Today I start again in Dinteloord, but this time I walk in the other direction, towards Willemstad. I pass two forts of the Southern Waterline: Fort de Hel (the Hell) and Fort Sabina. I end my hike in fortified town Willemstad. No, not on the island of Curaçao, but in the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands.
Through the polders near Heijningen
I get off a bus stop earlier than last time, at the Prinslandse bridge and the Dintel river. I don’t find the dike around Dinteloord that fascinating and can skip it.
I walk through the polder and past fruit orchards. I finally bought a pair of binoculars (I had intended to in previous hikes) and took them with me today. What a heavy thing it is, though. Not at all convenient to carry. Fortunately, I don’t take the pair of binoculars with me for nothing, I see blue-headed wagtails and meadow pipits.
The male blue-headed wagtail has a yellow throat and breast, a blue-grey head with a white eyebrow stripe and olive-green wings. The female is less distinctive, she does have a blue-grey head, but she is pale yellow in colour on the throat and breast. The blue-headed wagtail is mostly found in open agricultural areas.
This bird nests from late April into July and has one to two clutches per year with 4 to 6 eggs at a time.
Source (in Dutch): Vogelbescherming
Tulip season has arrived and in the distance I can actually see a red-coloured tulip field. I don’t expect this in this region. Unfortunately, I do not pass close by and it is too far away for a photo. The trail leads me further through the countryside near Heijningen.
Along the way I come across many farm animals such as goats, pigs, chickens, ponies and even donkeys.
Not only the farm animals have spring in their heads, but also the flowers, shrubs and trees. The roadside is a brilliant sea of yellow and white due to oilseed rape and cow parsley.
I turn right and cross the highway via an overpass. I then pass through the town of Helwijk where roadworks are underway. Fortunately, the trail does not lead me to the closed section and I can continue on my way.
Fort the Hell and Fort Sabina
At the end of the dike is Fort de Hel (the Hell) located. Judging by the sign, the fort is open for tours during the summer months. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, Fort the Hell is closed today.
Fort the Hell belongs to a ring of forts defending Willemstad, called the Defence Line of Willemstad. Fort the Hell is a square shaped fort built by the French in the time of Napoleon and was then called Fort l’Enfer. Later, the fort came into Dutch hands. The Germans also held the fort during World War II.
Currently (2023), Moerdijk municipality is looking for a new operator for Fort the Hell, therefore the fort is not open to visitors for the time being.
Source (in Dutch): Zuiderwaterlinie
I hear all kinds of birds singing in the reeds of the fortress canal. I grab my binoculars, but even with them I can’t make out any birds. I stow my binoculars again and go around Fort the Hell in a wide arc.
Then I walk along an annoyingly busy road, in an even bigger arc to Fort Sabina. On this road, there are a huge number of trucks and I regularly stand on the verge. Just before Fort Sabina, I see a bird-watching hut overlooking the St. Anthoniegorzen. Let’s take a look inside.
Other trail guide about defence lines
I have a view over a pond and swampy fields. Swallow nests hang inside the hut. When I go out, I leave the peepholes, which can be closed with shutters, open. Then the swallows can still reach their nests.
Fort Sabina is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. On other days, you are free to wander within the fort’s walls. Despite it being Monday, the gate is open. Still, I don’t go inside, just taking a photo of the inside from the gate. I still have quite a few kilometres to go, so I save a stroll inside the walls for another time.
And Fort Sabina is definitely worth returning for:
Fort Sabina is also part of the Defence Line of Willemstad. The fort was built in 1811 by Napoleon and was then called “De Ruijter”. During World War II, Fort Sabina provided cover for its civilians.
Today, the fort is open for visits and hosts many events such as festivals, workshops and concerts. There is also a brasserie where you can have a nice lunch.
Source (in Dutch): Zuiderwaterlinie
Now I am on my way to the Volkerak sluices, I’m passing a long way along the canal of the same name (Volkerak). An old ship just has to pass through one of the sluices. The fence makes it difficult to get the ship in the photo.
At the sluice complex, I climb an observation tower. What an immense sluice complex this is! It turns out to be the largest sluice complex in Europe. Huge ships are guided through the sluices.
Once again, I walk along a busy road. Fortunately, I can walk on the grass past tall trees for a bit. Just before the bend, I turn right into a nature reserve. Finally an unpaved path in nature reserve Vlakehoek. I pass a beautiful lake and walk on narrow footpaths. I also encounter spring again here in the form of small, blue flowers.
Soon I am out of the nature reserve and see Willemstad, my destination, in the distance. I first walk along the harbour on the Hollands Diep and enter Willemstad via the Westbeer, a path with a wall right through the fortified canal.
Today, I only go over a part of the inner city wall. I take many photos of the buildings inside the wall and the bunkers on the wall.
After about three quarters across the wall, I am almost at the bus stop. It is starting to rain lightly, so it is time to stop. Next time, I will take extensive time to explore the fortified town.
The section between Dinteloord and Helwijk can be a bit dull. Still, I had a great time taking photos of everything growing and flowering. In winter, it seems a lot less attractive to me.
Fort the Hell and Fort Sabina seem fun and very interesting to visit, I’ll save that for another time. I didn’t like the road between Fort the Hell and Fort Sabina as much, but I see that I didn’t walk quite right. Maybe the proper trail is a bit quieter in terms of traffic.
The Volkerak sluices are impressive to see and Willemstad is definitely worth a visit. A Fine hike in my opinion!
More info:Trail: Section 3 Southern Waterline trail
Where: from Dinteloord to Willemstad, Noord-Brabant, the Netherlands.
No. of km: +/- 16.5 km
Hiking date: 25 April 2022
Materials used in illustrations: Coloured pencils for the map and watercolour paints for the illustrations
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More hiking along sluices
During my hikes, I come across sluices more often. In the blogs below, you will see which ones:
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