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October 29 , 2010

Peeps At Many Lands: Belgium


THE SANDS OPPOSITE ENGLAND If you leave the mouth of the Thames, or the white chalk cliffs at Dover, and sail over the water just where the English Channel meets the North Sea, you will in about three or four hours see before you a long expanse of yellow sand, and rising behind it a low ridge of sandhills, which look in the distance like a range of baby mountains. These sandhills are called "dunes." Here and there at intervals you will see a number of little towns, each town standing by itself on the shore, and separated from its neighbour by a row of dunes and a stretch of sand. This is your first view of the little country called Belgium, which is bounded on the east by Holland, and on the west by France. It is, from end to end, about half the size of Ireland. There are no cliffs or rocks, no shingle or stones covered with seaweed. There are no trees. It is all bare sand, with moss and rushes on the higher ground above the beach. In winter the wind rages with terrific violence along the coast. The sand is blown in all directions, and the waves dash fiercely on the shore. It is cold and stormy, with mist and dark clouds, and sometimes violent showers of hail. But in summer all is changed. Often, week after week, the waves roll gently in, and break in ripples on the beach. The sky is blue, and the sands are warm. It is the best place in the world for digging and building castles. There are very few shells to gather; but there are no dangerous rocks or slippery places, and children can wade about and play in perfect safety. So many families—Belgians, English, Germans, and a few French—spend the summer holidays there. Hundreds of years ago the storms of winter used to drive the waves ashore with such violence that the land was flooded, and whole villages were sometimes swept away. So the people made ramparts of earth to keep back the water, till by degrees many parts of the Belgian shore were thus protected. They still continue to build defences against the sea; but instead of earth they now use brick and stone. It looks as if in a few years the whole coast will be lined by these sea-fronts, which are called digues de mer
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