Paul and Marjo Tienkamp’s son makes no bones about calling his parents ‘hippies’ these days. A city lawyer himself, he’s watched them hang up their suits in favour of beads, beards, shorts and sandals, to join a clutch of environmental groups and run an art gallery and campsite in the grassy flatlands of Drenthe.
The campsite offers 38 pitches spread over a Kermit-green lawn interspersed with fruit trees, shady oaks and berry-laden hedges. It’s the only carbon-neutral camping site in the Netherlands and the owners run it at a loss to make quite sure that it stays sustainable – such is their passion for all things environmental. However, luckily they refrain from hopping on soapboxes, waving green flags at campers or lecturing anybody about their carbon footprint. Theirs is a far more subtle demonstration of how to take care of the planet by taking small, simple steps that don’t cost the earth – a quiet conviction that enhances the calm, unspoiled nature of this camping retreat.
As well as generating electricity with solar panels, they’ve implemented the more wallet-friendly step of using low-watt LED bulbs, one of which was purchased a whopping 25 years ago and is still glowing strong. They have also planted 12 walnut trees in both the sheep paddock and the garden. A true symbol of sustainability, walnut trees live for 250 years plus, sucking in oodles of CO2, producing tasty nuts and providing shiny, durable furniture wood along the way.
Running the campsite and gallery may now be a far cry from his former life as an ICT project manager, but this is definitely the hippified life for Paul, and many happy campers return year after year to enjoy his campsite’s serenity, its philosophy and simple views of green and ochre fields. A dyke playing home to ducks separates the camping lawn from next-door’s field, with its lazy grazing Friesians.
When the sun comes out campers sunbathe on the clover-carpeted grass and enjoy afternoon snoozes beneath shading boughs. If all you can hear are the sounds of the breeze rustling through the leaves or the spluttery coughs of a nearby tractor, you can feel your city stresses evaporating as quickly as the morning dew.
A small children’s play area keeps kids happy when they’re not off on family days cycling, fruit-picking and sightseeing around the pleasant countryside. And there’s a computer for anyone in need of a cyber fix.
If you are an art-lover, art of all kinds is on show everywhere at Thyencamp, both indoors and out. Funky sculptures keep you company on the picnic tables whilst you munch your lunch and bird statues in the garden add an eccentric but graceful presence. Inside, gorgeous paintings adorn corridor walls and special exhibitions brighten up both attic space and recreation hall. What better place to retreat from the evening chill and enjoy a glass of organic beer? And in the mornings the air is thick with the delicious aroma of fresh-baked bread from the local bakery. All you do is place an order in the evening and Paul collects the precious doughy cargo in his hybrid, low energy consuming car the next day.
In the midst of a slow-paced country life in Drenthe, where cyclists outnumber motorists, Camping Thyencamp epitomises the laid-back, ecologically striving and charming Dutch outlook that makes the Netherlands a truly refreshing holiday destination. It would be hippy-critical not to give it a hearty seal of approval.
FacilitiesLovely, pristine, bathrooms (well-stocked with loo rolls and Ecover soap) comprising 2 toilets and 2 showers each for men and women, inside the main house. Washing (€3) and drying (€2) machines are available. Fair trade eco drinks and locally produced eco ice creams are sold at reception. There are also 2 recreation rooms and a small children’s playing area. The wooden eco-lodges are solar-panelled, well-insulated and lit with LED lamps throughout and come complete with kitchenette (with low energy consuming appliances) dining area, porch and canopy.
Tents, trailer tents, caravans, campervans – yes. Dogs – by prior arrangement and must be on the leads at all times.
NearbyHire bikes or get into your walking boots to enjoy Drenthe’s flat, beautiful scenery. Near to the campsite you can explore Hijkerveld, the old Celtic fields in the region. The walks vary from 3 to 9 miles (5 to 15 km) long. Indulge in some fruit, freshly picked from local trees and vines.
Food & Drink
Hooghalen’s bakery, Fledderus, is a gold mine of tasty treats and is a must for all campers. Fresh bread, rolls, pastries, cakes and scrummy ice cream flavours flow in abundance in this cosy place, with its sunny outdoor terrace.
Mid-April – September.
Contact Thyencamp, Natuurkampeerterrein en Galerie Thyencamp Laaghalerveen 23 9414VH Hooghalen
From Amsterdam, take the A1 towards Almere/Amersfoort. Change to the A28 to Zwolle at exit 14. Keep on the A28 towards Assen, passing Hoogeveen until you see signs for Smilde and Hooghalen. Turn off the highway and drive through Hooghalen along Laaghalerveen for about 11⁄2 miles (2.5 km) and you’ll see a sign for Thyencamp to the right. The site is about a third of a mile (0.5 km) up the road.
Buses just don’t get this far into the countryside. The best bet is to take a train to Assen. Paul or Marjo will kindly collect you from the train station if you organise it in advance.
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