Schnackenburg – A special place on the elbe

Last week we enjoyed our annual trip to Germany with Will’s family visiting our family friend Margaret.

Margaret lives in a tiny village called Schnackenburg in Lower Saxony which is just under 3 hrs north west of Berlin. This means a flight to Berlin from Bristol then a drive up to Schnackenburg navigating the infamous autobahns. Nothing quite beats driving on the wrong side of the road and being immediately thrust into busy traffic then finding the road you need is closed to start a relaxing holiday!

Margaret is 95 next week and she has the most incredible story…. Margaret was working in the Land Army in Tresillian with Will’s Grandmother. While there she met and subsequently fell in love with Adolf one of the captured prisoners of war. When the war ended Margaret and Adolf married then moved back to Germany. I just can’t imagine what this must have been like for her. After a time they moved to the UK and worked in London. Adolf for Sainsburys and Margaret worked as a translator. Then on retirement they moved back to Schnackenburg to the house she still lives in. She is quite frankly a force of nature with the sharpest of minds, brilliant memory and a dry sense of humour!

Schnackenburg has had a very interesting past as it is located on the banks of the Elbe and from 1945 to 1990 it served as a West German inner border crossing for inland navigation on the Elbe. The crossing was open for vessels travelling from Czechoslovakia to the British zone of occupation. Will and his family have holidayed there for many many years and Will can vividly remember the fences and armed guards. Something that to me with fresh eyes seems so unimaginable as you look out over the harbour and river to such a peaceful view which is teaming with wildlife.

The five days were filled with cycling, this year the bike hire shop has upgraded to Ebikes, I seem to remember us all mumbling about oh it’s so flat who ever needs an Ebike? Roll on a couple of days and many miles cycled everyone turned them on and oh wow what a difference, we were zipping along with no effort. Except for the poor old mini farmers who just had to move those little legs!

We stay in a guesthouse in Gartow, the neighbouring town. Which is situated on the banks of a huge lake with a man made beach. There was plenty of swimming and playing sharks. In Gartow the highlight of the holiday has to be visiting the ‘toy shop’, well when I say toy shop it seems to sell everything under the sun from sieves to pens and underpants to plumbing supplies! It is definitely a German experience but Charlie and Flora absolutely love it!

Charlie also has to make a daily pilgrimage to the bakery and he likes to work his way through all the options. He couldn’t decide which his favourite was, it was a tie between the apple pie and the ‘butterkuchen’ which is a butter cake made with yeast which gives it a super fluffy texture. The cake is sold in a large slab and is topped with crunchy granulated sugar. Poor old Flora and her gluten intolerance was such a champ with all this bakery activity, we were so lucky as the supermarket stocked a brilliant selection of gluten free goodies. She loved the brioche rolls so much I stocked up our hand luggage before heading home!

We are such farmers and of course always have our eyes peeled for agricultural activity. Charlie got very excited on the drive from Berlin when we saw three combines working at night in one field with a fleet of tractors and trailers carrying grain. The weather had been very wet a few weeks ago which meant the harvest was a couple of weeks behind, usually when we go everything is all done. Where we stay there is an awful lot of arable farming but not much in the way of animals except for a beautiful herd of Charolais cattle which we have to slow down and look at every time we drive past.

Everytime we visit I am just blown away by the wildlife as the whole area is just teaming with birds and insects. The sound of the birds in the trees just outside our window was equally deafening and joyous. The tree was absolutely full of little birds – I’m ashamed to say I don’t know what they were. I needed my Dad who is a birding encyclopaedia and I would very much liked to have used his binoculars! We were also so lucky to see a couple of storks. In the village there are several stork nests on peoples roofs and special stalk nest platforms high up on poles. It makes you realise how much wild life is missing in the UK and how important our work on the farm to restore the insect life through our regenerative practices and species rich grasslands.

We are home now and all is well on the farm thanks to Kenny who has been in charge. This week we are back to ‘beefing’ and normal service resumes at Treway!