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:

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 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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