Water. It’s as much a part of the Netherlands as cheese and clogs. Today’s cycle tour ‘Deep (Water) Delft, Polder Dry’ takes us on an adventure through an exemplary landscape for a polder model.
Tourists visit the city for its historic town centre and the Delft Blue pottery. International students find their way to the technical university. Nevertheless, the city of around 100.000 inhabitants has a secret that few people know. Delft is famous for its water. Based in Delft, just opposite of the train station is the Unesco IHE. It is the largest international institute on water education and offers study and research facilities to people from all over the world. There couldn’t be a better place to start the cycle tour ‘Deep Delft, Polder Dry’.
To Dig a Canal in Delft
From the institute we head in the direction of the Oude Delft. This is the oldest canal in Delft. It could be said that could say Delft is born here. To dig in Dutch is delven and the name Delft derives from this verb. On this beautiful canal at number 167 Hoogheemraadschap Delfland is located. The organisation manages the water in and around Delft. It keeps track of the water level and makes sure the water purification is done perfectly. The old water level indicator is nearby. The actual level is around 43 cm below NAP (sea level).
Water Stream through Devil’s Hole
Following the canals of the Delft city centre we hit the Duyvelsbrug, where the Geerweg touches the Schie. The windmill which once stood here always had difficulty handling the powerful stream of water. It explains the name of the pumping station. Heavy rain fall could cause the canals in the city centre to overflow, but thanks to the Duyvelsgat this doesn’t happen.
On Truncated Windmills and Nostalgic Polder Views
Tweemolentjesvaart is a street that runs through the former polders. The large recreational area Delftse Hout, located on our right side used to be a wide landscape full of farms and windmills. In the past, the windmills were used to pump the water from lower to upper grounds. This worked well, but was very slow. Now the windmills have been replaced by pumping engines. Just at the beginning of Tweemolentjesvaart the water level is managed by a sluice. Following the stream we see the pumping station, a highly modern building which is hardly comparable with the old system. On the terrace of the ‘petit restaurant’ we drink a coffee gazing at the overwhelming beauty of the willows hanging over the gently flowing water. The interior still reminds of the truncated windmill in which this restaurant used to be housed.
After 10 minutes cycling through the Delftse Hout we see the truncated windmill at the entrance of the Bieslandse Polder.The remains of the mill now serve as a house, to which is attached an electrical pumping engine. Many windmills were broken down to be replaced by a steaming engine, only to be replaced shortly afterwards with electric pumps. Just opposite of the truncated mill, part of an old pump reminds us of the past.
How to Measure the Water Level in a Polder
The best view on the Bieslandse polder is on the Virulypad. In the distance, on the left, the Molen De Vang of the Nootdorpse Plassen catches our eye, while the birds and the frogs welcome us from the creeks on the right side. We enter the Overgauwse Weg on going straight. We’re now actually cycling on an old small dike. The houses here are connected with the main road through bridges. Comparing the canals on the left and right clearly show the amazing difference in the water level. Typical Dutch polder landscape, full of glass houses and long grasslands now rise up before our eyes and this goes on all the way till Molen De Valk which was pumping water till 1929. Besides the NAP, two other watermarks apply in these fields: the polder level and the drainage canal level. Turf was won here in great degree, at the cost of rising water levels. This area now provides a beautiful view on how water was managed in the old days and how it is done now. Old remains and newly build pumping material can be seen everywhere.
De Ackerdijkse Plassen which we pass on the way is a perfect example of how fens can be used. The organisation in charge of the protection of birds made this area an ideal habitat for birds and other wildlife. Ponds, canals and wetlands are home to millions of birds: it is a great place to go birdwatching.
The Dry Feet Adventure
A very small cycle path makes the ‘Deep Delft, Polder Dry’ tour quite adventurous. In the past this canal used to be the perfect place for ice-skating. It takes us great effort to not cycle in the canal, but we manage to reach the Zweth safely and what is more important: dry. The name Zweth is given to a canal that divides two cultivated areas. Crossing the cycle bridge we follow the road towards Delft,past the Schie. If we take a closer look, we can see that we’re cycling on a road that is lower that the canal itself. That means that we are actually below sea level. For centuries the Schie canal is being used as a transportation canal. Loading and unloading of large ships still is done on this canal. While rowing boats pass us, we spot the tower of the Delft church in the distance. If we would go left on the Schieweg, we would enter the polders of Delfland. It is a beautiful area which soon will be discovered on one of our next cycle trips.
Inspiration for this cycle tour came from ‘Water in Delfland‘ a cycling route by the KNNV Delfland ( an association for field biology).