During one of the warmer weekends in early August, we took a day trip to the peninsula of Butjadingen, between the Jade and Weser estuaries. I’d been interested to go there for some time, as I was taken by the way it looks on maps, criss-crossed by thousands of small drainage canals. I assumed it would be very flat and hoped it would be reminiscent of the paintings of the Dutch masters.
We drove initially to Stollhamm, as I’d read that this was at the lowest point on Butjadingen. We visited the churchyard, and the memorial to the Franco-Prussian war. We also found a sign marking the position of the old Schweierfeld windmill, which was converted to use by diesel and shortly after went up in a dramatic ball of flames.
We found the village to be very pleasant, and browsed the estate agent’s window for possible properties we could buy there: not that we could ever envisage a time when we’d actually have enough money to put down a deposit. To the south of Stollhamm used to flow the Heete cut, until it was impoldered at the beginning of the 16th century.
Butjadingen formed during the middle ages after a series of storm tides created the Jade Estuary and separated it from the old gau of Rüstringen. After the Grote Mandrenke of 1362, Butjadingen was detached from the mainland, and remained an island until the 16th century, when the lost land was regained through the building of dykes.
Posters around the village led us to the regatta at Fedderwardersiel. Here we enjoyed the food sold from trucks around the harbour but found the event a little too hectic. We wandered on to the pastures on the other side of the dyke.
Toward the tip of the peninsula, there was a lot of activity building, or rather reinforcing, the dyke. To the east, across the Weser, the port of Bremerhaven was clear on the horizon.
Walking among the sheep, I wondered why lamb is so scarce in butchers’ and particularly supermarkets, when there is such a profusion of the animals grazing on the region’s salt marshes.
It took only about 15 minutes to drive across to the North Sea bathing resort of Tossens, which is known mainly as the location of the “Nordseeküste” Center Parcs. It was, of course, high season, and the seaside area was packed with holidaymakers. A large sandy area had been created to mimic a beach, and from the concrete embankments, stairs led into the sea.
The tide was high, and there were a fair few people in the water. From this side of the peninsula, we looked across the Jade Estuary – where used to be the land joining Butjadingen with the rest of Rüstringen – and could see the familiar skyline of Wilhelmhaven and its new deep-sea port.