The Vechte hike has started step by step and I hope in the hearts of the people too. Darfeld > Schöppingen.

My walk along the 170km river Vechte has began today with people living next to the source, the mayor of Rosendahl/Darfeld, someone from Kreis Coesfeld two people from the Ministry of Environment of Bundesland NordRheinWestfalen, media, fishermen, and Ruimte voor de Vecht. Mostly we discovered very beautiful parts of the river, sometimes it was painful to see how roads were build on the river, or to already see pollution in the river. The man who lives next to the source and who is farmer (77) remembers he drank from the source, but doesn’t do this nowadays anymore. Another man Clemens, who grew up along the Vechte (84), walked 10 out of my total of 17,5km today and told many stories while showing me the small side rivers flowing into the mainstream. Together with the 60 years old fisher association who connect with all 5000 fisher along the Vechte, we had an intruiging evening conversation how a drinkable Vechte can be realised.

Day 1

Meet the sources of Vecht river!

A rainfed river in Darfeld, Germany and at her other sources:
1. Oberdarfeld, at an ‘altitude’ of 106 meters start of the Vecht, also with the name the Rockeler Bach, next to farmhouse hoeve Bertmaring Vechtequellen, Water bubbling up from the calcareous soil
2. In the water surrounding the private Schloß Darfeld
3. In pelgrims village Eggerode, at the confluence of two streams (the Rockeler and the Burloër Bach) now bearing the name Vechte
4. In Schöppingen, a source feeding the Vechte from under the old Hallenkirche

And we discovered it’s the source area of many more sources: Berkel, Dinkel, Sieben, Leerbach and many more… Filmmakers came to visit to make a video to announce the walk that starts tomorrow…! Now after a full day of visiting sources with 25 degrees, time for a cold beer, yes not yet a fresh cup from the Vechte. But who knows, if everyone starts to want this, I am convinced it’s possible. THANK YOU Vechte!

Day 2 | 30°C | 20km

The Vechte is there, the green snake of trees. From the hot roadie, I’m longing for the shade the river has. It feels like making a bow of respect not to be able to be near the river as she is surrounded by a small stretch of wild trees.

My highlight today was seeing, at least fifty dragonflies dancing above the Vechte’s water surface. So magical!

This morning, I walked with Marcel and Hubert, both fishermen and Hubert is a farmer. I met with the Vechte mayor of Metelen. And my hosts Heinrich and Elisabeth from Wettringen came to find me along my route near Haus Wellbergen (wasserschloss) from Jordaan-Heek couple.

Out of the many pictures I take of the different faces of the Vechte and the meetings I have, this is only a small selection.

Day 3 | 33°C | 25km

Wettringen to Quendorf

So honoured that this mayfly, Eintagsflieg, eendagsvlieg ‘walked’ a few kilometers with me. At another place, I said ‘this looks like a good spot to see kingfishers’ and a few seconds after that we could watch the kingfisher (Eisfogel, ijsvogel) for a few minutes. Magical again! We also saw red deer. Enjoying the presence of these wild creatures showing themselves to me.

It was a very long day, nonstop from 9-18h00 and very hot day and I got my first blister… A little detour to see the confluence of Steinfurter Aa with the Vechte. Meeting the mayor of Wettringen and of Ohne. Only one longer stop where we sat down at a pig farm: Bentheimer Landschweine Dukes of Berkshire where they went from 10k to 2k pigs and opened the building. Interesting interactions with the appointments we made. About dams, fish passages, renaturalising and remeandering of river banks and many other topics. No spontaneous interactions though, most people were hiding from the sun, celebrating birthdays and other festivities.

Day 4 | 28-30°C | 25km

Schuttdorf/Quensdorf to Nordhorn Citizen science with 20 nine year old, what a joy! With ‘Land’ NLWKN Josef and BUND Walter we saw how intensive farming areas turned to extensive farming and renaturalised river banks with wetlands and potentially with wetland forests (Auenwald). The entire day Dr. Kiehl from Landskreis and Swiss filmmaker Barbara joined me, so enjoyed the constant shared conversation and support. From the protected area Tillenberge, ranger Sylvio joined us and we witnessed an amazing dragonfly (will find out which one and share tomorrow). Then from municipality Nordhorn Gerwin joined us for the last stretch. Tired as it’s now almost midnight after entered our measurement and cleaned the toolkit will soon head to bed. Wish to join our citizen science programme? Sign up now, via our website!

