Trips / Seppe

trip
Trip to Seppe
18 December 2019
EHHV; Hilversum EHSE; Seppe
Leg, Destination
  1   Seppe
  2   Hilversum

From Hilversum to Seppe

It was nice weather on Wednesday afternoon, and Maurits and René made a little trip to Seppe in the South of The Netherlands. When we departed from Hilversum, there were scattered low clouds. We climbed to 2300 ft clear of clouds, and south of IJsselstein with the Gerbrandy Tower there were no low clouds anymore on our route.

A 366.8 meters/1,203 ft high television mast, called the Gerbrandy Tower, is located in IJsselstein. The structure consists of a concrete tower, approximately 100 meters high, with a 260-meter steel tubular mast on top. The tubular mast is supported by guy wires. Since 1992, the tower is fitted with lamps and lighted as a Christmas tree in the December month. The illuminated tower can be seen from more than 30 kilometers away.

Maurits and Rene at Hilversum airfield
Maurits and René at Hilversum airfield
Gerbrandy Tower at IJsselstein
Gerbrandy Tower at IJsselstein

We crossed the Alblasserwaard, and then along the Biesbosch in the direction of Geertruidenberg. The Biesbosch was created over time after a large area of the polder lands were submerged in the St. Elizabeth flood in the year 1421. Before this, the Biesbosch was part of the Grote Waard, containing cultivated land and a number of villages that were swallowed by the flood. About half of the flooded area has been reclaimed over the centuries, but the Biesbosch became an important wetland area for waterfowl and has a rich flora and fauna. It is now one of the largest national parks of the Netherlands.

Werkendam
Werkendam
De Biesbosch
De Biesbosch

Grote Waard

The Grote Waard (also Hollandsche Waard) was an agricultural area in (what is now) The Netherlands. The earliest wave of reclamation in the riverine area was on the levees, which were gradually brought under cultivation from East to West by local agrarian communities. Reclamation in the opposite direction commenced around 1000. Ditches were dug at a short distance from one another to channel the water into the rivers. Drainage proceeded naturally, which was no problem when the peat was still high, but became one when the underlying layer of basin clay came to the surface. By the twelfth century the ground level had sunk to such an extent that the farmers had to collaborate on diking the polders. These dikes were maintained per county.

Grote Waard
Grote Waard in The Netherlands

In the twelfth century Count Dirk VII of Holland appropriated an island on the Merwede, the Poortzijde, and founded the city of Dordrecht there. By the end of the century he had managed to obtain possession of the toll at Geertvliet and the district around Dordrecht, enabling him to develop a comprehensive system of tolls in the region beneath the rivers. He proclaimed Geertruidenberg, which was also one of his possessions, a city in 1213. This became the most important gateway from the South to the Grote Waard and the whole of Holland.

Between the eleventh and the thirteenth centuries the main body of the Maas had moved its course from Hedikhuizen to combine with the Merwede at Woudrichem. Now it became possible to dam the former main course of the Maas. The water courses slowly silted up and became narrower. Sluices were built in the dams to regulate the water level in the polders. A major obstacle to the creation of the Grote Waard had now been removed; what had initially been a major border river became a central drainage channel of what was to become the Grote Waard. The new course of the Maas from Hedikhuizen to Woudrichem was to become the eastern boundary. A number of smaller works completed the unification of the Grote Waard.

During the Middle Ages the Grote Waard had developed into a prosperous polder, but the great problem was, however, that its dikes had never been satisfactory. Great lengths were built on weak and unconsolidated peat; there was much subsoil seepage, and, if the embankments were raised too high, they were liable to collapse under their own weight. The dikes were thus inherently inadequate and were, moreover, in an especially vulnerable situation.

Grote Waard prior the flood of 1421
Grote Waard prior to the flood of 1421 (map from 1560)

The Grote Waard lay where floods could come upon it from two sides: from the sea and down the Large Rivers. On the one hand, the Waal was bringing down the bulk of the water from the Rhine basin, but the narrow channel past Dordrecht was scarcely able to cope with this flow, let alone the diverted waters of the Maas as well. Major floods were inevitable when one of other of the streams was in spate. Disaster came when there was high water in both Maas and Waal, accompanied by westerly gales that drove the tides up the narrowing estuaries.

The Grote Waard had experienced serious and widespread flooding in the 13th and 14th century, but on all these occassions the flooded areas had dried out and the dike breaches had been sealed. From written records it is known that the Grote Waard was a prosperous polder, with vast corn fields, provided with a drainage system propelled by wind-watermills. The larger villages had a corn-mill and several houses and a church built of brick, next to the majority of reed-thatched dwellings made of wood.

Then, in the early 15th century, the work of the polder board was disorganised by internal dispute over a diking scheme, and this disorganisation was aggravated by political quarrels. Thus the Grote Waard, its polder administration disrupted, its dikes inadequate or weakened by peat digging and neglect, and periously exposed to river and sea floods, had to face the catastrophic inundation of St. Elizabeth's flood in 1421.

