Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Cycle Twinning

Keeping alive the tradition of twin towns, 14 members of Hastings Urban Bikes (HUB) journeyed to The Netherlands for a long weekend between September 14 to 18 where they were welcomed and accommodated by members of the Dordrecht Touring Club de Mol. Richard Hull went along for the ride (and the Dutch beer).

Keen readers of Hastings Online Times will recall the memorable visit by the Dordrecht Touring Club (DTC) back in May this year, excellently reported here by DTC’s Theo Rutten. So this was our return visit – that’s what twinning is all about, I believe, sharing each other’s culture and hospitality. We shared Jack-in-the-Green, a céilidh, Pevensey Bay and Dungeness; they shared the Polders (the areas below sea level), many old windmills, delightful Dutch architecture, but most importantly the incredibly well developed infrastructure and consideration for cycling and cyclists. All of the HUB members remarked that it was an absolute joy to be able to cycle without the usual fears and obstructions we experience in the UK.

The journey to The Netherlands, superbly organised by HUB’s Bernie Goldman, took us by train to Harwich and overnight ferry to Hook of Holland. Greeted by DTC’s Cees Bakker and Theo Rutten, who led us on the 40-mile ride to Dordrecht, we firstly rode  alongside the awesome Nieuwe Maas river teeming with commercial barge traffic and then to Vlaardingen for a coffee stop where we met up with some other DTC members whilst a few of us sampled the excellent raw salted herring known as the Dutch sushi.

The Beneluxfietstunnel

From there we rode under the river via the Beneluxfietstunnel, a bicycle-only tunnel, to the small town of Rhoon for lunch. Fully refreshed and sated we made somewhat more leisurely progress to Dordrecht where small groups of us split off to our hosts’ accommodation; I was immensely fortunate to be hosted in a superb third-floor flat beside one of the most picturesque quays in Dordrecht.

Hub's Bernie Goldman presenting The Bell to DTC's Cees Bakker. Photo Pippa Cork

The evening’s cultural exchange began with a literal exchange: in May DTC had presented HUB with a wonderful framed club-shirt and our reply truly embodied the humour of Hastings and St Leonards. First donning large false sideburns in tribute to Bradley Wiggins (Google him) we then presented our hosts with a very large and sparkling bicycle bell mounted in granite, recalling a comment made in May that DTC’s professional-standard bicycles probably weighed less than one of our bike bells.

Sunday’s ride, led gently by Cees in acknowledgement of the wide range of HUB members’ preferred speeds, took us firstly for a guided tour of Dordrecht’s medieval landmarks and then by waterbus to Alblasserdam – again it was noticeable how all forms of Dutch public transport are fully geared to cyclists, the waterbus having a substantial number of bike-racks.

Riding in Kinderdijk. Photo Jan Kortelund

On the ride through the Kinderdijkse Polders I was struck by the unusual combination of suburban, rural and water: houses nestled together suburban-style, narrow water channels ran everywhere and slotted between houses and water lay a myriad of intensively cultivated small-holdings. They certainly make the most of their land in The Netherlands.

Members of HUB and DTC on a bridge in Kinderdijke

With Monday came our return to The Hook but by diverse means as we split into three groups: one guided somewhat perilously by bike-mounted satnav; another guided by map and instinct via the towns of Gouda and Delft; whilst the third group took advantage of the excellent cyclists’ facilities on the Dutch railway system in order to maximise their shopping time in Delft. On Tuesday myself and two others decided to forego the delights of the Harwich-London railway and attempted to cycle to London Bridge station – but the badlands of Essex got the better of us so we returned to rail somewhere near Brentwood.

All in all, an absolutely spiffing trip.

To join Hastings Urban Bikes visit their website or email

The Bell, photo by Jan Kortelund

Posted 19:30 Saturday, Sep 22, 2012 In: Green Times

Also in: Green Times

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