Holland - A family cycle expedition with young children


In 1992 Daphne, Nick & their two young children cycled from their home in Swanley, Kent, eventually arriving on a lovely campsite in Holland. On their return Daphne & children created a scrapbook - this is the story from it.

Cover photo

Wednesday 5th August 1992

We left Swanley fully laden at about 9.30ish and cycled via Gravesend, Rochester and Rainham. The A249 was very threatening with lots of big lorries.

Kingsferry bridge up

As we got close to the Kingsferry Bridge it lifted, this was a sign of things to come. We cycled on to Sheerness, 36 miles after leaving home and decided we could not cycle the extra 6 miles to a camp site so we booked up to go on the Olau Britannia at 9pm on the night crossing. We could not book a cabin, but were told that we could use the free couchettes. We went onto Sheerness beach, had fish and chips and tried to wash the chain grease off Natalie’s leg in the sea. The result was that we lost the soap in the sea, it went out at such speed that we thought it might beat us to Holland.

At 7.30pm we queued for the ferry. Bikes go on first so we were aboard by 8pm. A lady on a motorbike started talking to us in Dutch, and we realised how little we knew of the language. Basically she said that the Dutch ride bikes but that the British were better on the design side e.g.. Chris Boardmans bike and ours!!

Holland-2-night on ferry

After waving farewell to England we went down and down and down to the very bowels of the ship to the Free Couchettes (no one would be daft enough to pay to sleep there!). Natalie, Nick and Robert all slept well, but Daphne was not happy as she could not see out, so at 3am got up to climb up and up and up to take the night air. First time Daphne has been known not to sleep.

Thursday 6th August 1992

Holland-3-lift bridge up

We arrived in a cold, dark, damp Vlissingen at 7am. We could not find the town but found another lift bridge….up! We also found a cold, dark, damp coast.

Holland-4 cold damp coast

Holland-5 cold damp coast 2

Holland-6 cold damp coast 3

The idea was to find a camp site and rest for the day. Concentrating on cycle ways, the change of time and the change of side of the road we missed the camp site. We continued around the coast. The weather got better but every camp site had a fully booked sign “VOL!!” (Initially we didn’t realise this translated as “Full”, and as everyone in Holland cycles, there are no spaces, even for the mad English). We got very used to this little sign. We cycled on around the coast admiring the beautiful sandy beaches and the big boats going past. We cycled to Westkappelle (about 15 miles). In desperation we went to a tourist office called VVV. We were told that the Germans “Invade” Zealand at this time of year as it is their closest beach but they suggested a camp site about 10 miles away. We phoned the camp site and they said that they would hold the pitch for an hour and a half. We got on the road and made the campsite in an hour. The campsite was called Olmenveld and was at a place called Serooskerke. The camp site was quite pleasant with showers, Bliss!!

The total mileage for this day: 25.3 miles. (Some rest!!).

Friday 7th August 1992

We all slept very well, but awoke to brilliant sunshine and only enough food for breakfast. We decided to stay at this campsite for at least 2 more nights to see us over the weekend. We cycled into Veere, a very quaint village about 4 miles from the camp site.

Holland-7 Veere Town Hall

Veere is beside an inland water called Veerse Meere. Veere has a lovely harbour filled with small sailing boats. The village is completely unspoiled and we spent a pleasant morning shopping. We found out that meths for the Trangia cooker is called brand spiritus, there was no blue colour as in England, and it is something that the Dutch use for cleaning windows.

Holland-8 Beach

After emptying the local bakers we cycled along the Meere to the sea and found a lovely sandy beach to relax on. Total mileage for the day 12.4 miles.

