Katwijk is a seaside town with lots of seaside and not a lot else. Its main claim to fame is its wonderful sluices. This is a bit like Luton having nothing else to shout about other than being ‘conveniently situated next to the M1 motorway’.
However, they are very impressive sluices and they were by far and away the best sluices I’d seen that day.
You may be wondering what a sluice is.
A lot of agricultural Holland lies on reclaimed land at sea-level or even lower. Therefore the flat fields of Holland have always been at risk of flooding, and the last thing you want are soggy tulips. Hence the fields are surrounded by dykes and canals in a big drainage network. This is cleverly configured so that the dykes eventually evacuate themselves into the sea at Katwijk, via the sluice gates.
This explains why the beach at Katwijk is a vibrant shade of green. This is because it is covered in freshwater duckweed that has come from the inland dykes, gone out to sea via the sluices and then been washed back onto the beach by the tide. Still, it makes a seaside change from the used sanitary products, plastic waste and sewerage you get in the UK (see Brown Planet 2).
So, whatever falls into the dykes of Holland eventually exits the drainage network via the Katwijk sluices. This waterborne detritus mostly drifts off into the North Sea. Although some of it can’t quite break its birthing bond with Holland, like the duckweed, and it makes its way back onto the beach at high-tide. Therefore, Katwijk makes for very interesting beach-combing because as well as the usual sea-shells and driftwood you’re just as likely to come across old clogs and dead hedgehogs.
Consequently, in performing its role as the exit point for all the unwanted solids that the country wishes to expel, Katwijk effectively acts as ‘The Anus of Holland’. I’m surprised their tourist board doesn’t have it on the road-sign as you drive in.
There are a few cafes and beach huts at Katwijk and, like the rest of Holland in the summer, there’s plenty of clouds and rain. It also has strong sea breezes which attract the wind and kite surfing fraternities. These people are quite impressive to watch, especially the kite-surfers. That is until you realise that they are actually pupils at a kite-surfing school, and they have bugger-all control over their huge kites.
As they are uncontrollably dragged along the surf by the wind, at very high speeds, their kites come perilously close to those English holidaymakers that may be enjoying a bit of interesting beach-combing with their children. With two-hundred pound breaking-strain lines pulled cheesewire-taut by a kite in a force-seven gale and only a half-witted amateur on the other end, the beach started to have a certain element of airborne danger about it. The word ‘Dunkirk’ sprang to mind.
Indeed the kite-surfing, rather than the sluices, may explain the large number of severed heads my kids found on the beach.
See more of Johnny’s factually incorrect musings on The Netherlands by clicking here.