Nederwaard ‘havelingen’ restored to maximum former glory
The so-called ‘havelingen’- patches of land between and around the eight mills of the Nederwaard area – are up for a thorough restoration. The aim is to return the havelingen to their original appearance, as they were before the ‘60s of last century.
“We’re taking out all the trash.” Project manager Debby Gerritsen of the Kinderdijk World Heritage Foundation (SWEK) is not one for mincing words as she states her mission. As we speak, the reed specialists of contractors Hoek V.O.F. have already started their mowing activities. This Kinderdijk-based company leases several of these havelingen plots from the Rivierenland District Water Board. The havelingen are low-lying patches of wetland, which were originally dig sites used to excavate sand for the construction of the adjacent windmills.
In the past, just about every inch of these havelingen was put to practical use each summer, serving as vegetable plots, hayfields, reedlands, and pastures for young cattle. Over the course of the twentieth century, they gradually lost their function. Now, SWEK is aiming to restore the cultural history of the havelingen to maximum effect. “It’s nice for the tourists, but they are definitely a boon for the millers as well”, Gerritsen assures. She points out that the residents’ interests were an explicit factor in shaping the project plan.
On top boosting the quality of these landscaped elements of cultural history, increasing biodiversity is one of the most important project goals. Colourful wild species of flowers are to take the place of the current ‘dull’ patches of brambles, thistles, and willows. Linked up into a coherent whole, the havelingen will become more attractive foraging sites and breeding grounds for insects. To this end, SWEK has teamed up with organisations such as Prachtlint and the local Alblasserwaard Nature and Birdwatch Society. Along with the Alblasserwaard havelingen, the haveling of the Blokweer Museum Mill will receive some attention too. The mills on the Overwaard bank across the basin do not have havelingen. On the millyards of the Overwaard mills, new fruit trees will be planted, just like on the Nederwaard side of the windmill complex. SWEK will be responsible for keeping the havelingen in good condition. Gerritsen: “Proper maintenance will be essential in making this project a success.”
The havelingen project is just a small piece of a much bigger picture. It falls under the scope of the Integral Nature & Countryside Implementation Programme (Integraal Uitvoeringsprogramma Natuur & Landschap). The programme chiefly aims to further strengthen the unique Kinderdijk countryside, and to integrate it even more into the story we tell the tourists. The implementation programme, which is expressly directed at the relationship with the wider region (Kinderdijk as a gateway), involves a total amount of about 800.00 euro reserved for the next three years.