Holland-9 Bicycle town

Holland-10 Harbour

Holland-11 Boats in Harbour

Holland-12 Natalie on beach

Saturday 8th August 1992

Up bright and early and into Middleburg, the capital of Walcheren, the Island we are on. Very much the same as any other other town but lots of smaller shops! No Asda!! We found a good camping shop and purchased a brilliant square washing up bowl that you blow up but packs flat. It also doubles as a good fridge for the milk, a very versatile bit of equipment. (The dutch do not seem to have plugs so washing up had become a problem). Having finished the shopping we cycled back to the campsite via Imkerij Poppendamme, a bee farm. Nick could not resist seeing Beekeeping Dutch style, as he kept bees at home in England. We watched a film all about Brother Adam, an English Monk who kept Bees. Nick spoke at great length to the staff about Bee diseases. The rest of us had a drink and cake! It was very very hot, but we walked around the barn looking at all the different hives. Soon it was time to return to the camp site and Nick cooked Hungarian Goulash on the Trangia.

Total Mileage for the day: 11.7 miles.

Sunday 9th August 1992

Nothing moves on a Sunday in Holland so we have decided to stay here until Monday. It is very hot again and a bit humid. We cycled to the coast and then along Veerse Gatdam and on to the more impressive Oostershelderkering, a very large dam with an island in the middle containing a lock to allow large boats in and out. This is a fantastic bit of engineering to protect the coast from flooding. There is a Delta Expo Exhibition all about the Delta Dams, but it was quite expensive to go in and the English version of the tour had finished, they only do an English tour once a day! We instead bought a leaflet about the dams. As it was so hot we then went to the beach. Not unexpectedly the evening gave us a huge thunderstorm, the first of many on this trip.

Total Mileage for the day: 24.9 miles.

Holland-13 Sea wall

Holland-14 Sea wall

Holland-15 Boat



Monday 10th August 1992

The weather was overcast at first but dry, we packed everything up and went into Serooskerke to cash another travellers cheque. It then started to rain and it was very wet as we cycled across the Oosterchelderkering. Yesterday it was so hot and dry and today wet and very windy, also the spray from the sea. We cycled across the next island away from the coast to a town called Zierikzee. It was still very wet, we found an oasis… a BP garage, it had loos and sold Snickers, what more could we need! Having crossed the Island of Schouwen Duiveland we went across another Dam Grevelingendam an amazing structure which had another dam going off at a 90 degree angle. Having pedalled a long way we finally saw signs for the campsite we were looking for, but horrors we were too late for the shop at Niewe Tonge (in spite of the efforts of an elderly resident who pedaled with Nick to the shop and hammered on the door!) We have our dinner but no milk, for once Daphne’s forethought in bringing powdered milk was praised and we managed! The campsite was miles down a little road next to a dyke at the edge of Grevelingen Meere. The campsite was quiet and in the middle of nowhere. We wondered why the campsite was protected on all sides by trees, we were to find out why later!

Total mileage for the day: 45 miles.

Holland-16 Lock Gate Closing

Holland-17 Lock Gate opening

Holland-18 Boats leaving

Holland-19 Beach family bikes

Tuesday 11th August 1992

We have been on the road for a week now! Clothing which needs cleaning and no milk spur both Nick and Daphne into action. Nick cycles off early to Niewe Tonge to get essential rations and we decide on a rest day to get ourselves more organised. The weather starts off OK, but gets steadily windier. On Nicks return, we have coffee and breakfast with REAL milk. The campsite is lovely but is getting steadily windier. We all went for a walk onto the dyke, it was lonely except for the sheep (all, we imagined, suffering from flatulence as they had been given tons of rotting onions to eat). We looked inland and all the trees had a definite lean (permanent we think) as a result of the wind. We did the washing and rigged up a washing line, it all dried remarkably quickly and we all looked forward to clean clothes tomorrow. This site is very remote so we are moving North tomorrow.

Total miles for the day, Nick only to the shops: 5 miles.

Holland-20 bottom of 11th - view along the dyke

Holland-21 bottom of 11th - the leaning trees

Holland-22 bottom of 11th - its very flat here

Holland-23 bottom of 11th - no-one here except nick & the sheep

Wednesday 12th August 1992

It rained during the night and with the gale force winds I am surprised that we are all in one piece. The wind was still very strong when we packed up and we had to sit on the tents to stop them blowing away whilst packing up.

