximum heart rate: 166
Calories burned: 892

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Nettetal – A very leisurely group ride (Tuesday 14 August 2012)

Today I had an appointment with a vet – for Poppy to have her tapeworm treatment that she needs to have as part of her Pet Passport. I had booked the appointment a few weeks ago and nearly had a disaster with timing (I had put the appointment in on my phone as 8:45am, which was the correct time, but now I am in a different time zone the phone was displaying it as 9:45. Fortunately I checked with the email from the vet!!) but I arrived on foot in plenty of time.

I stood outside waiting with another lady and her dog as it was a nice warm day. Here is a pic of Poppy waiting (not a very good pic I’m afraid)

This was, of course, before she realised she was at a veterinary surgery. As soon as we were shown into the consulting room the penny dropped.

We were left alone in the room for a bit – the receptionist said the vet would be along shortly – and I spent the time studying a poster of different dog breeds and working out their names in English. What was very interesting was that the room was full of various treatments (Frontline, various boxes of tablets etc) and I could theoretically have stuffed a box or two in my bag with no-one the wiser. I can’t think of a veterinary surgery consultation room in the UK that has any medication available – they always have to go and get it from somewhere else for security reasons. Interesting.

Anyway, I didn’t pinch anything of course, just waited and then when the vet came in she got the worming tablet for Poppy. She had a hollow tube dog chew thing which she broke into pieces and attempted to feed a piece to Poppy without tablet but Poppy wasn’t having any of it. We decided this was because she was up on the consultation table; as soon as I put her on the floor she decided treatment was over and happily ate the treat and then the next two pieces, one of which had the Milbemax tablet in. Easy!

The vet completed the relevant bit of the Passport and then I pointed out that Poppy’s microchip hadn’t been scanned so she did this (the receptionist was supposed to have done this) and it worked OK.

We had a little chat and I mentioned that I am getting eating alive at night by mosquitoes here. She chatted about some holidays she’s had in Denmark where she and her husband have had terrible trouble with mossies but that they now take an insect repellant for horses with them that works brilliantly. She asked how many more nights I was here and I said three, at which point she handed me three individually-sealed wipes of this repellant stuff and said I should use that before I go to bed. It was free of charge too – how nice!! I was charged 15€ for the whole consultation and the Milbemax so I thought that was pretty good value – I can’t remember paying less than about £25 for anything at a UK vet.

Poppy and I walked back, both wilting a bit in the hot weather. After some work I took her out again before having lunch and then heading out for the cycling group ride.

You may remember this picture from yesterday’s report:

I had decided to go on this ride and headed off for the 2:30pm meeting point.

When I got there it looked like this:

In total there were sixteen of us – four men and twelve women (interestingly in the UK a cycle ride would probably have the opposite male/female ratio). Unsurprisingly I was the only recumbent trike, every other bike was one of these huge aluminium German monstrosities with enormous saddles. Several of them had electric assist (you see this on about a quarter of German bikes in Nettetal – it’s a really good idea for people who struggle with hills). I introduced myself as they all looked a bit nonplussed that someone had randomly turned up but when I pointed out that I’d seen the sign they got excited that it had achieved something as it had apparently been up for ages with no results.

We set off, heading towards Grefrath on a route I’ve now done a couple of times.

The pace was, as I had expected, very leisurely. Our rolling average was about 8.3mph and it turns out some people at the back complained it was a bit fast. What was interesting was that their Tuesday rides are normally about 50km (32 miles) which is a fairly decent distance but at that speed must take a fair while! They had told me at the outset that this would be a shorter ride as they were having a barbecue at the tennis club at 5:30pm as a special treat. I was invited but I declined because of looking after Poppy.

Anyway, we ended up doing a big loop around Lobberich/Nettetal as you can see from the GPX track

After five miles we stopped at the Breyeller See for what seemed like a very long break.

Several people were complaining it was all a bit fast and they were tired and hot, so we had some drinks and stood looking at the water. Several people were talking to me about the trike, they were all interested in how many gears it had. There was a lot of standing around and not doing much – I was beginning to get slightly itchy feet as we’d hardly come any distance!

