|New Year's Eve 2004
We just couldn't stop ourselves. As we were staying only an hour and half's drive away from Drenthe, we had to go back for more. It was New Year's Eve: the only day of the year when the Dutch can legally use fireworks. Consequently, even during daylight hours, people were letting them off and everywhere we visited was accompanied by bangs, crackles and pops.
The weather was dreary: dove white skies and the air thick with light persistent cold rain. Not a trace remained of the snow from two days previously.
Using both Julian's The Megalithic European (TME) and Hans Meijer's website we devised another punishing schedule of sites to visit, mostly in the north of Drenthe, around Assen. A schedule sure to bore the hardiest of teenagers, but amazingly Cleo wanted to come with us again.
We started slightly to the south west of the main area where hunebedden exist today to 'mop up', as Moth put it, the two odd sites away from the rest.
D53 and D54 Havelteberg
Bang! Start with a good 'un if you can. D53 has nine capstones all up thanks to a post-war restoration and is the second biggest hunebed in the Netherlands. Amid sandy, heathery heathland away from the village this is a beast! With picnic tables and seats aplenty it's clearly THE local beauty spot, though today we had it more or less to ourselves. The rain made the stones glisten and they looked so gorgeous I was immediately frustrated that I wouldn't be able to sketch it with the drizzle coming down. D53 also has a capstoned portal, which is quite unusual. I felt so happy here! So happy that I ran the 50 metres or so up to D54, clearly visible on the rising dune further up the road. Another lovely site, this one with six capstones, all up. What a beautiful pair!
A nice little hunebed, five stones long, in a very rural setting. Today, the shelter from the drizzle afforded by the holly trees all around was very welcome.
D17 and D18 Rolde
Travelling north we came to the pleasant village of Rolde, home to D17 and 18. They lie at the edge of the village in parkland next to the church and graveyard. The two large monuments here are really impressive indeed. D18 is in much better condition than its twin, D17, with all its capstones up. D17 is quite a mess, but I found much more appealing.
Julian mentions Balloo in the text of TME as a real corker, but doesn't include it in the gazetteer so we had none of his helpful instructions to get us there. It looked so great on Hans Meijer's website we just couldn't miss it. We were on our own with only a crappy map, sporadic road signs and sheer determination to get us there. Balloo village straggled out in all directions but we finally picked up a sign and followed it. So here's how to get there:
Go to Balloo and follow the 'hunebed' signs. As you leave the final buildings of the village, stay on the main track where a muddier track forks right. You're on a track through a nature reserve. It says you're not mean to take vehicles down here, but nobody was about so we did anyway. After ¾km a cycle path forks left, but continue on and go right at the next T-junction. Go along this muddy track which meanders from side-to-side, for around another ¾ km. Turn right at the next junction. (We nearly gave up at this point!) Go up to the end of that bit and turn left at that T-junction. You'll probably see the monument 400ms to the left of the junction. With care, we drove it in thick mud in an ordinary family saloon car. You shouldn't need a 4W drive.
This one is well worth the effort. Remotely sited on the edge of nowhere, it has a glorious sense of peace and is in very good shape indeed. We thought it looked lean and slim and had an extraordinary grace to it. We all liked this one hugely.
Just out of the village not far from the railway line lies the remains of Loon hunebed. In the ploughed up parsnip field next to it they'd been muckspreading so the place stank, but the sweet sight of D15 soon filled our senses. This one still has lots of lovely kerbstones and you can clearly make out the rise of its original barrow. Moth found it particularly 'ace!'
Julian's instructions as to how to find this one are particularly good.
Ooh! In TME, Julian says he couldn't find this one, but we found it with ease. I always smile when I visit monuments in urban settings and this one didn't disappoint. With only two flat capstones balanced on five remaining uprights, it looks very like a mini-allee-couverte or a 'My Little Hunebed'. Nestling between tidy, small 1950s detached houses, and opposite a bus shelter, someone had used the monument as a convenient bike park. It had a plot of land all to itself and looked very comfortable with its current position.
Ah!! Leaving Drenthe province, we briefly entered Groningen province to find G1 just outside Noordlaren. Like D9 at Annen/Noordlo, there wasn't much left, but it was clearly once a mighty construction. Even the bit that remained was great though. Just two segments are left giving the impression of a double dolmen. It has phenomenal interior width spanning 2½ metres.
D3 and D4 Midlaren
These two hunebedden in a row are now both in such a sorry state. Squeezed end-to-end between the garden of a run down cottage and a crumbling, disused farm building, their massive stones have been knocked down and lie strewn about, hinting at what once was. They looked tired, almost dead, for practically all the capstones were knocked off their feet. But for all that, we found them curiously enchanting collapsed in their higgledy-piggledy semi-rural alleyway.
D6 lies within spitting distance of a busy level crossing, in a clearing on the outskirts of the village with trains roaring past. It's quite small – just three small capstones long. It feels quite complete though, rather than being a fragment of anything bigger, as it is nicely proportioned and still retains endstones.
Moth thought it was slightly disappointing, but I liked its neatness. As we could park on the road pretty much next to it, I sat in the car to make a sketch through the window out of the rain.
Julian doesn't mention D5 in TME, but we saw it marked on the map and happened to be passing close by the village. We thought we'd have a go at finding it, despite the fact that we were beginning to lose the light.
We drove to Zeijen and spotted a sign to the hunebed. We must have been one kilometre out of the village already so we turned back, thinking we might pick up another sign that we had missed. No luck. So I called in at the village bakkerij to ask directions. The woman behind the counter had been doing a roaring trade in oliebollen (a Dutch doughnut with sultanas in traditionally eaten on New Year's Eve) and was surprised to hear me ask 'Waar is het hunebed, alstublieft?' She wasn't fooled by my pathetic attempts in Dutch and gave me clear directions in English: 'Keep going at least one kilometre, you'll see the sign on your right.'
We did. And there it was. From the lane, it looked pretty disappointing, but as we approached we saw that actually it was sunken and still had plenty of barrow material around it, curvaceously moulded around the 3 smallish segments.
It was really getting quite gloomy and the drizzle continued unabated so we decided to crack on to take in one more, at Steenbergen, passing through the village of Norg en route. Norg kerk has the remnants of a monument just outside the front door, sandwiched between the main road and a car park. These small stones don't have a D number, but they were obviously part of something once. Cleo and I also spotted some other stones in the car park which had been tarmac'd around rather than be moved. Were they once part of this monument, too?
With the light almost gone, we really needed clear directions to get to Steenbergen before dark. I fouled up on the navigation and we went the wrong way. Then, just as we really needed shit-hot directions from Julian (as they had been most of the two days we'd used his instructions) he let us down. However, we found it. (just turn right when you get to the first T-junction in Steenbergen village and follow the lane round till you see the car park.) Just as we had started the day with a rip-roaring beauty, we ended it on a high. Steenbergen is marvellous. Up on a dune this lovely six-capstoned animal perches in the sand, complete with dinky dolmen-style portal. For some reason it had a single strand of barbed wire fence around it. Protection from what, we wondered? We just climbed under.
Like the prehistoric village where Cleo lives, 'Stanton' Harcourt, 'Steenbergen' also means 'stone town'.
Fifteen in a day! I broke my own record of 48 hours before! We returned to Zeist to drink champagne, eat oliebollen and watch the sky erupt with an explosion of firecrackers on the stroke of midnight. Gelukkig nieuw jaar!
Posted by Jane
2nd January 2005ce
Edited 24th November 2005ce
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