We cycled East over Overflakee, across yet another dyke. On the middle Island we found a waterside cafe, we were not sure if it was open, we walked in to loud Country and Western Music, and the Dutchman inside greeted us warmly with a wonderful American accent. He had been in America for some months. We all had a hot drink and an interesting chat. The Dutchman got out his camera and took photos of us on our bikes.

We cycled back onto firm land, across a large bridge which opened at one end to allow a barge through. We are now on another island. It is called Beijerland. We are now in the province of Zuid Holland. At Numansdorp, the next town, Nick tried to use his Mastercard card in an ATM. After a lot of aggravation the card was returned with a little message saying it was invalid at all ATMs as the wrong PIN number had been used. The bank would not cash money on the Mastercard card and we began to realise that our dwindling cash was becoming a problem. (a serious cash flow problem!) We cycled on to a little village called Greup. The Dutch had used poetic licence on the map when using the campsite symbol. We eventually found the campsite about 2 miles away. The weather deteriorated rapidly. We pitched on a little camp site sheltered on two sides by trees and another side by a caravan. As the weather was so grim we went into the restaurant at the campsite. We all had what was described as a healthy omelette, this was in fact a vegetarian omelette and it was very nice. The portions in Holland are very large. We all ate well with biers, coffees and the children had ice cream, all for the total sum of £20. We retired early and a thunder storm was raging outside.

Total mileage for the day: 25.8 miles.

Thursday 13th August 1992

The weather is overcast but dry. We are all packed up by 10.30, this seems to be our new normal. We cycle cross country until we pick up signs for Rotterdam. We ignored our map and followed the signed cycle route which took us through a tunnel on a par with Dartford Tunnel but with a cycle path. We carried on through housing estates and along-side railway lines until by early afternoon we found Rotterdam. It is busy. Nick found a bank and sorted out our cash flow problem. We have to pick up the cash tomorrow. This all took so long that it was now 4pm. We decided to look for a camp site . The VVV office sent us to Rotterdam’s only campsite which takes long term campers and there were some “interesting” people on the site. We decided not to leave the tents and only to stay the one night. It rained as soon as we stopped. The campsite’s only redeeming feature was an excellent washerette. We all stripped down to next to nothing and Daphne washed everything, pillow cases, pyjamas, swimming gear, towels and all clothing. The dryer was also good so by 9pm everything was dry and away. At 3am Natalie awoke to a wet sleeping bag, she had slept against the side of the tent. Natalie slept with Mum and Dad. At 5am Daphne awoke to a wet sleeping bag as she had rolled off of the groundsheet. We all got up at 7am to dry sleeping bags!

Total mileage for Thursday: 17.2 miles

after 12th - the large bridge ......

after 12th - sailing boats at Numansclonp

26 the underpass

27 Rotterdam

Friday 14th August 1992

Weather drier but not much. Early start to dry sleeping bags. By the time we have finished with the dryer there is a queue! We got packed up quite early and on the road to Delft. The road to Delft certainly looks better than the road to Rotterdam! Nick had got to pick up the cash from Rotterdam so the plan was to cycle to Delft and Nick then to cycle back to Rotterdam. The road to Delft is little more than a fietspad which runs alongside the Schie Canal. It is very picturesque with Mr GC Grebe and enormous barges. We were amused by the habit of driving the car onto the barge, a sort of park and sail! We were enjoying the scenery when surprise, surprise, it started to rain, suddenly and before we had chance to put on waterproofs, after a few minutes it just as suddenly stopped. We arrived quite quickly in Delft and after a few small detours we arrived at the campsite Delfts Houte at 12.33. The camp reception was closed from 12.30 to 13.30 and there was a large VOL sign outside. The site looks nice. We unloaded Nick and sort of set up camp outside the reception while Nick pedalled back to Rotterdam. At 13.30 the reception opened and as we only had two small tents they found room for us. What a relief. The campsite is set in the local park, it has a swimming pool, restaurant, hot water in the wash basins and most importantly, TOILET PAPER. We have come to judge the standard of campsites by the toilet paper. Daphne & the children moved the bags and chattels, and booked in for 2 nights to allow a look around the area on Saturday. Nick arrived back about 5:30 having done 30 miles since leaving us, and most importantly with money in his pocket. This campsite is bliss after last night, it’s clean, friendly, and all families. After dinner we went for a walk around the park and the weather is also improving, so we celebrated with a bottle of wine.