Three people separately asked me if I was from Holland. I was wearing my Union Jack cycling Jersey and had a union flag on the trike so I thought this was surprising but they all assured me that my accent was 100% Dutch. Which seems so weird, but which is something I have been told multiple times. I think it must be that they rarely hear Brits speaking German so they go for the nearest likely accent and, let’s face it, if you live in Nettetal you must come across a heck of a lot of Dutch people speaking German.

The ride leader lady took a couple of group shots of us. True to form I was gurning in both!

We continued on eventually, the ride leader slowing it down a bit. I tended to ride alongside her chatting – she was telling me a bit about the area and the rides. It turns out they are a tennis club but they do other things and they will be doing a two week Rhine cycle ride with the group fairly soon. They are going from Speyer to Köln but are getting someone to drive the bikes down in a van rather than taking them on the train, and that someone will also move all the luggage daily.

It was mostly cycling around fields as before but was very nice scenery. It was very hot though and I could have done with a bit more speed for a bit more refreshing wind!

When we got to Breyell there was a bit of a discussion as several people in the group wanted to stop at a café but the leader thought they didn’t have time to do their full route and then get to the tennis club for the barbecue in time. The discussion went on for about five minutes and in the end they decided to go for the café stop (hurrah! I hadn’t had a cake or pastry yet today!) and so they headed for one in Breyell centre.

It was right next to this huge tower

And I ate this!

I also ordered a cup of tea and had a long chat with the people on my table about the optimum way to make tea. One very amusing chap commented that did I have a preference as to what colour the cow was that produced the milk (I had been very specific about everything else!) Several of them were interested as to why I had visited Nettetal and I explained about riding through it a couple of years ago on my way to Düsseldorf. I found their accents a little hard to understand sometimes, especially as I am a bit deaf, but it was good to chat to people.

The ride actually went past my Apartment on the way to the Tennisplatz for the barbecue but I continued past as I needed to go to the supermarket to get some food for this evening. I commented that I could smell rain in the air and the ride leader pooh-poohed that. I waved goodbye, thanking them for letting me tag along for the 12 mile ride, as they arrived at the Tennisplatz. I carried on to the supermarket a quarter of a mile on and went and got myself a pizza. Of course as I came out of the shop it was spitting with rain. I got home to the apartment before the rain really set in but since then we’ve had two hours’ solid of thunder, lightning and mega rain. I suspect their barbecue is slightly soggy!

All in all a good day but I would have liked to get a few more miles under my belt – 13.74 just doesn’t feel like enough to counteract the cake and biscuits I am consuming. I shall do more tomorrow!

Total distance: 13.74 miles
Moving time: 1 hour 39 minutes
Average speed: 8.3 mph
Average heart rate: 104
Maximum heart rate: 155
Calories burned: 421

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Nettetal – To Kempen and Viersen (Monday 13 August 2012)

The cracking weather in Nettetal continues – forecast for the next seven days is sunshine and warmth (between 25 and 29 degrees each day). So ideal weather for a walking and cycling holiday.

This morning I decided to keep with my schedule of walking the dog in the morning and then going out for a cycle ride on my own this afternoon whilst she sleeps. So after an hour’s work Poppy and I headed off into Lobberich to get some bread rolls for lunch and also to have a bit of a look around the town on foot.

It is about one and a half miles’ walk to the centre of Lobberich and the first mile of that had Poppy off the lead running around and carrying an enormous stick I had thrown for her. Lots of passers-by commented to me about her, asking if she was really young (as she’s so small) and they were generally surprised to discover that she’s over two years old.

She was back on the lead as we walked through Lobberich to the centre (which is fairly obvious as there’s a huge church with a double spire you can see from a long way away). It was Poppy’s first shopping trip and she got rather bored waiting for me as I looked at birthday cards and talked to the Vodafone man in the shop about my phone contract but I suppose it can’t have been that interesting for her! I arrived at a bakery to buy the rolls and couldn’t see anywhere to tie Poppy up to – the woman in the shop told me Pops could come in, so she got to stand in a bakery for the first time in her life. Must have been very exciting for her!

As well as the bread rolls I bought an apple pastry thingie to have when I got back to the apartment

Whilst I was in Lobberich I saw this rather unfortunately-named hair salon:

We walked back the way we came and I noticed this sign just as we were about to get on the cycle/footpath to Sassenfeld

This tells you it’s the meeting point for a cycle ride on Tuesday afternoons at 2:30. I think I had read something about this before and had thought I might go along – I assume it’s some kind of guided ride around the locality, so that might well be my bike trip tomorrow.