Day 5 | 27°C | 16,5km

Nordhorn to Neuenhaus The dragonfly we witnessed on day 4 was a Libellula fulva (Bruine Korenbout). This day went very smooth with many. With a class of 15-year old, we monitored an old arm of the river Vechte in Tierpark Nordhorn. We had a lovely E-boattour around the city centre island of Nordhorn where people of Tierpark shared what educative boat tours they give to children of who lives in our water. We found the triangular mussels who clean water and larvae of dragonflies! We passed an outlet odca wastewater treatment plant. We visited a monastery along the Vechte. And very exciting with Sebastian from Landkreis and Josef from Land NLWKN we witnessed a 10 year old recovery to a thriving meander and another one by drone that is remeandered since 2 years. So good to see these regenerative examples stimulating many ecological functions and that the land and the river recover so swiftly if we let them! We will need to adapt our diets accordingly as well: what can we grow, where, how and how much? Then our water cycles are alive!

Day 6 | 25°C | 22km

Neuenhaus to Emlichheim/Oeveringen Today with a group of 21 13-year olds at the confluence of Dinkel with Vechte. We visited a recently restored meander or Vechte arm. Gemeinde (municipality) of Neuenhaus walked with me and helped for 8 out of the 22km with my heavy bag so that I didn’t need to carry it. A journalist visited us and filmed us. We picknicked at the confluence with the river Lee with Vechteverband while talking about how to guarantee water availability for the longterm future. The last stretch I walked along the Vechte on my own. Staying with a nice family who combine farming with teaching and live with three generations. Most of the food we ate came from their garden: the super fresh potatoes and salad. Just entered the measurements online and now super tired. Long days and very short nights…

Day 7 | 27°C | 12,5km

Emlichheim to Laar Most of the Vecht is behind me (I can feel it in my legs and hips), many faces of the river and her side rivers I now carry with me, and many conversations with the Vechte-people. Today I had breakfast at the 600-year old farm with homemade bread and a beautiful view of the trees along the Vechte. The whole day Rita Koester and Samtgemeinde Emlichheim supported me, who hosts me now as well (much gratitude!). We started a measurement with two different schools: the Gymnasium an der Vechte and the Edith Stein Realschule with children from 11-14 years old. We were next to a busy road, but despite that the children were focused and dedicated with helping out with the measurement. Unfortunately we found a lot of litter, cigarettes and many fast food packaging. One of the groups showed us their Plastic Pirate project. We underlined how everyone can take their step to take care of a trinkbare Vechte. The Naturschutz showed us a biotope modeling how the wetlands and ancient peatlands once looked like. The vision is to make this again a thriving dynamic living system. But for now it’s a small pond that needs to be maintained by clearing. I received a gift of a book (perfect for the backpack) with kind words from Ansgar Duling. Then accompanied by Lisette from waterboard Vechtstromen and Claus, we continued the winding path along the Vechte in the heat of the day. Glad to have my shoes off now, and backpack on the ground!

Day 8 | 5km

Grensmeander & bostheatre and Laar-Gramsbergen by boat (Saturday, tomorrow by foot)

Symbolically we added water now still tapwater in a large champagne glass to show our commitment for actions in the direction of a drinkable Vechte to hopefully be able to cheers with water from the Vechte in 30 years. By boat, the traditional Vechte zompe, we went from Laar Germany to Gramsbergen Netherlands. Like the river, without borders, a continuous flow symbolising the hopefully more intense collaboration that will be needed, upstream with downstream, side-rivers with mainstream, for a drinkable Vecht. This evening I returned back in Laar with literally a view of the Vechte in the garden of my hosts Arnold and Karin where we enjoyed witnessing a Stork hunting in a freshly cut grass field, a Robin feeding her nest, rabbits jumping around and young owls calling for their parents. Now barely with a voice left I briefly called with Maarten to wish him goodnight, my last night in Germany next to the Vechte. What a Vechtetaltag..! Thanks everyone who helped organising this: in particular Aline Hofstee-Koerselman and Ans Naber and all others from Ruimte voor de Vecht.

Day 9 | 28°C | 17km

Laar – Hardenberg (arrival in the Netherlands!) This is Dianthus deltoides, the maiden pink (Steen Anjer or Vecht Anjer) she is the symbol of the Vecht growing on sandy soils, native to the Vecht valley and now rarely found here. The last picture is the Veronica longifolia, garden speedwell (Lange Ereprijs) found on deserted river banks. We crossed the border after leaving Laar with a large group. Very special, to celebrate the crossing of the border on the one hand (as something very distinct) and on the other hand moving, collaborating and envisioning without borders as taught by the river. At the Grensmeander we learned the process of collaboration of remeandering the river here. On the German side is turned back into a riparian forest (ooibos/ Auenwald) on the Dutch side an open field without a tree (for backwater hazard (opstuwingsgevaar) in case of highwater). Wonderful examples of outdoor classrooms were shown. Along the way, it hurt me to see people were watering their fields and gardens in the bright sun when evaporation rates are highest… We witnessed the engineering work of the canal at the Haandrik crossing with the river Vecht. In Gramsbergen we passed the work-in-progress creation of a new river stream made to increase biodiversity. Very insightful conversations buzzed around. Two special people then joined for the next stretch. Lettemieke, a friend of almost 20 year friendship who came all the way from Mechelen and her mother who is now 86, the oldest companion until now. She joined us in Kampen along the IJssel 2 years ago as well, on another very hot day then almost 40 degrees. Jan van Hoek and forester Nico Arkes shared many joyful and informative local stories. What a joy to be able to do this and share this with so many people. The broad Vecht now hardly fits into my phonescreen.