Total mileage, Daphne & children: 10 miles, Nick: 38.8 miles.

28 Road to Delft

29 Road to Delft

Saturday 15th August 1992

A really beautiful day, dry and sunny. We did not get up very early but slowly got ourselves organised and followed the signs for Delft Centrum. On the way we saw signs for De Delftse Pauw Pottery, so we followed these. We arrived at the pottery together with a coach load of Japanese tourists, complete with Nikons, snapping at everything including our bikes. Unfortunately on Saturdays they do not hand paint the pottery, but we were given a thorough tour of the small pottery including the shop. This is one of only two potteries remaining that make genuine hand painted delft pottery.

30 Delft

31 Delft

Having resisted the temptation to spend a fortune, we followed the canal into Delft itself. As we entered Delft we found the flea market. We also found a pretty bridge over a canal, surely the only one of its kind, and carefully locked our bikes to it. We slowly browsed our way around the market and bought a miniature coal scuttle, for Nick’s mum’s dolls house. We slowly meandered around Delft craft market, fruit market, art market, and next to every market there was a canal and a pretty bridge over it. After about 2 hours we tried to find the bikes - “Easy” you may think. Every bridge and every canal in Delft look very similar. We searched in vain for a long time, and gradually became more worried. No silva compass here. Eventually we worked out our position by the direction of the church tower, and how clean some faces of the tower were. Half an hour later we found the bikes. We quickly did our food shopping, including buying Gouda in a blue label, with herbs, which was delicious. We ate our lunch dangling our legs over the edge of the canal.

32 Delft canal

33 Delft canal bridge



We returned to the campsite and had a relaxing afternoon swimming. Robert found a new way to get around - all the craze with the Dutch children. You brake by pedalling back. Pity the photographer could not get all of his head - apparently he moved.


In the evening we went for another walk and found the horse drawn bus. They were waiting outside a nearby restaurant for a wedding party. We have realised that the time is getting on, and if we want to go to Gouda we must move on tomorrow.


Having spoken to several people we have decided to give the floriade a miss. We have been warned it is expensive and vastly overrated.

Total mileage today: 5.2 miles - a relaxing day.

Sunday 16th August 1992

The weather is overcast but dry. We packed up and moved on by 10:30 am., which is our usual time. We found a fietspad which took us to Pijnacker and the outskirts of Zoeternmeer, the closest we get to the floriade. Gouda, as the crow flies, is not far from Delft but the roads that we were directed along took us the long way around. The rest of our journey was on a cycle path alongside the main road, the A12. We reached the outside of Gouda by early afternoon. The weather is slowly deteriorating and it is obvious that rain will follow shortly. As we pedal into Gouda we see a sign for a campsite in the direction we want. Having gone around Gouda’s one-way system, and having lost any sense of direction, we follow the signs for a campsite. As we arrive at the campsite it starts to rain, and worse still, this was not the campsite we were aiming for. We decide to cut our losses and camp here.

The lady at the campsite smiled sweetly as she told us she puts all the cycle campers together on the island. We pushed our cycles along a track past the toilet block (no loo paper, a sign of the standard), and over a small bridge onto an island about 15 feet wide and 50 feet long. We pitched our tents with a 3 feet wide path between us and the water. There were pedalos and canoes regularly going past, front and back. The weather really started as we finished erecting the tents, another thunder storm! A fellow cycle camper remarked that we have water in 5 directions - 4 sides and from above.

