Holland: 22 May 1969

A lovely morning – mist soon clearing to bright sunshine. Spent a very comfortable night in the tent, the bed is far better than that in the caravan, which wasn’t long enough for me let alone David. Tent is quite well organised and reasonably tidy to, so we feel quite snug.

Went into Dinant and bought guy ropes etc. and food, then set off for the caves at Han. Road winds through the Ardennes – parts are still cobbled, and is tree-lined for a lot of the way. Very green countryside, mainly dairy farming, and well wooded hills, partly afforested and partly natural woodland. Villages are grey  stone, with some tremendous farms, more like fortified citadels, presenting great blank walls to the outside and built around a courtyard,muck heap in the middle and farm house incorporated into the farm buildings. Cheerful road signs everywhere giving numbers of killed, wounded etc. Each village has a sign ‘pour nos enfants, roulez prudemment’ and general consciousness of road safety abounds. Roads have extremely straight stretches rolling away to the horizon, but surfaces not terribly good.

Picnicked by the side of the River Lesse in very hot weather and enjoyed pate and fresh bread, then drove on to Han. Arrived just in time to catch a tram for the Grottes – children very pleased at this bonus, and we rattled away in the woodlands. The caves are very impressive, increasing in size as you go into the hill, and successive levels of the River Lesse clearly visible. In winter the water level rises and a previous channel is used. Lots of stalactites, stalagmites and pillars, fantastic formations, and some fine crystal development. The biggest cave is over 100′ high and vast, with ‘Pluto’s throne’ upon one corner, – they extinguish the lights and a man runs down with a torch, showing how they first discovered and lit the cave. Very creepy. There is even a restaurant in one of the big caves- mostly hot drinks, just as well as it was distinctly clammy. I’d hate to work there. Various lakes, all looking very cold, and eventually we arrived at the River Lesse and got into a large flat rowing boat. (Shades of Charon and the Styx) and paddled to where the Lesse emerges at the foot of a high cliff. It was all fascinating, very glad we came, and the children lasted very well, it was a long session.

However, there was a lovely playground for the children near the exit; and they made full use of the slides, sand pit, paddling pool, etc. Gareth firmly refused to sit in the sand, he’s a proper softie.

Came back through Rochefort, buying strawberry and cherry tarts for tea, and spent a peaceful evening.

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