England and Holland 4/5th June

The Grand Tour: England and Holland 4/ 5 June

Finally packed up and left Hollymount. We gave ourselves time for a 3 hour hike around Howth Head and a leisurely dinner luckily as around 20 miles from Dublin we realised that we had forgotten to bring the van and travel insurance documents. DOH!!

We had to go through the motorway toll before we could turn around and go back through it and do a 4 hour return trip to the toll again. 

We managed a stroll on the beaches of Bull Island before the ferry so all was not lost. 

I’m up early the next morning, out on deck of the ferry as we approach Liverpool, desperate for a look at Antony Gormley’s Iron Men statues standing in formation in the sands of Crosby as the sea envelops them. 

I think I see them in the distance but then the docks are upon us and after Dublin they are very impressive. It takes us over an hour to make our way to the berth so after we disembarked at 6.30 there was no time to see the Men from close quarters as we had a nephew his wife and their new born baby to visit in Sheffield before they had to go out at 10. 

So I programmed my new navigator friend “Serena” with the address and she skilfully led us through the complex motorway systems of Liverpool and Manchester which were an early rush hour shock to us country bumpkins. Clearing the commuter crush we had a glorious drive over the Peak District looking it’s best in the  sun. It seemed like summer had arrived at last on the first day of our trip and with what looked like a full moon over the ocean last night the signs were auspicious. Luckily there was a diversion (!) so we were forced to experience more of the lovely countryside before coming down rapidly into Sheffield where our visit with the new family was all too brief. 

With the day free before the ferry from Hull we headed back up Ringinglow Road to Fidlers Elbow to hike along Strange Edge to Crow Chin … and not just because we loved the names !

This area is the birthplace of hiking in the hills with the first mass trespass happening at Kinder Scout. Close to a huge urban population looking for free and healthy recreation the Peak District gets a lot of visitors and paths are often stone paved to relieve erosion. 

They also come for the climbing, the gritstone rock securing trusted grip on the sheer cliff faces and there were plenty helmeted folk at it. 


The bottoms of the cliff were strewn with mill stones carved from the rock and some of the slabs above had been cut to collect water, maybe to facilitate the sharpening of tools (?). 


The views along the Edge were lovely so we continued to the trig point before heading down into the valley for that British tradition “the pub lunch ”


Fortified with sausage and mash and a pint we did another looped walk on some of the multitude of public footpaths that crisscross Britain before heading east again through flatter lands to Hull and the ferry. 

Another calm night and flat sea made for a good sleep in our dark and windowless cabin so we were passing through the first sea defences when I got on deck for a look around at Rotterdam. 

Then we cruised deeper and deeper into the warren of waterways past a wealth of industry. The Dutch have been a great sea going nation for centuries and it seemed their ports are still mighty powerhouses. 


There had been a party of scooter riders on board and we joined them in the queue for customs. There were dozens of them, some of whom were off to a big meet in Croatia. Fair play to them. 

After dog ablutions and routine van maintenance we asked Serena to guide us to a wetland National Park, the Biesbosch, about 100km away. 

She got us to the nearest town, my first in Holland, and it seemed really quaint in an indescribably Dutch way. Neat and tidy, organised and very cycle friendly…and scooter friendly. 


We got a map of the park and were soon walking on raised canal and river banks through a lush landscape of grass and grain with tree lined path and roadways. 


Sea defences are everything here and there is a whole programme of building up the dykes going on everywhere. 

It was hot and not wanting to walk on a building site we headed deeper into the park for a swim in one of the multitude of waterways to cool off. 

There were some lovely riverside park ups so we knew it wasn’t going to be a problem finding somewhere to stay with a view. We continued on to explore another area of the wetland where they were building an earth covered museum and had some land art. 


We discovered an area of willow growing and coppicing where they have been making structures of all kinds


With the temperature and humidity rising we found a nice park up where we could watch the barges plying their trade up and down the river and went to bed with lightening flashes and rumbling thunder.