After I got home and ate the apple pastry and the rolls for lunch (and did a bit more work) it was time to set off on my afternoon cycle ride.

Once again I had downloaded a GPSies route.

This route went across to Kempen which I haven’t visited before. I set off on familiar roads heading northwards. I realised that I was going to go on that off-road forest track I followed yesterday which I didn’t fancy so worked out my own on-road diversion which was much better. I arrived at Glabbach and then went north east and once again found myself at Mariendonk. All GPSies routes seem to have to go past the Mariendonk church. I had wondered yesterday if it was a monastery as it seemed to have loads of buildings attached; the mystery was solved today – there were about five nuns coming out of a gateway on bicycles about to set off for a ride in their habits. A convent then.

It was a lovely day for cycling, really warm and with blue skies. There were far fewer cyclists on the road now that it’s no longer the weekend but there were still plenty. Most say “hallo” as you pass which is very friendly.

It didn’t seem to take long at all to arrive in Kempen which was a very quaint place. I could see on my Garmin satnav that it had a very interesting road arrangement which you can see below:

I have Wikipediaed it and discovered that it was a very old town that was fortified in 1290. Not only that, it’s the birthplace of Thomas à Kempis. The pedestrianised part was very attractive with loads of cafés and restaurants but I didn’t need to stop.

I headed south out of Kempen following the GPS route which took me along a lot of cycle paths and through quiet cul-de-sacs, eventually spitting me out into the countryside again. There was one unfortunate stretch of path which was very trike-unfriendly but it was only about half a mile and I managed it.

The sun was getting low now as it was 4pm and I found it hard to see my Garmin (I was wearing polarising sunglasses that don’t help) so in fact missed a turning and overshot to Oedt. It was easy enough to plot an intercept route to the correct route which I did.

From Oedt I went to Hagen. Like the whole region it seems to be intensively farmed and there’s always lots going on with tractors and more.

I then went a little further south and arrived in Viersen which is the overarching term for the local area consisting of several smaller towns. Viersen is the local car numberplate sign as well – all the cars round here start with VIE. Anyway, I found myself in the town centre of what I thought was Viersen (and I photographed the church) but which I now think might be Süchteln, looking at the downloaded GPS track.

It was a surprising climb out of Süchteln which was hot work and also involved trying to outrun some mosquitoes. I found myself climbing through some woodland which was a bit cooler, although the track was a bit too bumpy to make the most of the subsequent downhill run.

I then found myself in Dornbusch which had this church

As I was slowly starting off on the trike after stopping for the photographed I was overtaken by a young couple on bikes. I was able to overtake them fairly soon after when I had got up to speed – they were the first people to overtake me so far this holiday!

When I got to Dyck the GPS route seemed to be heading off on a bit of a diversion (there were a few of these, some of which I cut the corner on as I couldn’t see the point). I could see the twin steeples of Lobberich church, plus the cycle path signs, so I decided to leave the route and follow my nose. I was soon in Lobberich where I stopped at Lidl for some food for this evening before heading back along the oft-used cycle path to Sassenfeld.

Another nice day’s ride!

Total distance: 28.91 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 39 minutes
Average speed: 10.9 mph
Average heart rate: 115
Maximum heart rate: 163
Calories burned: 878

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Nettetal – A Sunday walk and cycle ride (12 August 2012)

Today was a very enjoyable way to spend a Sunday!

I woke up at 8am, read a book for an hour and then got up and took the dog for a five minute walk to give her a toilet opportunity.

After breakfast I sat down and did an hour’s work in order to satisfy my protestant work ethic. After one hour’s work I decided I could go out and enjoy myself!

I thought it would be nice to take Poppy for a longer walk today and decided to try to find Secretis, a restaurant that I’ve cycled past a few times and which has a sign outside which has some most vital information!

I checked it out on Google Maps and it was a mile and a half away the most direct walking route so Poppy and I got ready and set off on our way.

It was a lovely walk with Poppy off the lead half the time. We were walking across fields (on a tarmac road, of course, as these were also the cycle paths) and then along past some houses in a little hamlet. It was a warm day and there was plenty for Poppy to look at and sniff and explore. She was a little wary of some cows in a field, which was wise.

