Archive for the ‘Back to Nature’ Category

the bigger picture

the bigger picture

“So you dug all the crooks, restored all the sprengs … why you got no running water?” “Well … a couple kilometers away, they’re building a new city quarter on high grounds. It stops the rain from going into the ground and form a waterbuble down below or got transported this direction.”

Sounds like a ‘third world problem’ isn’t it? It isn’t … it is a ‘breaking ground’ problem which needs a groundbreaking solution.

And let’s face it: I’ve lived in a beautiful villa in Fèz, Morocco. When I asked my landlord what he did with his rainwater. The answer was: “I just flush it away.” Why? He didn’t want it on his property.

biggest picture

biggest picture

Last decade of the century this was common practice from the Netherlands all the way upstream untill Switserland. Everywhere more concrete and pavement is used and farmers drain their soil for economic reasons. Their machinery got bigger and sunk into the soil, that’s why …

So we need to look at the bigger picture …

Since people want to sit in their garden and drink their coffee outside, the newest trend is to cover the whole place with slabs. The municipality faces a new challenge because these gardens don’t absorb rainwater. And so invented new systems to gather these waters and slowly let them sink into the ground. 

Strange … using less pavement in gardens would do the trick anyhow. One would expect people would surround themselves with plants and nature once living in urban area’s. More and more people surround themselves with desertlike environments.

Modern Zen Scenery

Modern Zen Scenery

Their inspiration is the Japanese Zen garden, but they replace its fine gravel by pavement. Which is the exact opposite of its original design. Built to absorb water.

in Dutch

example: one needs 25 liters for every m2 of water collection; a terrace of 10mand a roof of 40m2 =50m2, needs 1250 liters of collection space.  One can lower a part of the garden 3×4 m with 10cm.  And … most households do not sit the gardens in front of their houses.

Back in the sixties people used conversation pits for these reasons. During rainy seasons people didn’t sit outside anyway.

new era, new approach

new era, new approach

With all these wadi’s in the city, people start up city gardening … and city quarters get transformational. Not mentioning the people of Green Guerilla, they revolutionize public spaces by throwing ‘bombs’ of flowerseeds on several location in urban area’s. They’re pretty serious about it, I like them very much for their funfactor.


Royal Water

Last summer I visited Royal Brewery Grolsch in Enschede with my brothers in law. [not mentioning them will fill the comment box below…] They were proud to pronounce producing environmental friendly. They rebuilded the factory in 2004 on a different location, so they could make it ahead of the future.

It might be well known the Netherlands has no shortage of water at all. It’s in our name and gravity makes water run to lower parts. But … Grolsch didn’t want to waste water. In 2015 Grolsch wanted to reduce 25% of it’s water consumption. Not including the water to make beer from, most likely the want these results up with 25%. Grolsch sat its target for 7 years.

Since it was a rainy day, I asked the tourguide what they did with rainwater? Although he knew all the ins and outs of his factory he couldn’t give me an answer. They just let is flush away?

Made me wonder … what do factories with sky water and since we were talking about the topic earlier this blog what does the paperindustry do with all its water? They claim to be enviromental friendly but how do they use their biggest gift of nature: water?

Case studies show that in Renkum’s township there are two main purchasers of water: Vitens and Parenco. Vitens is the water company and Parenco a paperfactory. Do not be mistaken: the factory is allmost as big as the town itself.

So this weeks quest would be; what do they do with their rainwater?

Because the other grazy thing is: the municipality of Renkum transformed its underground water infrastructure completey. They opened up streets to set other parts under water during rainy days, so called wadi’s. Kids started complaining for it was their playground and parent thougt is was sewage water…

Which it wasn’t, it just got a little dirty from running over the streets.

So they opened up the wadi’s and made an underground sedimentation system.

The idea was as very old, the implementation quite new. From the first days of using water as an energy source, the millers dug out brooks and springs. [AnnO 1600]


dig, duck, dug

The Dutch language provides words for these: Spreng or Sprang, these are menmade wells.

Although the Netherlands have enough water the land will dry out if all water effluxes.

What if we build factories which not only use rainwater, but purify it as wel? Take Ford for example, they drain water cleaner than it lands on their roof.

 Related articles

Wolfheze's Stream

nice trails

Where ever one looks online, a huge piece of the MTB trail is missing. And it might be the best part as well! It ads a couple of kilometers extra to the route and it is completely marked too. When looking on MTB-routes, nobody seem to know. The strangest thing is, it starts at one of the official parkingplaces.

Wolfhezer Brook Postcard

It is a circle around of what we call: Old Wolfheze [AnnO 800]. Wolfheze was one of the oldest villages of the Netherlands but the Spanish Army burned it to the ground in 1585.  The only building remaining was the wild forsters house but was destroyed by flames too. So no one knew were the village was until mid 1800’s.

