The North Sea coast in the Netherlands is a beautiful area for recreation, especially for cycling. The entire coastline consists of sandy beaches. Between those beaches and the better known Dutch green landscape we find a line of sand dunes, sometimes several kilometers wide. Together the dunes and sandy beaches form a landscape that is unlike any other in the Netherlands. Most of the area is only accessible on foot or by bicycle. The dunes form a barrier to the sea and protect the land behind it that is often a lot lower than sea level. The first barrier dunes formed 7000 years ago and remnants can still be found at some places. Most of the modern dunes formed since about the year 1000 AD. The dune landscape is primarily open with some brushwood and a lot of small lakes that are often used as drinking water collectors.
Recently I visited the dunes just north of The Hague, the Meijendel Dunes where famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has lived in 1882-1883. Today the most important functions of that area are: nature protection, collection of drinking water, coastal defense and recreation. More than a million people visit the area every year.
The long distance cycle route LF1, that is part of the international 6,000km (3,728m) North Sea Cycle Route, passes through this area. On a sunny Friday morning a lot of other people were on their way on bicycles.
I cycled South to the former fisherman’s town and now seaside resort Scheveningen. That one Englishman informs us should be “pronounced by saying “shaving ’em” and simultaneously clearing your throat”.
After the beautiful silence in the dunes the seaside resort is a bit too much of a carnival with all the noise and people. I rather see it as it was in 1881 and luckily that is possible! The 360 degree Panorama Mesdag is a painting 14 meters high and 120 meters in circumference. The vista of the sea, the dunes and Scheveningen village was painted by one of the most famous painters of the Hague School, Hendrik Willem Mesdag. It is the oldest 19th century panorama in the world in its original site, and a unique cultural heritage.
But as the video shows, the dunes are still magnificent!