So Friday 22nd September saw our first excursion as part of the minor in Sustainable Island Management. We had a preparation lecture a week or so before, learning all about the Wadden Islands off the coast of the Netherlands. The five islands sit in the Wadden Sea, which actually extends up past Germany and Denmark, the Dutch area includes Ameland, Terschellig, Schiermonikoog, Vlieland and Texel. The Wadden Sea is a UNESCO world heritage site, created relatively recently around 7,000 years ago post glaciers, and harbours a stunning landscape featuring 10,000 plant and animal species living amongst the sand dunes, mud flats, salt marshes and sea.
So we woke up fresh as a daisy at half 6 after a lovely long night sleep that definitely did not involve drinking beer at an Oktoberfest party, ready to get on our bikes and cycle to the bus station. We met a few of our classmates there and we all got on the bus to the ferry together. The journey was met with lots of ooh’s and aah’s at the windmills and sheep and LOTS of ‘I just can’t get over how flat it is!?’ much to our Dutch classmates amusement.
At the ferry terminal we met up with those in the class who had travelled from places other that Leeuwarden and our lecturer who would be leading the excursion, bought our tickets and boarded the boat. Whilst on board we had a debrief about the day, what to expect and what we should look out for, and had a little look at a map of the island.
We stepped on to the island and started on our trek through the National Park. We stopped at a few places on the way to lunch to discuss the various species which were growing in the harsh conditions of the salt marshes and discuss the various land uses.
After lunch was when the trip got really …interesting. We were aiming for the beach and the lecturer offered a vote: the path, or a cross country adventure. The vote for adventure was unanimous and so off we went, in the direction of ‘north’.
It didn’t take long for us to realise we had made a pretty huge mistake, the muddy squelchy ground started to become less ground and more water and we started to realise why the dutch have built so many dykes.
Soon we were wading through water above our knees and grasses above our heads, jeans, trainers and all absorbing the smelly swampy mess. What began as carefully jumping from one dry looking patch of ground to the next had quickly become ‘lets make a run for it’ to the highest ground we could see where we would regroup and decide where to head for next.
Forty minutes of walking, wading and near enough swimming , we finally made it to the beach and what a reward it was, but one thought over ruled them all, ‘It’s just so flat?!’ (are you seeing a trend here?) All that was left to do was release our inner SAMS student and run straight in to the sea, well we were smelly and muddy anyway, a bit of salt water wasn’t going to hurt was it?
After a paddle and catching some instas we strolled along the beach, met up with our lecturer and stopped for wee chat about some of the species on the beach and the history of whaling on the islands. We also heard all about the special shells found here which if given away, will cause the receiver to love you for ever more, causing everyone to spend the rest of the walk with eyes to the sand on the hunt for their very own cupid shell.
A wee walk further and we finally got to sit down for a drink, graciously paid for by the lecturer, who declared the excursion officially over. We trudged in our sopping wet shoes all the way back to the terminal, hopped on the ferry and got the bus back home to our warm welcoming beds. Oh and we were greeted with finally having WiFi installed in our flat!
Hope you are still enjoying our adventures,
Ivy and Danielle