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The Netherlands

De Aker, a former (and still partial) polder near Amsterdam

Summer 2000, Osdorp NL —

A walk on Akerpolder

The pheasant hens flew across the canal and the rooster trotted toward it. The action flushed a great blue heron, which flew along the canal a few hundred feet....

About half of De Aker, the small "bedijked" area formerly called Akerpolder, is filled and developed; very modern and even under construction.

The part of De Aker that is directly across the canal from my building is at its original level, about a man's hight lower, but work is in progress. About a third of the original polder — or about 20 acres — remains. This section had been a grazing field when I got here, though work had just begun on inroads for the earthmoving equipment. It is now covered by a layer of sand. The Dutch are filling it in.

This property is slightly below sea-level before the infilling. That's why the raised canals — that's why the windmills.

I presume that this work is going to proceed until this part of the polder is filled to the level of the top of the small dike on this side.

That's a lot of sand.

All of Osdorp was filled with sand in that way. It's hard to comprehend, but that's how the Dutch have developed a lot of this property.

Originally — as with Akerpolder, the original, bediked area — the low land was drained upward by windmills into the surrounding canals. Pumped up, and sent to sea.


A preservation drive is in progress for a dilapidated octagonal brick structure on the other side of De Aker, on the dike of the high canal/shipping route De Ringvaart. This could only be a former windmill, and indeed it is. Built in 1876, it is the oldest structure in De Aker.

It's beat up pretty bad, but there it is. This was how Akerpolder was drained and kept dry.

Originally built with a wind-driven paddlewheel, "De Oude Molen" (according to literature posted by some preservationists) was fitted with a "wind-vijzel," or [wind-driven] screw-jack, in 1896.

In 1921, a diesel engine replaced the wind drive. Later, an electric motor came to replace the diesel engine. The electric pumphouse today is just landward of the old mill — just downhill on the dike.

I lived in Amsterdam from May until December of 2000.