Travellers’ tales: Riding the water lines

Scenic photo of a road in the Netherlands with no cars or people on it
Chris Tomes cruised though Dutch countryside beside military defences

Having six days spare for a trip in April, my research led me to the Dutch Waterlinieroute, which runs for 410km from Bergen op Zoom in the south to Edam above Amsterdam. Two days were needed to get there and back, leaving 100km a day for the route. It looked achievable. 

The Waterlinieroute follows a line of fortifications dating from 1628 but used as late as WWII. They were employed for armed defence and for flooding surrounding land to strand would-be invading armies. 

Always a value-seeking tourist, I took the daytime ferry from Harwich and used Vrienden op de Fiets (Friends of the bicycle) where available for affordable B&B. 

Bike leaning against a statue which features the propellers of a plane

Spring weather is unpredictable in the Netherlands. I rode through one afternoon of rain and had a tough day cycling into a headwind. The water lines route is well signed, skirts cities and occasionally uses ferries. Cycling on traffic-free paths with simple navigation was very relaxing. 

Whenever I wanted a break there was lots to see. I visited the remains of forts and many of the memorials to Allied forces who had sacrificed their lives helping to liberate the country during WWII. There were working windmills, museums and plenty of wildlife. I saw my first spoonbill. 

My Vrienden op de Fiets hosts were lovely. I was so taken by the good nature and efficient running of the organisation that my wife and I have subsequently taken the plunge and become hosts ourselves.

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