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Zeddam

Yesterday we cycled the Montferland route (officially 'Zeddam') and it was glorious. We arrived in dense fog and for a few minutes, I wondered if it was going to be miserable but the sun soon came out and it was perfect. Not too hot or too cold and just enough moisture in the air to make the sun rays through the trees spectacular. The trail has over 400 height meters in its 25 km length, which means that it is one of the hilliest in the neighbourhood (readers of this blog who think that mountain biking is something you do in mountains can stop laughing) and slopes of up to 15 degrees, so it certainly felt different compared to the virtually horizontal areas round Wageningen. The woods there are also much more diverse with a richer understory of herbaceous plants and some lovely moss-coated areas. And to cap it all, we finished with coffee and apple tart. What more could you want?

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Autumn already

Saturday morning dawned, and the excuses started coming in. It was too wet for the new bike, it was too wet for the injured hand, it was too wet. Those were the sensible ones. In the end, only three of us turned up and that was a problem. Not because of the small group, but because it meant that we combined two of us from our normal slow group with one from the fast group.  Maybe I could have kept up better, but the torrential rain of the last days not only meant that we got rather muddy (see the photo for proof!) but that the sand turned into some sort of evil glue, sticking to our tyres and clawing us back. With that to contend with, it was all I could do to plod along, let alone keep up with someone used to going considerably faster. But it wasn't all torture.  The rain stopped, the sun came out and a group of three wild boar sat close to the track, apparently as amazed to see us ploughing through the mud, as we were delighted to see them. 

Muddy legs

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The Apeldoorn hospital tour 2017

As always, a great tour, well organised, beautiful woods, huge numbers of participants and even including lunch. Great!

Apeldoorn Gelre Ziekenhuistour

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Mountain biking in South-Limburg

The Netherlands is internationally famed for its overwhelming flatness, but there is one part for which that is not true, right down in the south of the country, there is a relatively narrow 'finger' sandwiched between Belgium and Germany, called South Limburg (or Zuid-Limburg in Dutch). The hills are still not as large as the Ardennes in Belgium a little further south, but in a couple of hours cycling you can notch up 6-800 height meters, which is not bad. What is more, the landscape is a treat.

Near Valkenburg

Much of it is rolling pastures with twisting country roads (very different from the straight lines everywhere else in the country) and little villages nestling in the hills. The underlying rock (a novelty in itself, much of the country just has sand or peat under the soil) is chalk, which means that there is a diverse flora and so also a lot of insects and so on. On one cycle ride I saw at least eight different butterfly species.

Hollow roads

The landscape also has a more ancient feel to it than the more constructed landscapes further north. There are a lot of hollow roads, formed by a combination of natural features and centuries of use, with trees arching over the top to make a complete tunnel in some cases. The network of mountain bike trails makes good use of these tracks, many of which are rough and steep. There are eight official routes in the district, as well as a few close by just over the Belgium border. The Dutch routes can be found on http://mtbroutes.nl/ and the Belgium/Flemish routes here: https://www.sport.vlaanderen/waar-sporten/sporten-in-de-natuur/mountainbikeroutes/.

Here is an overview of the Limburg routes:

  Km HM

Rating on

mtbroutes.nl

Maastricht 30 302 3.5
Epen 26 629 4.5
Mechelen 25 359 3.5
Margraten 30 359 3.5
Meersen 30 490 3.5
Nuth-Voerendaal 35 308 2
Sint Geertrud 35 441 4.5
Valkenburg 30 439 4.5
Gulpen 25 536 4

It is well worth downloading the GPS routes from those sites as some of the signs are hard to see or missing due to fast growing vegetation (nettle-proof gloves are also useful!) and vandalism. Some have more tarmac than others (not a problem seeing it is mostly pleasant back roads and you can regard it as recovery between the tougher bits) and some have more hills than others. The hills are often steep (up to 20-25%) and difficult (depending a bit on the weather) with loose pebbles and rocks (though it must be said that the photo below was a 'short cut' on one of the Belgium routes).

rocky road

The general consensus on mtbroutes.nl seems to be that the Epen route is the best one. It is indeed a super ride, with lovely diverse woodlands (photo below), including the Vijlenerbos, famous for its wild cats), some difficult hills and little tarmac.  However, my favourite was definitely the Voeren route (blue+black), which you can start in the village of Mheer (in the Netherlands) but is otherwise virtually all in Belgium. That has a great combination of gorgeous scenery and challenging trails.

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Sunday morning trundle

For some reason I've been tired all week, so this weekend I skipped getting up in time to go with the club and instead had a bit of a trundle round the woods on Sunday morning. A couple of weeks ago it was really warm and since then there has been and awful lot of rain, so everything had grown enormously. The bare sand of a few weeks ago has transformed itself to small forests of Impatiens parviflora with its pretty little flowers (below) on the sides of the track and Polygonum persicaria where there has been some standing water. All the dense green vegetation means that the woods have quite a different feel to them than a few weeks ago.

Impatiens parviflora

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Hell of Ede-Wageningen 2017

Last weekend, it was that time of year again; time to help out with the 'Hell of Ede-Wageningen'. This year we had a completely new route, unfortunately due mainly to increasing unfriendliness of landowners where we used to go. That meant a huge amount of work for those planning it. There were also one or two puzzles for those of us helping putting the arrows out, like the spot below where it splits and which way you go depends on not only if you choose for the shorter or longer route, but also if it is the first or second time that you reach that point. You would imagine the sign below would be so clear that no one could make a mistake, but there were still some people who were going so fast that they didn't have time to think about it before taking the wrong turn.

Hell van Ede-Wageningen

Over 850 people took part in the tour, so that was a great success, and we heard a lot of positive remarks about the new route. It was a long day helping out, with an early start and 70 km cycling (despite our bit to sign only being 5 km long), but all in all very worthwhile.

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