We arrived at Secretis the restaurant and sat down on the terrace. A lady came to ask what we wanted and I asked what cakes there were. She suggested I came inside with her as she wasn’t sure. When I got inside she was talking to another waitress who explained to me that in Germany they don’t have Kaffee und Kuchen until after 2:30 in the afternoon. That’s the first I’ve heard of it! Anyway, the original waitress went into the kitchen and then came out and said that I could have Apfelstrudel, Pflaumstrudel or something else (can’t remember the something else’s name). I asked for a description of the something else and it included the words ‘biscuit’ and ‘cream’ and ‘ice cream’ and ‘chocolate’ so I thought it sounded like a good option and ordered it, along with a cup of tea (with my teabag).

Just look at what arrived!

This was basically a biscuit/flan base onto which was added a mixture of meringue, ice cream and cream, with chocolate and nut sprinkles on the top, which was then frozen. It was utterly fantastic! Everso healthy too.

After I had eaten it all and paid Poppy and I set off home. I decided to walk a slightly different (longer) way and we passed another café and I had a quick look at their menu – it was more fast food type stuff (Bratwurst etc) but they also had the magic word Kuchen so I might go there for elevenses one day. It was rather busy, today being Sunday when all the Germans go out walking in the countryside, and there were barely any spare tables.

On the way back I diverted off to De Witt See to give Poppy the chance to do some swimming and we played ‘fetch’ for ten minutes. Click on the image to view the video.

She was lovely and tired by the end of this and when we got back to the apartment she flopped down to sleep. This was good news as I wanted to get out on my bike and hoped that she would be nicely chilled. She was, she didn’t try to get out of the door and seemed perfectly content to stay curled up on the rug whilst I headed off to the big unknown.

Once again I selected a GPSies route, this time one that started in Grefrath (which is about five miles away) and then did a 22.5 mile loop to Wachtendonk and Hinsbeck, i.e. north east and then a bit north west). I thought I’d do most of this and then head directly back to Sassenfeld from Hinsbeck rather than returning to Grefrath.

I cycled along the route I followed yesterday, heading for Grefrath. There were a few sections where there were some short stretches of railway track so it clearly did used to be  a rail line.

The path was very busy with other cyclists, all of whom go much slower than me. They also often seem pretty wobbly so you can’t guarantee they aren’t going to veer across the path in front of you. Judicious use of my bell lets them know I’m coming and everyone seems very cheerful and friendly but it’s hard to make speedy progress safely so I was on more of a pootle today. When I got into Grefrath itself I found myself in a traffic jam of slow cyclists making their way along the roads so took a couple of diversions to get into quieter lanes.

Here is Grefrath centre

From here I followed an official cycle route north and then it turned east along a country path. I suddenly saw a Dutch Pancake House and thought that sounded rather good – I could stop for a pancake for a late lunch. However when I went in they didn’t seem to just have pancake with sugar, it was all pancakes with ham and cheese and I didn’t fancy that. Also my cake hadn’t really gone down yet so I wasn’t hungry so I carried on.

After a mile I found my way blocked.

This seems to happen fairly regularly on German cycle paths – they are closed with no warning and no diversion options. With my maps on my satnav I could plot an alternative route which took me about half a mile out of my way but I might have been a bit stuck without a map. Anyway, I carried on north into Vinkrath and then went east and joined up with the original route.

I saw this very impressive barn with a huge roof of photovoltaics:

The route carried on along quiet country lanes with loads of cyclists. I think I saw one family with cycle helmets on the entire day (and I reckon I saw at least 750 cyclists overall). It’s amazing they aren’t all dead, not wearing helmets ’n all!

Then I found myself on a familiar road and recognising a church spire – I had arrived in Mariendonk, approaching from a very different direction this time.

The route continued and I passed this barn with some very impressive ivy.

And then crossed a little river. The scene was rather reminiscent of Dedham:

I crossed under the motorway A40 at Schlick and then headed further north until I reached the outskirts of Wachtendonk. I half wondered about stopping for some food but decided to carry on as I still wasn’t that hungry.

The route now turned south west past lots of farmer’s fields, many of which were being harvested or the hay was being baled.

I crossed the motorway again, stopping to take some photos from my slight vantage point.

