Bed & Breakfast at the Diefdijk, Leerdam

A very nice animated film about the history of the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie can be seen on YouTube:

History of the landscape:

The landscape took thousands of years to become what it looks like today. After the last ice age, about ten thousand years ago, the river area was a wide wooded valley, in which the water from the higher grounds sought a way to the sea. Those rivers were capricious, often changing their course and forming a tangle of little waters and tributaries. Some old river courses can still be found in the landscape today as dead tributaries and creeks. During the frequent floods, the land was covered with river clay. The heavier clay settled close to the river and formed high banks; the lighter clay settled further inland, forming low bowl-shaped grounds: the bowl grounds.

About 3,000 years ago, the first inhabitants settled on the high banks.
However, sometimes the water rose so high that the area was uninhabitable for centuries. Not until the Middle Ages were the first dikes built; the forests cut down and the land was brought under cultivation.
But the high embankments remained the safest and the villages were built there. Now you can still see these villages as a long ribbon directly behind the Lingedijk. Since the Middle Ages there have been dozens of dike breaches and floods, in which people and cattle drowned and villages were destroyed.

In such dike breaches, the swirling water often caused a large and deep hole at the foot of the dike. These are the wheels, like the Wiel van Bassa, which is 500 meters from our B&B and in which you can also swim. This Wiel and the Diefdijk are part of the Dutch Waterline.

History of the Diefdijk:

The Diefdijk is a water retaining dike from the 13th century.
Originally the dug waterways and small peat streams, such as the Zederik, Laak and the Lede, were used to drain excess inland water to the big rivers. But due to subsidence of the soil, drainage rapidly deteriorated. This was exacerbated by the silting up of the mouth of the Old Rhine at Katwijk in the 11th and 12th centuries, causing all Rhine water to flow to the sea via the Lek. At first, people solved these problems by raising the fields with mud from the ditches. This is still clearly visible in some places today.

During the 13th century, however, the flooding became so great that other measures became necessary. The main problem was that the river area sloped - and still slopes - from east to west, so that the lowest lying polders in the west had to deal with all the water from the higher grounds in the east. To protect the polders from this, the construction of so-called transverse dikes began. These inner dikes were oriented more or less north-south, between the river dikes. In 1277 the Zouwe- or Bazeldijk was constructed and this dike had to stop the water flowing into the Alblasserwaard from Vijfheerenlanden. After the construction of this dike, flooding in Vijfheerenlanden naturally increased greatly.

To prevent the water from the east from intensifying the flooding, the Diefdijk was constructed in 1284. A little further west is the quay between Leerdam and Everdingen, which had the same water-retaining function. At first the Diefdijk was still a rather low kade. In the course of the centuries the dike was further raised and strengthened. In 1587 the dike reached its present height. To raise the height, clay was dug out on both sides of the dike. The clay was brought to the polder by wheelbarrows via the narrow paths that run from the dike. These paths are still visible in the landscape. The clay extraction along the Diefdijk created marshy lowlands there. There and also on other damp pieces of land (Autena, Bolgerijen) the grienden arose. These are willow woods, which were regularly felled. The willow branches were used to make various structures and utensils.

The Diefdijk could not always hold back the inland water. In 1571 and 1573 the dike broke, creating a large wheel, the Wiel van Bassa or Schoonrewoerdse Wiel. The Lingedijk also broke several times. The wheels, such as the Old Wheel and the New Wheel and the wheel near Oosterwijk, are the result.

So initially the Diefdijk had a hydraulic function, but in the 18th century the Diefdijk became part of the Old Dutch Waterline. As part of the construction of the New Dutch Waterline in the 19th century, fortifications were built at Everdingen and Leerdam. Fort Everdingen lies within the area of interest.

Dutch Waterline (Hollandse Waterlinie)

The (Old) Dutch Waterline was a water line for the defense of Holland in the 17th and 18th centuries.

After inundations had already proven to be an effective method of defense in 1573 (Alkmaar), 1574 (Leiden) and 1629 (the Utrecht Water Line between the Zuiderzee and the Lek), a water line between the Zuiderzee and the Merwede was hastily set up in the Disaster Year of 1672 to stop the French troops under Louis XIV before they would also conquer Holland. This line ran from Muiden through Woerden and Goejanverwellesluis to Gorinchem. Utrecht was not included because at that time this city had already been conquered by the French.

After this line held out in 1672, it took on a more permanent character as well as its name. Accesses were fortified with numerous forts, batteries and other defenses. Until the Napoleonic period, the line was moved several times to the east, but without enclosing the city of Utrecht. From 1815 a completely new line of defense was established with this city as its central point: a line that from 1871 was officially called the New Dutch Waterline, to distinguish it from the line that would later be referred to as the Old Dutch Waterline.

(Bron: This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Diefdijk)