Windmills have been an iconic part of Dutch culture and a necessary part of Dutch life for centuries.
Maybe people know that a good deal of the Netherlands lies undersea level but what many people don’t realise, is just how high the natural water table is in most of the country.
Mills and modern pumping stations work and monitor twenty-four hours a day and three hundred and sixty-five days of the year to regulate the water-table so that it does not simply rise to it’s “natural” level and therefore give Dutch citizens wet feet.
This is achieved by pumping water off the land and into the surrounding canal system at a constant rate, the water is directed though the canal network and pumped out into the sea with every low tide.
During especially high tides in Spring and Autumn the sea levels are so high that often it’s difficult to open the gates to release the “inland” water, and this puts the whole system under pressure.
This pressure is often alleviated by the installation of modern technology, faster pumps, the elevation of old dykes and the installation of flood plains where excess water can be directed in emergencies.
Sometimes water can be held at high levels in canals until it can be released into the sea, but one thing is for certain, water management in the Netherlands is very much a full time job. In fact it even has it’s own government department.
The polders (reclaimed land) are of course something that the Dutch are world famous for and there is a half serious side to the popular saying ” God created the world but the Dutch created Holland.
“Molen” (mills) were wind powered but were not only used to pump water, amongst other things they also provided the energy for saw mills or helped mill flour. I like the old style molen, they have charactor and personality. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and they are a necessary part of the historical and current Dutch working lanscape. Here therefore in this last post from Zaans Schans is my tribute to the humble Dutch mill….