This weekend I went on a bivouac with my family, our second family bivouac in two years. My mum’s boyfriend Paul used to be in the National Reserve Corps and he’s into bush craft, and we’re all keen hikers. Last year we went to the Sallandse Heuvelrug, in the east of the country, and slept in the woods at a pole camping. This is a small area, which sometimes has a water pump, where you’re allowed to spend the night as long as you don’t leave any rubbish. They’re scattered throughout the country. This year we went to Twente and hiked around the river Dinkel, and spent the night near a farmhouse where nobody lived except for some chickens. There was a bathroom inside, which made this outing less primitive than the last.
We started hiking at Singraven, where there’s a castle and an old watermill. We followed the river Dinkel for a while and came across a cannon that was put there as a reminder of the 80 years war. In 1597, Prince Maurits and his army of 9000 infantry, 1600 cavalry and heavy artillery crossed the Dinkel to drive away the Spaniards. The Spaniards were so impressed by the Prince’s army (a few cannonball shots were enough for the town of Oldenzaal, guarded by 400 Spaniards, to surrender) that the region was quickly liberated.
We walked past some gorgeous cornfields and farm houses, through the forest and past a small roadside chapel before we arrived at our destination, Erve Middelkamp (the locals say “Middelkaaamp”). The farmhouse was situated on top of a hill, and we had a beautiful view of a field of wildflowers on one side, and a grassy expanse fringed with trees on the other side. There we took the opportunity to build a fire, and we heated up our dinner on the small petrol burner. We had some coffee and hot chocolate, and we were lucky enough to see a few wild roe deer! We saw a buck chasing after a doe for a couple of minutes, and a few more appeared some time later. We could also see some big hares hopping about, and the sky was alive with the calls of hawks.
When it got dark we set up our sleeping area; my mum, Paul and my sister slept under a tarp, and I slept on a sleeping mat, in my sleeping bag and under a rain cover under the stars. The sun was very slow going down, but I still got to do some stargazing! Our trip last year marked the first time I slept under the open skies and I loved the feeling, so I wanted to do it again. Unfortunately, it started to rain at some time during the night and it was still going when I woke up. The rain cover did its work well and only my pillow got damp. After breakfast, the rain stopped and we packed up our nearly dry equipment. We set off again on the way back to the car. In the afternoon, the rain started again, and by the time we got to the car we were properly soaked. After a hot meal at the restaurant next to the watermill, we set off home again. We did 13 kilometres on our first day and 11 kilometres on our second day. Below are some of the pictures I took.
As I live in the city, I don’t see so many green, open spaces very often, and I was enraptured the entire time we were walking. Cows! Cornflowers! Butterflies! Birds! Nature in the Netherlands never fails to amaze me! It’s so diverse and every sighting of wildlife is truly remarkable. I adore walking past fields of flowers – in all likelihood many of the wildflowers we saw have been sown there expressly, but they are a great way for bees and butterflies to thrive. I was especially enamoured with the cornflowers, poppies, thistles, chamomile and chicory. To sleep outside and become one with your surroundings – even if it’s nippy and you wake up with a bit of a cold – is definitely one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.