Water, water, everywhere

Exploring the landscapes which shaped the Dutch

The lighthouse at Schokland stands on a raised sea wall, next to a small stone cottage with a view of the harbour. In front of it, a wooden pier juts out towards the navigation lights marking the edge of the island. It is a charming nautical scene, with only one thing missing: the sea. Schokland, which lies about an hour’s drive northeast of Amsterdam, used to be an island but is now marooned amid green fields, around fifty miles from the coast. The harbour is dry. Fat Friesian cows graze where fish once swam, and a woman leads a horse across a grassy pasture which once lay underwater.

file-18.jpegAnywhere else in the world, a former island would be considered extraordinary. In the Netherlands, however, such things are relatively common. In the area around Schokland several other former islands are scattered like beached whales, and there are countless towns and villages built on former seabed. About a quarter of the Netherlands lies below sea level, and huge swathes of the country consist of land which has painstakingly been drained to make it habitable. “God created the world,” as one local saying goes, “but the Dutch created the Netherlands.”

Read the rest of the article in the Daily Telegraph here

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