Day 10 | 27°C | 23km

Boer Waterink, Loozensche Linie Hardenberg – Beerze boer Zandman A Vecht mayor, the mayor of Hardenberg, Maarten Offinga, came swimming in the Vecht river towards us to welcome me..! I was so surprised, what an intimate connection he makes with the river three times a week! He also envisioned Route29, in 29 parts of his municipality he walks through them to make connection with people and places. The whole day I was accompanied by a large and diverse group: people from the waterboard Vechtstromen (Stef, Alberta, Leon, Anke, Lisa) drinking water company Vitens (Hanneke), a farmer (Karolien), an artist (Mark), people living in Hardenberg (Jeanne and 2 friends), the mayor and alderman of Hardenberg, plant expert, guide, nature education center (Ans), river storyteller and podcast maker (Wim). The plant expert invited me to smell Lady’s bedstraw ( Galium verum ), delicious scent like summer and soap. As you can imagine, the different perspectives were very enriching for each of us.. After swimming in the Vecht, we had dinner this evening with eight farmers sharing very personal, touching and hopeful conversations.

Day 11 | 28°C | 23km

Beerze – Junne – Ommen – Vilsteren – Landgoed Hessum (Dalfsen) With group 5 and 6 of the Johan Seckelschool from Ommen: “Where does water come from”?, “Why do we call Earth earth and not Ocean or Sea?”, “It’s not water from Germany, it comes from the clouds and is from the world”, “I thanked water once, when I was very thirsty”. Children are so wise. What a joy to see them along the river banks. Some impressions: with farmer Chris Antuna from BioAkker showing his different fields with organic corn and rye in the Junners. Visiting citizen initiative Ommermars who turned intensive agriculture ground to a natural and recreational place where water is welcomed, birds return, diversity of plants thrive and children can play in 8 years time. We witnessed the Regge confluencing into the Vecht. We visited farmer Simone Koggel from Erve Vechtdal with her roundshaped barn and cow safaris. People from Vilsteren shared their identity as part of thec1060Ha Landgoed Vilsteren. And now heading to bed at Landgoed Hessum with the sound of….RAIN. Besides visting all these projects. People who had joined the walk: Hanneke from Staatsbosbeheer, Mark the artist from Amsterdam, Ellen from Vitens, Hugo from Staatsbosbeheer and Waterschap, Alberta from water authority Vechtstromen, and teacher Gerdine and organiser Aline.

Day 12 | little cooler, day after some rain, little breeze | perfect distance 15km

Landgoed Hessum (Ommen) to Boerhoes (Dalfsen)

On the longest day of the year, happy solstice everyone, I enjoyed the sunset with an evening walk together with my host, farmer Antje. Along the arm of the Vecht with birds flying and alarm calling above our heads. We just returned home from a beautiful water ceremony at Mam Oer Vecht Midzomer Water dank ceremonie with a large group we walked in silence, sang water songs, thanked and bless the water where we added the water of the source into the river. We ate delivious fresh beans from Antje’s garden that were peeled by Antje and photographer Johan. In Dalfsen we were warmly welcomed by alderman Jan Uitslag and later another aldermen followed with stories during the walk and lunch near a water fountain and by the mayor Erica van Lente at their village office and with the water ceremony. They showed us their upcoming plans about their Klimaatstraat collecting heavy rainwater feeding an arm of the river. In the morning we did our citizen science with group 6 from the Polhaar school in Dalfsen. A special start of the day was in a traditional boat, Vecht Zomp Dalfsen with captain Charlotte.

Also my host from yesterday night Maurits von Martels, upcoming deputy of Province Overijssel, aldermen from Ommen, Michael from Landschap Overijssel, and Frans-Willem from Veerhuis joined part of the walk today.

So many more impressions, sceneries and meeting, what an abundance..! Now is the end of the longest day of the year

Day 13 | Rain | A crow would fly today in 5mins, somehow I managed to take all day

Boerhoes (Dalfsen) – Vechterweerd – Broekhuizen (Dalfsen) – Berkumerkolk (Zwolle)

Meet Ed Anker, former alderman of Zwolle who asked me two years ago when walking the IJssel to also come and walk the Vecht. And now we’re doing it and are almost done!