It’s Sunday again, and we have not been able to buy any milk. This campsite is way out of Gouda and there are no open shops for miles (Nick can vouch for that, he has been miles looking).

We cooked all the pasta (a slight miscalculation) and had this with chicken supreme. There was so much pasta left that Daphne added milk powder and sugar, and we ate it with a tin of pears. We were not sure if it tasted good because it was good, or because we were hungry and it was wet. Still tomorrow is another day. We all retired early and after lectures to Robert and Natalie about falling in the water at night when visiting the distant facilities, we slept.

Total mileage for the day: 26 miles.


Monday 17th August 1992

We awoke early - it is still raining, but we do not want to stay here. We get up early and are packed and ready to go by 9:30 am. We cycled back to Gouda but found that all the shops stay closed until after lunch. We have a family conferance and we decide not to stay in Gouda even though we wanted to see a cheese factory. The weather improves and the sun comes out, so we decide to head South. After a minor hiccup in the navigation we get off main roads onto very rural fietspads. The weather gets better and we are really enjoying a lovely morning when an elderly Dutch cyclist going in the opposite direction trys to tell us something. The Dutchman spoke no English, but by sign language (two forefingers stuck out from his head), and a few ‘moos’, we gathered there was a bull loose ahead. We decided to go bravely on, and after about a mile saw a large brown bull peacefully grazing beside a narrow fietspad. We slowly cycled past, Nick realising he was wearing a red ‘T’ shirt. After we went past we cycled like crazy. Natalie & Robert nearly took off when we joked that the bull was following. We tried to tell the local farmer, but there was no one at home, so we cycled on.

At Krimpen A/D Lek we were confronted by a large river with no bridge, just a small ferry with enough room for about 6 cars. We went across the ferry to Kinderdijk, a small ordinary Dutch village until we cycled about 1km, when all of a sudden we were in the middle of about 18 windmills, a cafe, a large souvenir shop, lots of coaches and lots of people (mainly Japanese). We stopped for a coffee and then cycled on through the windmills, which really were impressive, dodging all of the people until we stopped for lunch at a picnic area.







After lunch we cycled on to Papendrecnt with the intention of cycling across a river bridge to Dordrecht. We then saw a sign to Dordrecht via ferry, which was 3km shorter than our cycle route - plan changed! This ferry was a very small foot ferry with just enough room for pedal cycles.


We cycled several times around Dordrecht and then decided to cycle to Willemsdorp, about 8 miles outside Dordrecht. We phoned the campsite and they said they could accept us up to 10pm. We arrived there about 7:00pm. This had been a very long, but enjoyable day. The campsite had lots of facilities, but we were only staying short term, and we were given a small threadbare pitch near the motorway.

Natalie and Daphne went for a shower, but somehow in the 50 yards on the way back to the tent, Natalie got lost, and it took half an hour to find her. Nick found her upset but safe at the other end of the campsite, a great relief to all.

Total mileage for the day: 35.7 miles.


Tuesday 18th August 1992

The weather was dry but cloudy. The dome tent is showing distinct signs of wear - it has split along the bottom at the back. We have managed to buy some strong sticky tape, but don’t know how long our repair will last. There is no launderette at this campsite and we have decided to move on again, hopefully to somewhere we can stop for a day or two. We have been on the road for two weeks.

We packed up & moved off at 10:30am, immediately crossing a large motorway bridge which went over a large, wide, river “Hollands Diep”.

Having crossed the river, or inland sea, we decided to follow the motorway to really crack on. We do not know how far we will get but we want to get past Roosendaal. The weather gets better and we keep going at quite a pace. We arrived on the outskirts of Bergan Op Zoom in the early afternoon. The weather is sunny and after going past a large Canadian war cemetery we find signs for the campsite we are looking for.