I found myself on a road I had travelled before (my first long ride which went to Straelen) but once again turned off that section fairly quickly onto quieter roads. I was approaching Hinsbeck where I had decided to divert from the route but I suddenly had a hankering for some Poffertjes which are mini pancake things that one gets in Holland. I wasn’t actually all that far from Holland, maybe seven miles, so decided to head off to Venlo for a very late lunch. So I switched off the track I was following on my Garmin and just followed the cycle path road signs which are pretty good around here.

I wondered if I’d made a mistake as within a minute I was cycling through a forest on a track which wasn’t asphalt. However it wasn’t too bad a track, if slightly narrow, and I decided to carry on.

This was through the Naturschutzgebiet Krickenbecker and I was following signs to the Krickenbecker See (the lake that I have visited a couple of times) as I knew the signs to Venlo started there.

It was about three miles through the forest and there were a few little hills to negotiate but I was soon back at the Krickenbecker See, this time absolutely heaving with people. A lady stopped and asked me how far it was to the café. I had cycled past it a few minutes ago so told her it was about a kilometer. People often seem to ask me for directions – I clearly look like I know where I am going.

And indeed I did know where I was going. Once again I passed the Venlo Airfield memorial, crossed the border into Holland (a small row of cobbles along the path marks it out), then went around the field with the gliders in. The weather was great with blue skies so I had no fear of thunderclouds.

I passed this six wheeled vehicle which carried six passengers:

And then I arrived at Venlo!

I followed my nose into the town, heading towards where I thought the centre was (I was mostly right) and eventually arrived in the pedestrian precinct with loads of cafés and restaurants. I looked at a couple of menus but poffertjes seemed rather scarce. I asked at one place and the chap said he doesn’t think pofferjes are available in Venlo – rather a blow! So I stopped at the next café, sat down and decided to have a waffle instead.

This was one of the less picturesque squares but it had a waffle so I didn’t mind too much!

The place seemed to be heaving with Germans – I heard more German spoken than Dutch – and then realised they were all walking around with shopping bags for Media Markt, New Yorker etc. Clearly Dutch shops are open on Sundays, unlike German ones, so the Germans come to Holland for their retail therapy on Sundays.

After my waffle (which was good) I thought I ought to go and say hello to the Maas river which was 100 metres away so I went and found it.

There was a little marina/harbour area which had a huge screen that was showing the olympics as well!

It was time to get home and check on Poppy so I set my Garmin to find my way home and followed its route which went past Venlo station, somewhere I have visited many times!

It was a nice direct route back to the country park with the gliders etc and I was soon heading back to Sassenfeld, taking a slightly different route for a change.

When I got back all was quiet in the apartment and Poppy came to greet me looking very chilled. I expect she’s been asleep all afternoon.

I’ve had a lovely day and am looking forward to my pizza tonight (bought at the supermarket yesterday) and the second half of my punnet of strawberries which are local (from Kaldenkirchen). I shall do a bit more work too, just to make me feel very virtuous.

Total distance: 34.01 miles
Moving time: 3 hours 02 minutes
Average speed: 11.1 mph
Average heart rate: 111
Maximum heart rate: 165
Calories burned: 977

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Nettetal – a ride round the quiet lanes (Saturday 11 August)

The weather is great here in Nettetal and I fancied going out for a bit of a faster ride (without the dog). After I had my lunch and a cup of tea I gathered together my cycling stuff and Poppy clearly looked like she wanted to come. I had to shut her in the apartment as I closed the door and I hoped that she wouldn’t start howling.

All was quiet as I started unlocking my trike. I also removed the front mudguards as it’s nice and dry and they annoy me with their rattling. I faffed for a few minutes generally and then was ready to go – at which point Poppy started barking. I decided to wheel the bike just out of sight from the door so Poppy thought I had left and see what happened.

What happened is she continued to bark on and off, with a few little howls thrown in for variety. I had listened for about five minutes and we tended to have 30 seconds of barking followed by 30 seconds of silence. A neighbour came out and said that she could hear Poppy barking but that she had been quiet yesterday when I was out. She didn’t appear to mind and went back into her house. There was another neighbour gardening and she said to me that I needed to make the most of the sunny weather and that the dog would probably go to sleep soon. I waited another minute, by which point all seemed to be quiet. I think Poppy was responding more to other dogs barking rather than doing it herself out of annoyance but I didn’t want her to irritate the neighbours.

