Flat fields of De Beemster
De Beemster: world heritage site with unique masterplan
From our editor Annette Schimmel
22-03-2006 The reclaimed land of the polder of De Beemster came into being at the beginning of the seventeenth century. The desire to invest capital in land, the need for agricultural land and country seats for the rich, and the will to win the battle against water were the primary reasons for draining the inland lake De Beemster. The typical Beemster landscape, with its straight-as-a-die land divisions coupled with its unusual conception make this a unique site. Inclusion on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites emphasises the value of this polder.
The reclaimed land of the polder De Beemster is situated in the province of Noord-Holland and lies roughly between the towns of Alkmaar, Edam and Hoorn. Beemster is an independant municipality whose edges are marked by the Beemsterringvaart, the canal which runs around the circumference of the polder. This canal also marks the outer limits of the world heritage site. The polder covers an area of more than 7,000 hectares.
A 'polder' is an area of land in which the water level is artificially regulated. In general the land lies below water level, and the water is pumped out into a system of surrounding ditches, canals, and drainage pools or resevoirs, from which it is carried out to sea by existing rivers and waterways.
A 'droogmakerij' refers to an area which was once an inland lake or pool, or maybe a very marshy area, and which has been made into land suitable for farming or inhabitation by means of the polder process.
Een kaart uit begin 17e eeuw van de onbedijkte Beemster (Foto, <a href="http://www.nationaalarchief.nl/" target="_blank">nationaalarchief.nl</a>).
In the beginning of the seventeenth century high sea tides and severe winds in the area to the north of the river IJ were responsible for erosion of the peat lands. At the same time, there arose the need for good-quality agricultural land. In 1607 the decision was made by the Hof van Holland to drain the Beemster lake. Amsterdam merchants and top officials provided the necessary funds, and Jan Adriaenszoon Leeghwater contributed to the building of the windmills. The masterplan provided for a tight geometric pattern of square land divisions.
Not a museum
De Beemster is quite definitely not a museum. People live and work there just as they do all over the Netherlands. Electricity pylons stride across the countryside, and the ubiquitous mini-roundabout can be spotted in the town of Middenbeemster. Yet the history of the landscape is always taken into consideration when changes are planned, thus ensuring that the harmony is not disrupted.
E-Mail this article.
Activities in De Beemster
World Heritage Sites worldwide
Last updated: 30-07-2015 - Date: 22-03-2006