The campsite is very pleasant, with new washing up and washing facilities, and there is hot water on tap. Also on site is a good play area and swimming pool, and a Launderette (a real luxury!). The campsite is set in woodland and the launderette is through the wood.

In the evening we went for a long walk in the woods to a sandy lake.

Total mileage for the day: 27.2 miles.


Wednesday 19th August 1992

We were woken, not too early, by the sound of a minibus reversing and a taped voice “Caution, vehicle reversing”. On investigation we found that the youth of Manchester were camped next door.

We are having an easy day today. We go into Bergan Op Zoom itself and after a short detour around a business estate we find the main town, and spend a small fortune on bike bits in a wonderful bike shop. On the way back we have our lunch in a very pleasant park. The weather is warm so having gathered our shopping we find our way back to the campsite for a swim.


In the evening we again go for a walk through the woods, and end up at the same cafe for a plate of chips and a drink.

A pleasant easy day.

Total mileage for the day: 9.1 miles.


Thursday 20th August 1992


Yesterday was such a lovely day we decided to stay and go across the border into Belgium today. We awoke to rain and more rain. As the day progressed it got worse and we all played Sorry, Scrabble, Cards and then Nick told us a potted version of The Hobbit. Daphne went off to the Laundrette to get the washing bang up to date. We revised our plans. The plan is now to go for a short ride when the rain stops! But it didn’t! Just after lunch we went to the shop for some light relief but Daphne got stung by a wasp on the back, it had flown up under her T shirt. The rain finally stopped at 6pm. We cycled into Bergan Op Zoom for an evening meal. We find a nice restuarant with a covered veranda. After sitting for a few minutes overlooking the square, guess what? it rained, not just a bit, we had a full blown thunderstorm. We had to abandon the veranda when it let the rain in. We had a lovely meal of Weiner Schnizel (the spelling may not be right!). The rain stopped to allow us to cycle back to the camp site. This really has been the worst day for weather, we really could not get out.
Total mileage for the day: 6.1 miles. We are hoping for better weather tomorrow.


Friday 21st August 1992

What a change! The weather is warm and dry and sunny. Unfortunately we must move on as we have been warned that we may not get a campsite in Zeeland so we must move towards Vlissingham. We are getting good at packing and we can now pack in three quarters of an hour from tents up to fully packed bikes ready to leave. We stayed at De Nolle Camp site near Vlissingen. This was a very long way but we followed the cycle route along the main roads and it was well marked.
Total for the day: 52.2 miles and we cycled at an over all speed of 6.3 miles an hour.



Saturday 22nd August 1992

A rest day today and the only trip of note was to Macdonalds at Middleburg.

Sunday 23rd August 1992

Our last day in Holland today and we got ready for the ferry tomorrow daytime to arrive in Sheerness tomorrow evening. We did last minute present shopping today ready for the ferry tomorrow.
No mileage today.

Monday 24th August 1992

Early start to catch the ferry today, as always we were put on the ferry first which meant we were out of the way of the cars. Uneventful crossing, we went to the cinema on the ferry, cant remember what we saw but Robert and Natalie enjoyed it. It was soon time to get off the ferry and Molly and John, Gran and Grandad met us and took all our luggage to the campsite. I did not know that there were hills on Sheppey but there certainly are and our camp site for the night was at the top. We had fish and Chips with Gran and Grandad and they took any luggage we did not need to carry home the next day, dirty washing for a start!
Mileage for the day: 10 miles.

Tuesday 25th August 1992

We got up and packed for the last time. Not so much to pack today. We left and were back home by mid afternoon.
Mileage for the day: 39.01 miles at an average speed of 5.2 miles and hour. We are certainly getting fitter on the bikes and Robert and Natalie have really started to make a difference with their pedalling. Especially Natalie, who sometimes pedals forwards now!

The mileage on this holiday with two small children was 466 miles over 20 days. Bet that not many children of 6 and 8 do that sort of mileage and cycle camp as well.