Of course, when a mailing list turns into a group of enthusiasts, action unavoidably leads to a list event. Very early this year, snow was still usual, Jan van der Hoeven, one such active member of the Dutch Land Rover mailing list, had the brilliant idea to org anise a ride in his area, which is the middle of the Netherlands, the western side of the Betuwe, where many Dutch cherry orchards are. This list event was to take place in June, and would comprise a two day outing with camping on or near a site of a relative of his, a tour of the area, and some off-roading.
Obviously lots of people joined in, the organizational team was enlarged with Heleen and Eric, and with Norman. After registering myself somewhere in February for the area tour, things settled down a bit to mumbling that something would seriously take place. Fortunately in May the organization took off, and a tour was planned and pre-run, Staatsbosbeheer (the Dutch Forestry Commission) was asked for recommendations (said to be promising), and the final details of the off-road locations were agreed upon. The weekend for the now called Cherry Ride was to be the last weekend of June, and details were to be presented on campsite Wildzicht in Leersum.
Many people arrived at the site already on the Friday afternoon. Work and family activities made me choose to only participate on the Saturday activity. I drove up on the Saturday morning in the Discovery, now with the new Yakima roofrack on, a bit loaded with some stuff that might come in handy, such as a comfortable camping chair, a small tent, and a big sack with filler stuff in it. The main purpose of the roofrack load was just to give it a test for wind noise and side wind sensitivity. It passed the test problemlessly. Arriving at the campsite I found a group of people, many of whom I only knew by name from the mailing list. Officially due to leave at 10:30, arriving at 10:00 I was well in time, especially considering that Land Rovering is a patient activity: leisurely talking with all those other Land Rover owners is just as much fun as driving them. I checked in with Heleen, and at the same time was given the official Kersenrit sticker. At the briefing somewhere eleven-ish, we were given a black/white copy of a map with the route drawn out with a marker pen, but effectively we were to drive in convoy. Approximately 15 cars participated so that would not be a problem.
The morning ride was to take a route passing along numerous castles, and other large manors, for which the area is renown. A nine page illustrated description, by Jan who apparently also has a history hobby, gave lots of information about the houses that we would pass in the ride. At the start leaving the campsite, Heleen and Norman handed out pound bags of cherries. It was the Cherry Ride, wasn't it? Then the convoy drove off. A nice scenic tour of the area showed us Sandenburg, Lunenburg, Hinderstein, Leeuwenburgh, Sterkenburg, and Duurstede. At least that is what I gather from Jan's elaborate information. During the ride we just passed a lot of very nice manors. It was a pity that we didn't have time to actually visit some; I'll keep in mind to come back here for that purpose.
Somewhere during the morning the 'follow the leader' principle resulted in a nice effect: the leader took the wrong turn, and on a small polder road (1.5 Land Rover wide), we had to turn back, and meet all the other people in the convoy. Lot of waving, and `Oh, nice to see you're here too.'
The lunch was a well organized visit to a cherry orchard. Chairs and tables, filled with dozens of cups with cherries, were set up, so that everybody could eat and drink of his/her self-catered lunch, and top it off with a good portion of cherries. The pound portion of the morning was expected to have been devoured during the ride (indeed, mine was. I'm mad about cherries). Then we were given a tour of the orchard: they actually grow 30 different types of cherries there, and one small half-size tree give approximately 15 kg of cherries annually. There seem to be a whole roam of enemies of a cherry orchard, birds and frost being the important ones. For scaring away the birds, the orchard owner has long array of possibilities, e.g., old cans with pebbles on a high stick, rattled by a long rope held by a student worker high up in a lookout post in the center of the orchard; electronic sounds of birds in distress, rather unpleasant to people too; ultrasonic noise; etc. All very impressive, but as the orchard owner repeatedly pointed out: it merely does `help a bit.'
The afternoon ride was a bit more adventurous: the morning was 100% on surfaced roads and streets (there aren't many other roads around here, and they are not open to the public), the afternoon did start quite similar. The goal was not the manors but the beautiful scenery (woods on Dutch-sized hills, top at 68m above sea level!) of the Utrecht Heuvelrug. The first unsurfaced road we entered upon was deceptive: it was a well overgrown, grassy deep-rutted tractor trail. It really promised that now things would become more serious, but alas. Going to low gear was absolutely unnecessary, and we were back on asphalt after 60 or 70 m. Small fun, but fun nevertheless. The area was then more wooded, and after a small detour over the Heuvelrug parking area in the woods, we topped the high hill (did I mention they are really high, for Dutch standard) and then the off-road gem of the day: the Utrecht Trail. It did not seem open to the public, but as the organization had a decided go-ahead from Staatsbosbeheer, we drove down a very nice one-car wide track, directly through the woods of the Heuvelrug. After approx. 1.5 km we came on a nice lane with old trees in the middle of the woods, where we parked the cars for a break and for taking pictures. The last stretch to the campsite was then uneventful. I said thanks and goodbye to the organization, not expecting to participate the next day. All in all, I had a very interesting, joyful and leisurely greenlaning ride.
The next day was for the real off-roading. One of the group was the project manager of a new exit road of the motorway at IJsselstein, half an hour's drive from the campsite in Leersum. As responsible for the building site of that road, he had arranged that the area would accommodate for a group of Land Rovers, keen on giving it a go. He had ordered some bulldozers to make a bumpy trail with highs and lows, shortcuts and steeps hills, mainly of soft sand. Very interesting that would be, so I phoned the organizational team after the late Sunday brunch and asked for the day's plan and directions. I took two of the kids with me, and set off. IJsselstein is only half an hour's drive.
On arrival at the road building site, I head for a big group of Land Rovers, wanting to park there too and see what it is all about. Heleen comes up to me, and says that I'm not to park there, but I should drive around these cars, then down that slope into that wet area, up on the other side, and that is where I may park. Then I see what she means: a large shallow area in the grounds has been filled with approx 30 to 50 cm of water. And I'm to drive my car through it? `Well,' she says, `only one Lightweight has come stuck in the middle and was towed out, and most people succeeded in getting up the out-slope too. There are enough people looking, to help you out.' `Oh.' I hand the photo camera to her, and drive off as if nothing is bothering me. The kids ask me 'Where are we going, Dad?' and I point it out to them. Last time off-roading they learned about the Blue route (not damaging) and the Red route (potentially damaging). This water basin is what I called a Red Route, and they think it great. But they always want us to go the Red route. That the Defender in front of me drives through it without serious problems does give me confidence, and I d(r)ive in. The in-slope is slightly steeper that I estimated, and the speed going in is a bit too much. A nice wave of mud water rushes over the hood, and I take back speed. With a nice bow wave, as by the book, we drive through the water. All three of us love it, and we're thrilled! The steering is slightly vague, but I can well keep it in the proper direction. The out-slope is also a bit steeper than it looked before, and it is very soggy mud. With the 'steady as it goes' slogan, I try to drive out, but having road biased tyres, there is just not enough grip and/or momentum to get out. Backing down in the water, and giving it a bit more speed (plus ETC kicking in) I drive out without problems. That was good fun. And no hurt to my pride.
Parking by the water we watch some others trying it too. I chat a bit with the people, and we do the off-road humps course a couple of times. Remarkably, I seem to have more problems with the approach angle than the departure angle of the car. After a good hour of fun (can't stay longer because of social obligations) we say goodbye again, and head back home. Having this extra bit of off-road fun really finished the Cherry Ride off well.
Text, and editing Copyright © 2001 Wim van Dorst
Photographs Copyright © 2001 Pim Kielen, Paul Sidler, Wim van Dorst