In 1584, the city of Antwerp decided to flood the Land of Hulst, a defensive measure against the Spanish Army. The water almost reached Hulst itself, which prompted the Spaniards to build Fort Zandberg in 1586. They were dead set against a waterborne invasion by the State army, and wanted to prevent them anchoring a fleet near Hulst. Between the town and the fort, Fort ‘de Grote Rape’ was erected.
In 1591 Hulst was relinquished to the State troops, who built – yet another – fort between the town and De Grote Rape, called ‘De Moerschans’. Later, both these forts would be incorporated in a dike of forts, a ‘line dike’. Renowned fortification expert Menno van Coehoorn ordered further fortification of this very dike, around 1700, with seven redans (a kind of outwork). De Moerschans would be given its ultimate shape, with a bastion on each of its four corners.
South of the Grote Rape, there would be two more forts: de ‘Grote Kijkuit’ and ‘Kleine Kijkuit’ (Big and Little Lookout, respectively). The latter halted the French in 1702. When Hulst lost its status as fortified town in 1816, the line of forts was given up too. Parts of the line dike and the forts have since been ruined, there is still enough left for you to walk along it – from Hulst to Fort Zandberg.