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The Eifel

The Veluwe and other areas near to Wageningen are great places for mountain biking, but another advantage of Wageningen is that you are close to the German border. Only two and a half hours driving and you are in the Eifel. The Eifel is an area of chalk hills, or rather an elevated chalk plateau, with relatively steep-sided valleys cut into it by a number of rivers. That has a number of consequences.  The chalky soil means that the area is bursting with orchids and other rare plants, and the valleys mean that even though the highest point is only about 600 m, you can still easily clock up a thousand meters of elevation in three hours cycling.  Around Bad Münstereifel there are a number of waymarked tracks, that are also available for download as GPX files.  They have some quite nice routes, although it must be said that a higher proportion are on tarmac (albeit mostly without cars)  than I prefer. The same cannot be said for the book on the right.  The authors have taken great care to keep off-road as much as possible, and have come up with a great selection of routes. If you buy the book, you can also download the routes as GPX files, and you can also download audio files which give you instructions about where to turn and so on by listening to an mp3 player as you go round the routes. I don't speak German, so could not really test out if this is a practical idea or not, but with GPS you also find your way round with no problem. The routes are quite varied in how steep and challenging they are, and they are graded for both how technically difficult and how fit you need to be to go round them; very handy.  Within each route there is also quite a lot of variation as well.  The two photos below illustrate that nicely, from the Pasque flower (and Oxlip) meadows (with bike in background) to the singletrack with the impressive drop in the woodland.  As usual with such scenes, the photo does not do justice to the track; it was only just wider than my handlebars, and round the corner there were lots of tricky roots all over the path. More to the point, the slope to the left was so steep that you could be sure that if your attention wandered and your front wheel went over, it would be like plunging over a ravine.  Not a risk you take when cycling a little nearer to Wageningen very often.

Eifel mountainbike - near Balnkenheim

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Evening light

At long last the clocks have gone over so it is light until later in the evenings again.  Together with the warmer temperatures, that can only mean one thing; out on the bike!

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The woodpeckers are back

Great spotted woodpecker, 2011 in my garden

Yesterday, for the first time this year, a woodpecker came into our garden, searching for food. They have come every year for the past few years now, usually first the adults and then later when the chicks are fledged, the adults bring the juveniles along as well. So when we headed off into the woods on our mountain bikes this morning, I was wondering if we would see any there and, sure enough, every few minutes we heard the rapid hammer-action of a woodpecker beak smashing into a tree, looking for insects to eat or even starting on a nest. Whilst pausing for a rest in the Bennekomsebos, after a particularly slippery and muddy stretch, one flew onto a branch on a tree right next so the path, so that we could take a good look at it. 

I took the photo on the right in my garden a couple of years ago. You can see from the big red blob on top of the head that it is a juvenile.  The adult male has a red neck (and no red hat), which the female lacks. The Great Spotted has red under its tail which (together with the size) distinguishes it from the other species you can find here.

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Do not try this at home

Last time I was out I noticed the brake making a bit a scraping noise, and sure enough there was absolutely no pad left at all on it when I extracted it. The sandy soil round here is very punishing to parts like this; if it is a bit wet (snow included), the sand and water form a very efficient scrubbing mechanism, which can cause wear at an astonishing rate.  Of course it is a good idea if you spot this happening a little before there is zero pad left, but amazingly even in this state there was still a remarkable amount of stopping power left, although naturally it was not all too good for the health of the disks. Hopefully the new pads will be able to polish them smooth again!

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Roel's new shop is open!

Roel Peerenboom has moved from his old shop on the Churchillweg to newly refurbished premises in the city centre. Today was the first day that it was open. Even though everything is not quite in its final place yet, it is still looking very impressive.  A great improvement on the old place. Good luck with your new shop Roel and Cindy!

See the Shops tab for location, etc.

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Deer in the woods

One of the good things about mountain biking in the snow is that you stand a better chance of seeing some wildlife. The snow quietens everything down, so you don't scare them off from such a distance. If it is still snowing, like it was today, that scares the people off, so that also helps.  And so today, we saw two deer, reasonably close, and when we stopped, they just moved a small distance and stood and watched us, as we stood and watched them for a while.  In addition to the actual animals, there are all sorts of interesting tracks on the ground.  Today we saw quite a lot of what I think was pheasant tracks.  There is a long narrow sweeping line, caused by the long tail feathers trailing in the snow as they walk around.  It is so narrow and straight that it looks quite unnatural, like a child has been making stripes in the snow.

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