In the morning, my host from yesterday night Antje “Boerhoes” brought me to Vitens and IVN where two different schools classes where experiencing water life, soil life and galloway cows. Sportvisserij Nederland explained to me how Vechterweerd is the door to the home of the Vechte for fish, they shared about Swimway Vecht with the vision to have connecting meandering arms for fish to migrate freely between source to sea and from sea to spawning grounds upstreams. If the house of the Vecht is good, fish will come and live here like: Cod-like fish Burbot (Lota lota) (kwabaal), Houting (Coregonus oxyrhinchus), Ide (Leuciscus idus or Winde) or Trout (Salmo trutta or zee of beekforel).

Others took pictures of an interesting meeting with Water authority WDOD with dijkgraaf Dirk-Siert Schoonman Waterschap Drents Overijsselse Delta , Gerrit-Pieter, Vitens, Mark from Nijhuis bouw (building) and alderman of Zwolle Gerdien Rots about how water and soil are the base of all our actions. Gerdien and I spent the whole afternoon together partly in the garden of my hosts of tonight Jetty and Hans, partly walking with Lisa from Zwolle, Rolf from WDOD strategy, two developers and Erwin from Tauw to share and synergise about plans, use and needs for landscapes. Rather than describing a history we were envisioning a future. Despite the short distance covered, many meaningful conversations held about many developments and needs here. And this continued with Jetty and Hans around the dinner table. It’s my last night with my Vecht host Buitenplaats De Broekhuizen. The letting go of the Vecht is starting.

Tomorrow will be my final day when I will reach the confluence. Just prior to that I will share my syntheses of all these evolutions of the Vecht, the conversations, insights and connections. Everyone welcome between 14:30-16:00 at Langeholte. What a journey..!

Day 14

THANK YOU dear river Vechte of being so intimate with you for all these days, for getting to know your many faces under the bright Sun. Thank you for connecting me to all these wonderful people and interesting conversations. Here reaching the mouth of the river, the confluence with Zwarte Water (pic1) and then flowing to Ketelmeer and IJsselmeer. Letting go off a chrystal here that witnessed our Water ritual last Summer Solstice and all the kms and conversations that followed, with all our wishes for a drinkable Vecht(e). In silence rowing the last stretch of the Vechte with Charlotte and Antoinette and Joop, my father in law and five other rowing boats and rowers from Zwolsche Roei- en Zeilvereeniging. The walk ended a little prior to that as we had reached the piece of land and river bank not accessible for people as it’s an area for birds and other wildlife. At the end of the stretch of land, I was welcomed by a beautiful group of our rich Vechte-family. I was so touched to see six hosts from Germany (from Schöppingen, Wettringen and Emlichheim…!). Our complete amazing and passionate organising team: Aline, Ans, Anne, Toine, Leone, Anna what an amazing work and journey we’ve been on together..!! People from our Drinkable Rivers team: Sandra, Maarten and Pepijn. Hosts and professionals in the NL from waterboards, foresters, fishermen, farmers, citizen initiatives, tourism, marketing and other people who had joined the walk or the Vechtdaldag. Nico and Jacobien shared their amazing music. Margo and her donkey Ravel had joined, she let me fill his bucket with Vecht Water, to see if he would drink it, but he didn’t. The Vecht is not healthy enough to drink. As a large family, we shared together a delicious locally provided lunch. This morning again we had done the citizen science with two classes. One of them being filmed by an Irish film crew for an international film (stay tuned!). In deep gratitude, I bow to you Vechte en to you dear Vechte-family. Such a richness, a privilege too large to take home, I share this now in return with the people in the Vecht valley, you all can now take the drinkable Vecht another step further along and closer to a drinkable Vechte.


Day after. With the film crew from Ireland (who also filmed me in New York and Canada in March for an international film on water, stay tuned…), we continued the day after. We returned to the last family Jetty and Hans who hosted me from the #Worteltuin and Buitenplaats De Broekhuizen in Dalfsen. We had a long interview in the sun and afterwards we all (sound man, camera man, director, fixer, literally everyone went into the Vechte to enjoy the refreshment (hopefully there was no spillover from the rain that fell Thursday evening…!) Also in Zwolle center we jumped into the canal! Feeling another gratitude to this film crew who will share the small steps I’m making, with the about 600 people I’ve met along the Vechte during this 246km and 14-days walk, with the world. Babysteps building on to eachother, step by step, continuously. Rippling out into the world. One of those ripples is now made by Wim Eikelboom, listen to his podcast Vechtverhalen (on spotify). On my way back, I couldn’t resist to pass by my nephews and make a third jump into the water with them, into the Amstel river this time and hug and play with Sam and Boaz…!