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An Australian resident of the Netherlands on the magic of the wild and sparsely populated island of Vlieland in the north of the country. Words and photographs by Matthew Harris.
Vlieland is my favourite place in the Netherlands. An island of sand in the far north of the country, it offers peace and tranquility. There, I am at one, alone, with the elements.
The road to the west stops half way down the island. That is where the expanse of sand starts, and where the people stop. An amazing wide, white beach, punctuated by sandhills in the interior, rising from the sand expanse, covered with reedy grass and home to huge colonies of birds.
The expanse is a military area that is open to all on the weekends. A military tower, checkered in yellow and black, watches over the entrance to the sandy plains. Behind the tower, hidden behind the first sandhills are dilapidated tanks: they are now little more than a brittle cocoon of rust. Dotted over the plains are watch towers and little wooden huts that are military targets.
At the far end of the island is the ‘reddingshuis’: a white hut perched on high stilts, fenced off by logs and buoys and anything that has been washed up in the tide. Around it are vast plains of sandy nothingness. On the opposite side of the sand flat, at the end of the island, is a wooden jetty, extending across the sand, and three metres above it, out to the sea.
On the sand flat I feel alone. It is peaceful, it is vast, it is beautiful, and I am there in the middle of it. No one comes here. No one walks more than 500 metres from the road. The tide comes in and the tide goes out. Parts can be boggy or firm. It can be still, or there can be a howling wind. Nicest is the weather like today. A clear sky, and the sands lit by the golden orb in the sky. You can see for miles. And all you see is sand. A dot on the horizon is a target. Another dot on the horizon is the hut. Another is a watch tower. But they are all far away. In between is sand. Silence. And no one.
The morning light makes everything different. On my morning run, I saw the sun rise behind the sand dunes. The air is crisp with a hint of moisture and dew. Vlieland is beautiful whenever you look at it.
You can read more about Matthew’s travels and see more of his photography at his blog, http://lambchopeindhoven.wordpress.com