Nowaday’s a beatifull gate marks the entrance towards the area. The area is so beautifull there was an paintersvillage situated compared to Barbizon. The place were Vincent van Gogh grew into being.

One can find Vincent van Gogh at the Kröller-Muller museum on the National Parc Hoge Veluwe. One of the entrances is on the other end of the MTB trail at Schaarsbergen. This is the best entrance for cyclists, for it takes another 10Km through the park towards the Museum.

same place

same place

Oosterbeek and Wolfheze developed themselves into artist colonies. Its landscape contrasted to the rest of the country. Their painting was a combination of the Old School and English aquarel style.

The museum at Castle Doorwerth has a lot of these paintings. Doorwerths Castle is situated at the most southern point of the Mountainbike Track Oosterbeek. - MTB Route Oosterbeek (2)

Castle Doorwerth

Stream Valley Renkum

Mill Brook Renkum

Watermolenklein.jpg  418×329

Watermill near Renkum

Why was such a beautifull area crowded with industry in the first place, one could ask. The answer is quite simple: it just grew there. The first activity in that area goes all the way back to the 17th century. Somewhere in the archives, the city counsel of Arnhem forbade people to plant another watermill in its North area. This decree comes from the year 1592.


Open Air Museum – Arnhem

From that era until 1875 there are reports of at least 7 different mills at Renkum’ streams. The total of papermills on the Veluwe would be approximately 170.

Some of them got later on a different purpose, such as pressing oil or grinding grain. The streams on the Veluwe gave water of such a purity that the paper coming from these mills was wanted all over Europe. Very clean and white paper it was. All the brooks were cleansed by hand, most of them were dug by hand as well. One says this is unique in the world, but I’ve seen documentaries of canals in Ethiopia and Jemen which are dug by hand too. The uniqueness of these region is that the water isn’t so much used for irrigation, like in those area’s. It’s main purpose was to turn the waterwheels, so the pulp could be hammered.

Since the mills used water, not all of them were driven by water. A couple of them were windmills.

Last reports are one of the mills was completely renovated and brought back into bussiness. During operation Market Garden and the Battle of Arnhem it was shot into pieces, and its function replaced by electric machinery.

But, needless to say, a miller wants his mill back. My grandpa was one of them, and my uncles never stopped talking about their mill.

In 1846 the Van Gelder family had aquired monopoly and started producing by steam engine. This factory grew bigger and bigger, changed from hand to hand and was finally relocated towards the river Rijn. They produced mainly paper for newspapers.

The other paperfactory is located in Heelsum on the other side of Renkum. They produce ‘high tech’ paper, for graphic design, artists and for example glasfiber paper.

Two factories, one choose the path of quantity, the other the path of quality. Off course is the produced newspaper of high quality too. But … the demand for such dropped with the digital revolution.

Like the invention of bookprinting caused a revolution, the digital era is revolutionair too. Sometimes causing the first originated industries to shut down. Why would one buy newspapers anymore if all of its content is also online too?

But … recent reports tell us they are thinking of starting up the second machine, to produce packaging paper. Parenco uses 100% recycled paper in its process. And … they are exporting to all European countries again.

Paper Art - Jan IJzendoorn

Paper Art – Jan IJzendoorn

There is a lot of things to say about Cross Country Cycling and Mountain biking, one of the things is its guidelines towards nature.



Since I grew up in the woods I allways hated offroad bikes for their overload on noise. We’d love to help the forester to keep watch over his domain, so we could play peacefully in our illegal treehouses and underground huts. We felt like we were the good guys because we ruined the wildlife in silence. Off course we were affraid of the forester too, but maybe he liked us more if we betrayed the older guys with their mopeds.

Cross Country Cyclists and Mountainbikers have the same relationship towards offroad motorists. Most forests in the Netherlands are forbidden area for those guys. The woods are simply to small and overpopulated with animals for noisy machines. We love our deer dearly and have organisations who buy land in the countryside and restore those pieces into historical paterns.

More and more people start living in the countryside and take public transport or drive towards their workplaces in the big cities. Good market for folding bicycles of all sorts.

A couple remarkable things happened during the last decade in Renkum’s municipality. Industry made place for what we call natural infrastructure. So the animal kingdom got it’s rightfull place in our monarchy. Wildlife got it’s freedom and could walk freely passing by bio industrial complexes. It is complicated I know …

One of the big guys was Vredestein, a well known producer of bicycle tires

Vredestein Renkum

to pieces

Former Factory Vredestein

Former Factory Vredestein

But … the Transformational Architects did a pretty good job …

Beekdal Renkum

Brook Valley Renkum