Well we finally have the weather break we wanted for putting on some serious miles! Blue skies, sunshine and a good stiff breeze!
Yesterday we cycled to the town of Hellevoetsluis and went over one of the dams that is part of the huge system of dikes that keeps the North Sea from flooding the country. It truly is amazing to see!
The history of Hellevoetsluis has always been connected with water. During the time of the United Provinces Hellevoetsluis was the naval port of the Admiralty of de Maze (Rotterdam) and could accommodate an entire fleet within a special land-enclosed fortress with harbour and dockyard facilities, accessible through a canal. Thanks to its strategic situation the town grew from the beginning of the 17th century to be the homeport for the Dutch war fleet. In later years the port was fortified more and more and Hellevoetsluis therefore became a unique combination of fortified town and naval port. The Admirals Maarten Tromp, Michiel de Ruyter and Piet Heyn had their home base here and in 1688 during the Glorious Revolution William III of Orange’s invasion fleet departed from the port.
The Kanaal door Voorne (Canal through Voorne) was built in 1830 from Hellevoetsluis to Nieuwesluis (near Heenvliet) and made Hellevoetsluis an outport of Rotterdam. It was a period when the town grew and flourished; the shipping industry provided prosperity. In the first half of the 20th century, however, Hellevoetsluis went into decline. Ocean-going ships became too large to use the canal and the Nieuwe Waterweg was dug, making the Canal through Voorne redundant. The naval base was relocated to Den Helder in the 1930s, the Government shipyard was closed, and during World War II the Germans destroyed three quarters of all buildings in 1944. They also used the canal as a base for Biber submarines.
While in Hellevoetsluis, we were also looking for an art supply shop, so that Mark could work on some watercolor paintings on those rainy days when we get to rest and revive. The scenery and the cloud formations here are so inspiring! It was looking kind of hopeless to find what he needed, but finally, at a small art gallery where the owner does very old painting restorations (a fascinating process), we found it!
We then headed back down to the ‘walled’ part of the city which is quite pretty. The harbour is right in the middle and is filled with boats (mostly sailing yachts but also a huge ‘lightship’ ). While sipping on our afternoon Dutch coffee, the carillon bells from the church tower started up. I don’t think I have mentioned this, but many towns including Amsterdam, have these bell towers and the sound coming from these carillons is truly lovely and they are often playing a song. Well in this case it left Mark and I chuckling because the song was “What to do with a drunken sailor”!
We went home via the towns of Havenhoofd (another WWII story) and Goedereede. When the Germans invaded, they confiscated all the fishing boats of Havenhoofd and destroyed them along with all the houses, then filled the haven with their own ships. Goedereede is a very picturesque old town.
And still lots more to explore….