Friday, 29 May 2009


Canoe Trip in France

I shall be away for the next six weeks or so hiking and canoeing in France. I shall be guiding this trip.

Evening and homeward bound

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A walk along the North Sea in Texel



Our second day on the island was xpent mostly walking. We rode our bikes down to the beach near De Koog and we walked along the beach up to ab area called De Slufter.

The beach was largely deserted and the Beach huts were not in use yet. The Northe Sea had washed up a lot of foamy spume which seemed unusual. What causes this? The weather was fairly warm and blustery and we ambled as far as we could before reaching a stream running into the sea.

So we turned inland and followed a trail through the sand dunes before finding a cafe on the other side of the Sanddijk. We settled down to large mugs of hot chocolate a dn some huge pancakes!


Our walk home took us along the base of this same Sanddijk and past De Muys. Most of the trails here were out of bounds because it's the nesting season. This was a bit disappointing, but we did see plenty of bird-life including our first Spoonbills.


We eventually found our way back to where we had left our bikes and then pedalled the short distance home.

Garden Birds

As our garden matures (it is five years old now) we have found that more and more different species of birds are visiting. Last year we had Great Tits on the feeder but this year it's mostly Blue-tits. the most recent visitors though have been Greenfinches and Collared Doves.

Our most common visitors are a pair of Blackbirds and a Robin or two, though we don't see much of the Robin during the spring. The other day I was surprised to see a Song Thrush too. All very encouraging.

Just outside the garden on an old Willow stump I saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker the other morning and from time to time we see a pair of Pheasants in the back field. usually we just hear them.

Other birds in the vicinty are the local corvids; Rooks, Jackdaws and Magpies, though I've never seen them in the garden itself.

We see several other species too as they fly over; Gulls of course, Black-headed, Mallard Ducks and a commuting Grey Heron.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Cycle Paths



Our first full day on the island saw us head towards the village of Den Burg and the Tourist Office. As we soon discovered the island has miles and miles of cycle paths and we very rarely had to cycle directly on the road. What a beautifully civilised place! At the VVV (Tourist Office) we picked up as much info as we could and a decent map of the island too. I was surprised to find that the information was in German and that not everything was available in English. Never mind, we'll manage.

We took a short detour around Den Burg itself and stopped off at the butchers to get something for dinner tonight and at a bakery to get something for lunch later.

After that we hit the road again and headed for the tiny village of Den Hoorn. As you can imagine the terrain here is relentlessly flat and our 4-speed bikes were sufficient. At Den Hoorn we looked around the church before taking a long one-way road to the beach. We ambled onto the beach for a few minutes but the prospect was bleak and the wind was blowing so we hopped back onto our bikes and rode back the way we had come.

At Den Hoorn we headed north for our home village of De Koog travelling at first along the edge of the dunes and then through the woods. It probably took as hour or so. back at the village Kristine and I headed to the supermarket whilst Mum and Dad rode home.

We cooked some local lamb for dinner and watched some Champions League football in the evening.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Cycling against the wind



I've just recently come back from a week on the island of Texel in the Netherlands.

Kristine and I were joined by my parents for a week of walking and cycling on Texel which is one of the string of islands in the Friesians group. We had a small bungalow a couple of kilometres from the village of De Koog, not far from the North sea coast and the Texel Dunes National Park.

We were pretty fortunate with the weather as it hardly rained at all and was generally quite sunny. Our main problem was the wind which was quite fierce at times and often a struggle to cycle against.

To get there and back proved quite an adventure in itself as we started the day with a bus and then a tram to Antwerp before catching a train to Amsterdam. from there we changed trains to Den Helder, followed by a short bus ride to the dock. The ferry ride itself was a very short 15 minutes and once on the island we took a taxi to our destination. about 6 hours door-to-door.

The owners of the bungalow were there to welcome us and show us around and then were kind enough to drive us all to De Koog so we could hire our bicycles for the week. We dropped into the supermarket for some shopping before riding back to our new base; a reide of about 15 or 20 minutes.

On most days we left the house between 9 and 10am to start a day's cycling - though on one day we did rather more walking than cycling. Generally we would be back home between 4 and 5pm to relax and prepare the evening meal.


More to follow.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Sale and Show



The day of the show and Sale has been and gone and we are also back from our week in the Netherlands on the island of Texel. It's raining again has it has done for the past few days and the garden is soaking it up.

Our week away was dry though which was fortunate, what was less fortunate was the wind which proved very difficult to cycle with when against us and conversely very easy when it was on our backs.

But back to the show.


I was there at the gate at 7pm to be allocated a space and this year the organisers had provided a covered tent which you shared with another participant. I should point out that all the others at the show/sale were selling plants and I was the only exception. This has repercussions as I will explain.

After the place allocation I cycled back and forth bringing my show materials up. Perhaps I should explain that I don't drive and have in fact never driven, or even learnt to drive. This can be inconvenient, but I usually get along fine by Shank's Pony, a bicycle, or a canoe. I use trains wherever possible and am lucky enough to live in an area with superb public transport so I can make use of our local buses and trams too. I do of course have friends that help me out with lifts from time to time and I do resort to a taxi occasionally. Anyway on this day I only had to cycle a matter of minutes back and forth to get all I required at the show site, which was at Hof ter Saksen a newly restored Chateau with gardens in my local town of Beveren. My parents were here to help me too (as they were coming to Texel with us afterwards) and they helped carry the framed prints which were too large for the bike.

The weather on the day wasn't too great and we had a smattering of rain at the start and it got a bit gusty in the afternoon which played havoc with my easels!

I should say straight away that the day wasn't a success sales wise as I only sold four prints. I was, of course, disappointed. A major reason I believe was the nature of the day. People were expecting to spend a couple of euros on plants and had not anticipated spending a 100 euros or so on a print. However, the stall did attract a lot of attention and generally we always had people looking at the prints. I was giving away a publicity postcard so hopefully this will prove useful in the future. A further problem was the language. I don't speak Flemish (Dutch) so all my conversations were in English, which, although almost everyone speaks it, puts a slight barrier in the way. My partner Kristime was with me all day and so she was able to converse normally with those visiting the stall. I was generally pleased with the interest shown in the prints and I think I made the right decision to only show prints of local scenes.

Next I have to think of how to follow up this initial step and try to organise an exhibition in Hof ter Saksen itself or Kasteel Cortewalle or Hof ter Welle which are all local to me.

All in all I think I learnt a lot about preparing for a show and I learnt much from the day itself about interacting with potential clients. I was pleased with the presentation of my work, matted (with passe-partouts), labelled professionally and nicely bagged in clear film. I still think I can improve in one-on-one dialogues with potential clients.


A big thanks to all those that helped me in the preparation for the show and especially those that helped me on the day. Also a big thanks to those who purchased prints and those who visited my stall and showed an active interest. Many, many sincere thanks.