Being allowed to visit a normally off-limits nature reserve is, of course, an opportunity. Even more so if it's with a specialist like Wim Weijs, biologist and a leading researcher and author in the field of landscape history.
In that nature reserve just north of Utrecht the clock has been set back a thousand years in some parts. By removing the more recent topsoil, the terrain has been brought back to what it must have looked like before pionering farmers adventured into the lowland wilderness. Until that time, around 1000 AD, most of Holland was a barren plain of peat moor, intersected by rivers and lakes. And largely uninhabited.
Since then the original landscape of Low Holland has been changed beyond recognition by draining, farming, resulting in the land becoming ever lower. Once started, an irreversible process. See also the sinking land.
We walked near the transition from high to low land. The higher wooded lateral moraine, formed by Ice Age glaciers, and the flood stricken lowland, overgrown with peat. Plenty of water birds, marks of badgers, and plants that have become rare elsewhere. Like wild orchids and sundew, a carnivorous plant feeding on insects.
When cycling back home I headed for Breukelen (Brooklyn name giver !) on the river Vecht. From there I followed the meandering river up north. A stretch famous for the numerous country estates. Most 17th and 18th century stately homes were summer residence for rich Amsterdammers. They moved here from April to October, escaping stench and disease of the city.
In Loenen, one of the charming little towns along the river, the door of the Grote Kerk (Main Church) was open wide, and I heard the organ being played. I was welcome to have a look. A nice break.
Next stop, as I was passing by anyway, a short visit to the local flour windmill, busy working and turning.
A fragment of the organ player warming up and improvising is on the music video page.
Loenen in 1670, still with 12th century Kronenburg castle. Demolished in 1837.
More on the Grote Kerk of Loenen.
to top of page