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Building polders also a give and take battle with the sea

Claiming the Haarlemmermeer a feat

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

The number of polders located in the Province of North Holland runs into the dozens, ranging in size from 2 hectares of the Hoornse Weeltje to the 7600 hectare of the Zijpe Polder, the largest of the period from 1400-1700. The earliest land project, the Limmermeer Polder, dates from the year 1430, with the Grote Waal of 1688 closing the list of 69 polders during that period.

The two largest polders in the province date from the nineteenth and the twentieth century. These are the late 1840s Haarlemmermeer Polder (nearly 18,000 hectares of land) and the 1920s Wieringermeer Polder (about 19,500 hectare).

How urgent these reclamation works were is best illustrated by the increasing size of the Haarlemmer-meer, which grew from less than 7,000 hectares in 1531 to 17,000 hectares in the 1750s. By the 1830s it threatened to submerge villages and towns as far south as Leyden. A number of North Holland maps detail the land erosion best, the size of lakes steadily reduced the province’s landmass, reclamation restored much of it.

Elsewhere in the Netherlands, particularly in the Province of Zeeland the battle to keep dry feet was with an advancing sea. Much land with entire villages never resurfaced after disastrous floods. Yet, there too, land was taken back, but more so by building dikes around tidal flats that increasingly were building up with silt. The same occurred along the northern coast in the Provinces of Friesland and Groningen.