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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