Paterswoldsemeer, Hoornsedijk +De HelperOctober 5 in the Netherlands
We are beginning to think we misjudged the Netherlands. They have provided a free, 6 place camperplaats looking out over the beautiful Paterswoldsemeer; a lake fringed with grass, trees and a mix of well spaced houses of varying styles. It is the weekend and this hive is busy, but not crowded. Our spot is situated just before the access road turns into a cycle track so there is no through traffic, save for walkers and bikes, that pass behind us. An artificial beach has been created and a black boarded jetty reaches out a short way.
We came further than we'd planned today because the first stopover was down a road that was being dug up and the paraphernalia that goes with such a project needed somewhere to be stored- bang goes the motorhome parking! Never mind, looking on the bright side it had the advantage of giving us extra time at Paterwoldsemeer which is undoubtedly the better site!
We were gifted with two days of beautiful sunshine and blue skies. Vicky sat out with Poppy and knitted while Will took to the water in the canoe with his rods. A couple of small islands were easily reachable and many more lay further to the west. Will docked the canoe and swum from one close by, being careful to check he would be able to get back out of the water as the island perimeter was like the bank of a canal, with vertical piling reaching half a metre above the water level at most points. It seemed the islands were engineered for pleasure boaters to dock at with a picnic as they had mooring stakes, rubbish bins and picnic tables. The larger even had a shallow water cove cordoned off from boats for safe swimming. Will only discovered this after he'd already been for a dip but the air was warm so this fact didn't stop him making good use of it! There were a myriad of small sail boats on the lake, many of them wooden with creamy white sails. They looked beautiful in the bright light and it was wonderful to see so many people enjoying the outdoors.
To cap off a gorgeous day we were treated to a delightful sunset whose instense amber hues transformed the sky, silhouetting the lake shore and rebounding off the still water. We watched from the comfort of the van with homemade pizza and a glass of red. As the sunlight faded the focus changed to the pretty electric illuminations. Warm white bulbs and a purple display light shone out, marking the path of the shore as it tracked around the water's edge. We felt truly content.
The following day Vicky was feeling up for a paddle so we headed out in Little Green after lunch, charting a figure of eight around the islands then making a beeline for a traditional Dutch windpump farther to the west. We gained the shore via a metal ladder and tied the canoe securely to the pilings to go and investigate it properly. A low post and rail fence cordoned the structure off but the little gate was open and as we approached a volunteer asked us if we'd like to see inside. He said they'd be setting it up for use and he could take us up to the top when he went up to check the mechanism. We jumped at the chance and within 15 minutes were following our guide, clinging onto the handrail and scaling the steep wooden steps that led through roof hatches onto the two floors above ground level. At the top were two huge angled cogs that drive the main shaft, which is thicker than many of the nearby tree trunks and stretches the full length of the structure. At the base there were more cogs to turn an Archimedian Screw, which moves water from an inland drainage pond to the lake. All the operating parts were made from wood and our guide showed us where they'd wedged or nailed small blocks to repair or fine tune the operation.
We spent nearly an hour with the mill master and volunteers as they set the windpump up for use. Through a combination of chatting to them and research we learned De Helper is an octagonal smock windpump, so called because of its resemblance to a smock. It was originally built in 1863 and relocated here in 1971. Recently repainted, its reds, blues and whites shone in the bright light, contrasting nicely against the black wooden boards of its central housing. It is one of nearly a thousand windmills in the Netherlands and is protected as a national monument. There is a contract to operate it for 10 hours a month and it appears we turned up at exactly the right time because Saturday afternoons are the weekly slot they've chosen to open it. The group of around 4 people working on it are learning the skills over a course of two years. We watched as they manually rotated a giant wheel to turn the 10m wooden trellis blades to the wind, securing the position with huge metal chains. The volunteers then proceeded to unfurl the canvas sails, two red and two white, climbing the blades and looping a rope on the leading edge over a series of hooks. It was a long process but once everything was in place the brake was released by pulling a metal chain that dangled from the top of the structure and the blades quickly picked up speed, setting the Archimedian Screw to work pushing water underneath the windpump in the direction of the lake. We peaked through the gridded hatch to see it in action.
Paddling back to the van we found ourselves in a bit of a daze. We can't find any information locally or online about when De Helper opens so we couldn't have planned this. It was just very good luck that we stumbled upon it when we did and not only got to see the whole process but were the only visitors who got to climb up inside it!
You can watch a video of the windmill taken on Vicky's phone on the VnW Travels YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/aOwwH4i0158
We decided to stay all three of the nights motorhomes are allowed at this camperplaats. It was a beautiful spot and the weather was amazing for October. We doubt we'll find many other free places that we like as much as this one!Read more