Windmills and water at Kinderdjik

After spending the morning preparing words and pictures for the blog and observing that, in Alblasserdam, a new cyclist came into view every three seconds – it was time to get the bikes off the back of Bertha and brave the strong Westerly wind.

The Unesco world heritage site of Kinderdjik was only a short three mile pedal away but the strong wind made the flat terrain feel like a mountain, both of us cycling in low gears just to keep balanced on the saddles of the bikes alongside the banks of the River Noord.

Cycling along the Noord to Kinderdijk
Cycling along the Noord to Kinderdijk

On a previous visit in 2009 we had simply cycled off the roadway and onto a rutted track running alongside a series of dikes, and passing by darkly wooden and largely unkempt but romantic-looking windmills. I particularly remembered small flocks of hardy sheep and a watery field that was home to ponies.

Turning off the road we hit the back of a long queue of Asian and American visitors wearing river boat cruise wristbands and taking selfies. Skirting quickly around and through them we discovered the track to be a two-lane tarmac path for pedestrians and cyclists and with pancake and ice cream stalls every 500 meters.

The 19 windmills were all in pristine renovated condition with clean crisp thatch roofing and sides and fully working sails. A couple were open to visit but we didn’t go inside and instead ventured off along rougher tracks to find the field of gleaming Palomino ponies as well as sheep and goats.

Alongside one dike a pair of labourers toiled at pitch-forking manure from the back of a horse drawn cart. With a watery sunlight peeling from cloudy and windswept skies and against a backdrop of darkening windmills it looked a timeless scene.

A dead end at a clearly well inhabited windmill (with double glazing) saw us trespass across its neatly mowed lawn and hefting the bikes over its garden gate before joining a busy road of luxury tour buses, motorhomes, tractors and mopeds back to Alblasserdam.

We retraced our earlier path alongside the windmills and found a picnic stop on a small wooden platform across a dike with Lilly pads underfoot and windmills to gaze upon. From the 1700s they were built to pump out the rising water from the land.

The afternoon’s 12 mile cycle felt a lot longer and after a quick shop at the local market for essentials we joined a comical procession of cyclists all riding one handed whilst clutching an item of food or drink in the other, and in my case with a slab of cheese, a pot of cream and a box of mushrooms stowed in my zipped-up jacket, for the short but steep climb up the hill toward the harbour side.

Across the reeds
Across the reeds