Of course, five minutes into my ride I realised I should have put the radio on for her in the apartment so that she couldn’t hear as much outside noise. D’oh!

Anyway, today I decided to follow a route that I had downloaded from GPSies again.

I started off heading westwards on the now-well-travelled route across the De Witt See and into Busch, then crossing the main road and cycling on a long, straight road past some kind of bush and tree nursery. They seem to have been practising their topiary – I felt like I was cycling through lines and lines of topiary chessmen or something!

I then started passing fields of various crops including lots of onions, spring onions and what I think here are leeks, with Leuth church in the background.

From there I carried on north-ish through some dense forest. The quality of the path was absolutely excellent, mostly very smooth tarmac with good signage. I was about 200 metres from the border with Holland, going parallel to it at this point, although I didn’t cross the border on this trip.

I saw one of the towers that are often to be find in German woodland – I don’t know what it is – anyone have any ideas?

I crossed the B221 again (Geldrische Straße) and then I recognised the road I had taken previously on my trip towards Venlo, turning off this to go round the Poelvennsee, then heading up again to Wolfsee and turning more easterly – into quite a strong headwind.

I’d had about four miles going through the forest and it was rather nice and quite cool in this weather too. I continued on, now out in the open, enjoying the vistas and the smooth tarmac.

I saw a field of geese:

And pootled on, heading eastwards into a bit of wind. The views were great, with lots of farmers out harvesting grass and straw. I was overtaken several times by tractors carrying bales of hay.

I then turned off into the village of Mariendonk which doesn’t sound very German, rather more Dutch. It had a church with what looked like a monastery attached but I’m not sure if it is. This is a photo of the church tower.

Now I turned south, riding once again along quiet lanes with a good quality tarmac and lots of bicycle signage – no real chance of getting lost. I went through Ziegelheide and then Klixdorf before finally turning westwards and enjoying a tailwind. I seemed to zoom from this point onwards and soon found myself in Grefrath.

Something is clearly going on in Grefrath this weekend as lots of the streets were decorated.

I initially thought they’d done some rather weird tree planting but soon realised that these were in fact tree boughs which were fixed to some metal stands in the kerb and had silk flowers wound onto some of the branches.

The first ones I saw were all red and white, with some red and white bunting around some houses, but as I cycled through Grefrath centre (and saw various mobile food stalls and other stuff denoting an ‘event’) the colour scheme changed to yellow and white.

I may have to go back tomorrow and see what’s going on!

At this point I deviated from the downloaded GPS route as I could see what looked like a brand new cycle path which was heading in the direction in which I needed to go, towards Lobberich.

Looking at the map I think this is a former railway line as it’s very straight, very smooth and built on quite a lot of banking to raise it up above the surrounding fields (which I don’t think people would bother doing for a cycle path!) Whatever, it was lovely and smooth and fast – except I had to climb quite a hill for the first mile or so. I then got the corresponding downhill afterwards so didn’t mind.

This joined up with the path that I take to the supermarket in Lobberich so I realised where I was and nipped back along there.

This was a lovely ride and I hope to have a chance to do it again, perhaps going the other way round (for a change of scenery!)

Total distance: 24.10 miles
Moving time: 1 hour 59 minutes
Average speed: 12.2mph
Average heart rate: 126
Maximum heart rate: 168
Calories burned: 802

When I got back I parked the trike up the road a bit (without making any noise), then crept towards the apartment. No sound of barking. I crept up the stairs (difficult on metal stairs with cycling sandals with SPD cleats on) but made no noise and still couldn’t hear any barking or howling or whining. I got to the front door and peered through the glass – no sign of Poppy. I knocked – nothing. I knocked louder, called “Poppy” through the door and then heard the patter of tiny paws. She came down the stairs so had clearly been upstairs asleep. This is encouraging – she clearly wasn’t too traumatised that I have been out for two hours.

Oh, and here’s a picture of the WiFi arrangement. It originally lived under the kitchen cupboards but the signal wasn’t working at all well. In the end the landlord put it on the draining board to test it and it started working better, so we left it there.

However it has now been moved to a new location, near the front door, and it seems to be working much better there. I think it was struggling to get the signal through the concrete and insulation of the building (this building is only one year old so it’s probably got mega insulation).

This evening I decided to take Poppy for a longer walk so we walked into Lobberich along the cycle/walking path past fields of cut hay. This is the view of Sassenfeld – it’s lovely!