On the night of 18-19 November a storm surge attacked and breached the dikes in the southwest, spreading its saline waters widely over the lands within. At the same time the Maas and Waal burst through the dike of the Waal-Merwede in the north and ultimately swept away all this dike over a large distance. These breaches on both sides of the polder sealed the fate of the embanked area. After the flood villages and cloisters were abandoned; the number of settlements in not exactly known. About 29 villages drowned and an unknown number of people lost their lives.

Elizabeth flood, panel 1
Elizabeth flood, panel 2
The Saint Elizabeth's Day Flood, St Elizabeth panels, ca. 1490 - ca. 1495
The panels depict the disaster, with the undamaged town of Dordrecht on the left and the breach of the dike at Wieldrecht on the right.

Subsequent storm floods tore apart the remnants of the polder, and the inhabitants realised that it was impossible to regain their land. After 50 years of attempts to repair the levees, they gave up their polder. Foreign tradesmen visiting Dordrecht around 1500 mentioned in their travel recordes the drowned land with the church steeples rising above the water level. Re-embankment was attempted in due course but progress was slow. In addition, wars and neglect prevented recovery, and for a considerable period open water occupied the area where the Grote Waard had once stood.

At the end of the 15th century the eastern part of the Grote Waard was again protected from tidal flood by building of a dike; the area was embaked again in the 17th century, and is now called the Land van Heusden and Altena. The western part of the Grote Waard was abandoned to the sea and the rivers; this area is now called the Biesbosch, until 1970 the largest freshwater tidel area of Europe.

The ongoing silting up in the Biesbosch and the formation of sandbanks with vegetation gradually came to interfere with the drainage of the water from the Maas. Work on the Nieuwe Merwede commenced in 1850 by widening and deepening the existing river gullies. In 1883 the Bergsche Maas was dug to relieve the area to the East of the Grote Waard, which regularly flooded during heavy rainfall. Thus the eleventh-century situation, in which the Oude Maas had ensured rapid drainage, was finally restored.

Design Nieuwe Merwede
Design Nieuwe Merwede
Design Bergsche Maas
Design Bergsche Maas

The downfall of the Grote Waard is nowadays visualised as a gradual process, in which one village after another was made uninhabitable by flooding because of the failure to restore the dikes. The St. Elizabeth's flood was only the finishing stroke for the once prosperous polder.

Grote Waard
Grote Waard through the ages

Text sections from:
• Dutch Lowlands - Morphogenesis of a Cultural Landscape, author S. de Wit
• Environmental History of the Rhine-Meuse Delta, author P.H. Nienhuis

South of the Biesbosch we crossed the River Amer, and then we flew around Geertruidenberg.

The River Amer is the continuation of the Bergsche Maas. Before the completion of the Bergsche Maas, the Amer was a broad tidal creek, which was part of the Biesbosch. There is a power plant in Geertruidenberg that is named after the river: the Amer power plant .

Sint Geertruidenberg received city rights from Count William I of Holland in 1213. In the late Middle Ages, the city was an important trading center where graves and nobles came together to represent their interests. The Hoekse and Kabeljauwse twisten (Hook and Cod wars) in 1420 and the Sint Elisabeth flood in 1421 put an end to this prosperous trading function. The city became a border fortress. In 1813 Geertruidenberg became part of the province Brabant.

Amercentrale (Amer power plant)
Amercentrale (Amer power plant)
Geertruidenberg
Geertruidenberg

Fortress city Geertruidenberg was originally in the County of Holland, and was in 1213 the first city to receive city rights in Holland. Real fortifications appeared at the start of the Eighty Years' War when William of Orange took over the city (1593). He commissioned the building of new ramparts and three bastions. The fortifications were modernized in the 16th and 17th centuries.

The French army captured Geertruidenberg in March 1793 after a siege of one week. Despite the inundation on the west side of the city, the French managed to take the fortress quite easily. However, the French army failed to push north across the rivers, and the Republic's army eventually drove them back.

A year and a half later, in September 1794, the French returned. In the last months of that year, the south of the Netherlands was conquered. The French army continued to fight in the winter and reached the north over the frozen rivers, after which the entire country was captured in January 1795. The loss of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo (1815) was the end of the French era in the Netherlands, and the end of Geertruidenberg's strategic position.

Geertruidenberg

We continued to the south-west between Terheijden and Breda. South of Terheijden we had a good view of the town and the redoubt.

The village of Terheijden originated in the Middle Ages on a sand ridge near the river Mark, which was in open connection with the sea. Due to the lack of good dikes the western half of the present municipality has long been a water-rich area. During the Eighty Years' War the nearby fortified city of Breda was important for the protection of Holland, and fierce fighting took place around Breda between the State and Spanish troops. In 1637 the Spanish built a redoubt at Terheijden to protect shipping on the river Mark. In 1680 the redoubt fell into disuse, but was restored and put into use again in 1830, now as a bulwark against the Belgians following the Belgian Revolution.

