Saturday, October 22, 2016

Still fair for faring

The weather is definitely becoming more autumnal now and the trees are turning such a beautiful colour, but despite a few days of very heavy rain and chill winds, we are still having some lovely sunny days. So much so that we have had yet another quick spuddle out on the canal this weekend.

But before I get to that, I wanted to add some photos here of the very special sailing barge event that we went to last Sunday the day after I wrote my last post. I'd read that the Bietentocht (as it is called here) was starting with its traditional 'warm-up' event at the town of Goes, not that far away from where we escape to at weekends. Bietentocht means Beet tour and it is just that: a tour of sugar beet loaded barges that sail from one town to another in Zeeland over a period of four days. The boats are all traditional Dutch sailing barges and the event begins when they are towed by magnificent draft horses from the lock (sas) at Goesesas to the harbour in the centre of Goes itself. The horses used for this event were Belgians, apparently. They were not quite as tall as some of the English draft horses I have seen, but still noble and beautiful.

Koos and I agreed we would like to go and see the event, so we jumped on his motor scooter and sped 50km along the highway to arrive at the start just as they were beginning to match horses to barges. In the sunshine, at the water's edge with the bright autumn light, it was a truly captivating scene, and I think the photos speak for themselves:

Horses taking up the slack lines

And then pulling the barges

Without too much effort at all - one gentle
nudge was all it took

In their Sunday best

Bargees in traditional costume

And glorious paintwork

More dressed up gee gees

Barges in the lock waiting to be released

Barges waiting to enter the lock from the
Well of course, we had to wait and see them arrive in Goes, and that was also a terrific sight. The barges were literally crammed into the harbour.

Well, having seen this and after being so inspired by it all, I decided I wanted to see the end of the tour when it reached the small town of Willemstad, which is in Zuid Holland on the south side of the Hollandsch Diep. I knew they would arrive on Thursday, so after work, I met my daughter and her family and we set off to see the barges coming in. What a difference! In contrast to the previous Sunday, it was pouring with rain, and we had to make for the safety of a café, but not before I managed to snap a few pics of the boats crowding into this small harbour.

Reversing in to the harbour was the only way

Clippers, possibly the most beautiful and elegant of the
Dutch barges

Barges like sardines in a can

Wonderful shapes and colours

The clouds started to clear just as we left
But that wasn't entirely the end of the barging week. We had a couple of days of excessively high water in Rotterdam, which is always quite exciting. Would the water wash over the side of the harbour this time? It never has and didn't this week either, but it did lap over the steps where the café puts its tables, and many's the time they have had to evacuate that part in the past.

Water lapping over the top steps of the café opposite

Getting close to the top, but not quite there.
We can relax...

Back in Zeeland again, the sun peeked through the clouds yesterday and the air was balmy and sweet. We were supposed to be cleaning the Hennie Ha, but the pull of the open water was too strong. It was still fair enough for faring! So we cast of the ropes and took to the canal. It also happened that friends were visiting in their camper van on the other side of the bridge, so we picked them up and took them for a spuddle too. It was unexpectedly lovely and a real treat. We made it back just before the heavens opened again.

Today has been a bright, clear and sunny too, but much colder and I really feel that autumn is upon us. It's dark in the mornings until eight now, which makes hauling myself out of bed even more challenging than usual. In another week, the clocks will change, which will give my body clock time to catch up a bit; the leaves will be falling hard and faring will be fully finished (or maybe not if we are brave). But what wonderful trips we've had this year to feed my soul through the winter....and as I still have a book about it to write, I can live it all over again. Aren't I the lucky one?


  1. What a spectacular thing to see. The horses are lovely. I hate the dark mornings and short days.

    1. Me too, Anne. I'm not a morning person at the best of times...and yes, the event was fabulous!

  2. What a lovely event! Thanks for sharing it, Val.

    1. It really was, Roger. Maybe one day you'll get to see it!

  3. A lovely post, Val. Those horses are so beautiful and it is indeed a captivating sight to see them pull a barge. Something I have never seen. I spy the yellow cubist houses there, getting their toes wet :) It does seem odd to be dark at 8.00 am - even in Winter we have daylight by 6.30, and going into Summer it is well before that. We use shutters to keep the light out!

    1. I would like that very much, Patricia. I have serious light issues in the winter, but yes, we have other compensations :)

  4. You are blessed, Val, and a blessing! I'm so excited to hear that you will have another book coming out! I can't wait! As for your blog and the pictures...truly inspirational, moving, and fascinating. Thanks, as always.

    1. Thank you, dear Steph. That's lovely of you to say so. The same is true of you too! xx

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  6. So much colour and tradition to see, it must have been quite spectacular. We were lucky with the weather, weren't we, just a shame that it had to come to an end and winter starts to creep in :( xxx


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