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Nettetal – a short ride with Poppy in the basket (Saturday 11 August)

I’m staying in a little hamlet outside Nettetal-Lobberich which is called Sassenfeld. That’s also the name of the road that runs through it with lots of little side roads which have a dozen or so houses. All around are fields of sweetcorn, cut hay and more.

I have a very pleasant two-storey apartment which is on the first floor and second floor of a new building (one year old). I have to walk up a flight of metal steps to reach my front door and balcony but it has a very unexpected advantage – Poppy won’t walk over the metal grill so I can leave the front door open and she can stand on the balcony looking out on the world.

Here she is:

And here is a view of the ground floor of my apartment.

Of course, Poppy will bark if she sees another dog whilst out on the balcony (although lots of people round here have dogs that bark when you walk past so it seems to be considered OK) but she was doing some extra-loud woofing last night so I had to go outside to see why – it was one of those fire-breathing dragon things!

This morning I thought I’d take Poppy out on the trike to give her a bit of a change. This was after our early morning walk of course (a short up and down the lane to give her a loo opportunity) so I fitted the dog basket to the trike and we were ready to go.

Poppy has developed an annoying habit of barking when we set off on the bike and I’ve been trying to reduce this. The system is, as soon as she barks I stop dead and don’t do a thing until she’s been quiet for 10 seconds, at which point I carry on. This is difficult at home due to lots of cars on the road but was a bit easier here, but it can get a bit frustrating.

Here is the track of our journey:

I set off westwards to start to visit the De Witt See again but couldn’t find a way to actually get to the water side (there was a big café area which had fenced it off). I gave up with this lake and decided to head on to the Krickenbecker See again.

You can see a few short bits where I turned back – one time I was defeated by some chain-link fencing with a small gap to allow bikes through but it was too sharp a turn for me to get the trike through with the dog on the back (too heavy to lift the back end round with her on) so I decided to carry on the main road which was actually quite an extra distance.

Hinsbecker Strasse, the B509, is quite a busy road but it had a decent quality cycle path beside it so we used that.

We arrived at the Krickenbecker See and I let Poppy off the bike for a run around.

It’s such a beautiful and tranquil scene.

Here is the trike enjoying its visit

And soon enough the beauty and tranquillity were reduced by a cockapoo going for a swim

Which means we end up with wet dog syndrome

…which was fun when I had to lift her back into the bike basket.

We headed back with our traditional detour to the supermarket in Wevelinghoven were various passers-by chatted to me about Poppy on the bike. I bought myself an Apfeltasche for elevenses and as the mug selection at my apartment doesn’t really meet my strict criteria I bought a decent large mug too. It says it’s for Cappuccino but it seems to cope OK with Tetley Drawstring tea.

I plan to go out this afternoon on my trike without the dog as she does make it hard work!

Total distance: 9.32 miles
Moving time: 1 hours 00 minutes
Average speed: 9.3mph
Average heart rate: 99
Maximum heart rate: 138
Calories burned: 220

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Nettetal – ride to Straelen (Friday 10 August)

Auntie Helen is currently in Nettetal.

If you don’t know where that is, look for Venlo in Holland (north-west of Düsseldorf and Mönchengladbach in the west of Germany) and you will find it. Just to the east, over the border from Holland into Germany, is Nettetal. And it’s very nice.

‘Tal’ means valley in Germany although it’s a remarkably flat valley – lots of wide, open spaces and twelve lakes dotted about. It’s an area where loads of people cycle and there’s very limited car traffic. Having cycled through here a couple of years ago I thought “it’d be nice to come back one day” and so here I am.

I arrived in Nettetal two days ago but haven’t yet written the blog because I’ve been having terrible trouble with the WiFi in the apartment. It was barely working, would only connect for half a minute and wouldn’t allow me to download emails etc. It was driving me mad so I hassled the landlord a bit and he came around and we did some experimentation. The system is that there’s a main WiFi box downstairs and there’s a repeater up here (my apartment is on the first and second floors). If I sit halfway down the stairs outside and connect to the WiFi from downstairs it all works fine but at some point the connection between the downstairs box and my upstairs repeater is too weak.