After a few more minutes we approached Seppe airport. We entered the traffic pattern west of Rucphen and landed on runway 25.

Terheijden with redoubt
Terheijden with redoubt
Final runway 25 Seppe airport
Final runway 25 Seppe airport

From Seppe to Hilversum

After a coffee and a sandwitch in the 'De Cockpit' restaurant at Seppe, we went back to the plane for our return flight to Hilversum. We strictly followed the departure route, and after rounding Zegge we set course to the north-east.

Departure from Seppe airport
Departure from Seppe airport
Zegge
Zegge

We saw the Oudenbosch Basilica in the village Oudenbosch, a classical Italian appearance in the countryside of Noord-Brabant. In 1864 construction was commissioned by pastor Willemans, a parish priest who admired the Roman style of churches and basilicas.

We continued in the direction of Zwijndrecht, and from there we made a turn around Dordrecht to have a good view on the city.

(More about Dordrecht in this trip report from April).
Basilica of the Saints Agatha and Barbara, Oudenbosch
Basilica of the Saints Agatha and Barbara, Oudenbosch
Dordrecht
Dordrecht

The Oudenbosch Basilica is a replica of St. Peters Basilica in Rome on a scale of 1:16. It is named after Agatha of Sicily and Barbara of Nicomedia, two Christian martyrs from the third century. It was built at the initiative of Willem Hellemons who was parish priest between 1842 and 1884. The old St. Agathachurch became too small for the growing amount of parishioners, and Hellemons started developing the plans for this new-to-build church. He came in touch with famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, known for building the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam Station, and many churches in the Netherlands. Hellemons gave Cuypers the order to design a church just like St. Peters and with a façade of St. John Lateran. Construction began in 1865 and was fully completed in 1892.

After Dordrecht we continued in the direction of Ameide, which we had visited recently. Ameide is a small town along the river Lek and the canal Oude Zederik (Old Zederik). The town was granted city rights in 1277 by Floris V, the Count of Holland, and part of Ameide is now a protected cityscape.

We followed the River Lek to the east to Vianen. The city was designed and built in the 14th century by Willem van Duivenvoorde according to a geometric plan.

(More about Vianen in this trip report from April).

We then flew to IJsselstein that owes its name to the river Hollandse IJssel which flows through the city. IJsselstein was established as a settlement near IJsselstein Castle, first mentioned in 1279 when it came into the possession of Gijsbrecht van Amstel, later known as Gijsbrecht van IJsselstein. The city has an old town, surrounded by a small canal. The city has two large churches, both named after St. Nicholas. The first one is the Old St. Nicholas church from 1310, which is now a protestant church, and the other one is a Roman Catholic church from 1887.

Vianen
Vianen
IJsselstein
IJsselstein

After IJsselstein we moved to the north of Hilversum. At the Hilversum Media Park (a large business park and the home to a number of Dutch broadcasters and media companies, including the national public broadcasting system) was a protest of farmers going on. Dozens of tractors gathered there in the latest of a series of protests over environmental pollution rules. Angry farmers claimed that the 'left media' reports about the pollution unfairly, and demanded TV broadcast time. The protests began after a court ruling in May found the Netherlands in violation of EU rules on 'reactive nitrogen' pollution. Intensive agriculture in the Netherlands is the main contributor to nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands.

We then continued to the Hilversum airfield, where we landed on runway 18.

Farmers protest, Hilversum
Farmers protest, Hilversum
Arrived at Hilversum airfield
Arrived at Hilversum airfield

Nitrogen deposition on a national scale in 2018

There are large regional differences in the deposition of nitrogen compounds. In particular in areas with intensive livestock farming, such as Friesland, de Gelderse Vallei and de Peel, nitrogen deposition can reach levels of up to 4,000 mol N/ha respectively. Such high deposition is mainly due to high local ammonia emissions from intensive livestock farming. Ammonia is emitted close to the ground and has a high deposition rate, therefore a lot of ammonia is deposited close to the source. High emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in and around the major cities in the Netherlands are responsible for higher deposition in these areas. Over 65 percent of the nitrogen deposition originates from Dutch sources. The Dutch agricultural sector is the main contributor to nitrogen deposition in the Netherlands with 46 percent.

Source: central government publication

Nitrogen deposition The Netherlands, 2018

In 2018, agricultural goods exports from the Netherlands amounted to an estimated 90.3 billion euros. With an export value of 90.3 billion euros, the Netherlands is the world's largest exporter of agricultural goods after the United States. Agricultural commodities account for nearly one-fifth of Dutch commodity exports: 18.2 percent in 2018. Domestic production is good for 72.4 percent of these agricultural exports.

Source: Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and Wageningen Economic Research

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