A cycle tour, along the forts of the New Dutch waterline, the
beautiful floodplains of the Lek river, a castle garden, the historic town
Vianen and the picturesque former fishing village Vreeswijk.
The Netherlands is one of the most water-rich countries in the
world. Much of the country has been created by pushing back the sea
and draining polders. Since large parts of the Netherlands are below sea
level, the Dutch fought against flooding throughout history.
Flooding was also an ally against foreign attacks. In the nineteenth
century the New Dutch Waterline (Dutch: Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie)
was constructed. With a complex system of canals, locks and waterways
large land areas could be inundated in a controlled manner. However,
much land around Utrecht is too far above sea-level and cannot be
flooded. For that reason this land was protected by forts and bunkers.
The complete 85 kilometres of the New Dutch Waterline is a
national monument and nominated as a Unesco world heritage site.
Today, most forts have a cultural or social
purpose. They all have their own character. We cycle past several of
these forts and have time to visit some of them. There are many photo
opportunities. Lunetten (1822-1828) is a series of four small
crescent-shaped forts (I-IV). We pass them when we leave Utrecht (I
and II) and when we re-enter Utrecht (III and IV). Lunet IV has a
lunch restaurant and country store run by people with mental
disabilities. Fort Vechten (1867-1870) is one of the largest forts. The fort
is freely accessible and it houses the New Dutch Waterline
museum. Werk aan de Groeneweg (1914-1918) has an experience route which leads along
(and through) the bunkers, group shelters, earth walls and trenches of
which this work consists. Nowadays Werk aan het Spoel (1816-1824) is a recreational
area with a restaurant and there are also sculpture workshops. Fort Everdingen
(1841-1847) had to prevent armies using the Lek river or dike to break
though the Waterline. The fort is now a nature area which houses the
Duits&Lauret brewery and a campsite. Fort Vreeswijk (1855) is a meeting place
for the inhabitants of what is now the Nieuwegein district Vreeswijk.
The water has more great benefits. The location by the sea, the rivers
and canals are very favourable for trade far away and close
by. Especially from the 17th century (the Dutch Golden Age) onwards
this provided prosperity. We cross the Amsterdam-Rijn kanaal (Amsterdam-Rhine Canal),
one of the busiest canals in the world with about one ship every five
minutes. It connects the port and capital city of Amsterdam to the
major rivers and so to the hinterland and industrial areas in Germany
and France. We also make two ferry crossings of the river Lek and
cycle along it on top of the dike with stunning views across the
floodplains. The floodplains are a very important nature area with
rugs, grasslands and shoreline vegetation. The area is rich in wild
plants and insects.
Just before we cross the Lek for the second time we reach Vianen.
Vianen is a historic town with an attractive town square with beautiful buildings. We leave Vianen through the Lekpoort (Lek gate) and take
our second ferry (Pontje Vianen Nieuwegein ) back across the Lek towards Vreeswijk . The former village
of Vreeswijk was located on the Lek River, near where it is crossed by the
Merwedekanaal . The old village centre on the locks has been preserved very
At the end of the tour we follow the inundation channel (also part of
the New Dutch Waterline) through the district Lunetten (named
after the fort) and the princess Beatrixpark. This takes us back to the
Historic centre of Utrecht.