The landlord and I spent a while testing various things and in the end we semi-gave up. This morning I turned the WiFi router around as it was on my draining board (!!!! – whilst being tested) and its dangling power cable was getting in the way of the fridge door so I moved it round. Rather surprisingly it has worked reasonably since (goes slow now and again but nothing too appalling). So I am back connected to the outside world and thought I ought to write up a bit about my visit here so far.

Anyway, as I have the dog with me and drove over I went through Eurotunnel rather than the more-obvious Harwich to Hoek of Holland. There was a significant bonus with this route – James (my husband) had sailed to Calais a few days before in a boat that we used to own (he stayed in touch with the new owner and sails with him a couple of times a year) so we were able to call in on James on Tante Helena.

Poppy didn’t initially recognise James, presumably having no idea he would be in France when she first stepped paw on French soil.

I had lunch with James and Alan and Poppy enjoyed looking around our former boat.

I left them at 4pm, not realising that it was almost a four hour drive to Nettetal (I thought it was only three hours!) so got a bit of a shock when the Satnav gave my estimated arrival time as 19:45. Anyway, I headed on through France, Belgium and Holland before finally arriving in Germany at my lovely little apartment.

Here’s the info about where I am staying: http://www.ferien-in-nettetal.de/Ferienwohnung/Ferienwohnung_2.html

The WiFi problems became apparent fairly early on which cast a bit of a pall (although I am here on holiday I also have a fair bit of work to do) but I had a good time yesterday morning exploring the local bakery:

At lunchtime my friend Stefan and his girlfriend Janet came to visit for a few hours as mini detour on their way to a shopping trip in Köln. After they left I took Poppy for a few walks and hoped that she was settling in at the apartment so I could leave her for a ride.

In the early evening I judged that I could get away for an hour or so without her minding too much (she was tired after Stefan’s visit and a couple of walks) so I set off on a random cycle just following my nose.

Very quickly I found myself cycling past the Krickenbecker See which was rather lovely

I carried on following signs to Venlo and very quickly found myself passing a field of Dutch gliders which I remembered from two years ago when I got the train to Venlo and cycled back to Düsseldorf.

At this point the rather ominous looking clouds ahead made me decided to turn round and go back before the rain arrived (I wasn’t dressed for it) so I headed back. I had been just inside Holland for about half a mile (as evidenced by the signage being in Dutch, not German).

Once I had crossed back into Germany (signs in German!) I discovered a memorial to the former Venlo airfield.

I got home before the rain, having done a nice 12.5 mile loop and starting to get my bearings!

So today I decided to head out for a longer ride (Poppy seems to be reasonably happy being left in the apartment) so I selected one of my several downloaded GPX tracks of the area and headed out (I use gpsies.com which is very popular in Germany and loads of people upload tracks – you can look at the options and select for on-road, off-road etc)

The area of Nettetal has several lakes (I think 12) hidden amongst fields of sweetcorn, wheat and more (the potatoes all seem to have been harvested).

This morning’s route was clearly a route designed by a roadie to get some fast miles in and not particularly for sightseeing. The route bypassed all the lakes and mostly went alongside a fast road north and then an alternative fast road south. This was not a route for those who don’t like riding with traffic as on quite long stretches the cycle path was actually the hard shoulder of the road. I don’t mind it but it’s less scenic than it could be.

I passed an interestingly-named town

And a shop which I initally read as “T Helen?” to which the answer would be, of course, “yes, and cake too!”

I was treated to some very pleasant views as I headed northwards towards Straelen.

On the way back, just above Hinsbeck, I saw one of the other types of windmill!

Although about 70% of the route was main roads, the remaining 30% was great, including of course cycling through Sassenfeld, the village where I am staying, which is very picturesque and rustic.

I got back to the apartment but cycled straight past to go the extra mile to the supermarket which is in Lobberich. It’s a mile away along a great cycle path which is a mega bonus. I bought my lunch and then returned to the apartment. My disc brakes squealed as I stopped outside the apartment and I then heard Poppy howling but I assume this is because she heard me come back, I don’t think she was doing it the whole time I was out!

Anyway, it was a good start and a chance to stretch my legs a bit after three days of little or no cycling. I shall do a bit more over the next week whilst I am here!

Total distance: 26.96 miles
Moving time: 2 hours 14 minutes
Average speed: 12.1mph
Average heart rate: 110
Maximum heart rate: 150
Calories burned: 701

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