You’ll find the village of Melissant crossing the middle of Goeree-Overflakkee, on the road between Dirksland and Stellendam. It has always been a farming village - you’ll find several nice old farmhouses around it.
The settlement appeared in the 15th century when the reedy marshes around Dirksland were diked in. The name Melissant has some tangy tints as to its possible origins, involving a character called Melis, a dike builder, and the word ‘sant’ meaning sand. One simple explanation is that Melissant is the ‘sand of Melis’. A more amusing variant is an apparent run-in between Melis and another eminent dike builder, Diederick (aka Dirk) who led the Dirksland polder. They resolved it by assigning Melis the sand (Meliszand) and Dirk the land (Dirksland).
Until the mid-19th century, the village was small in size. Then, around 1850, there came a church, a school and a ‘town hall’. Since then, its has grown steadily, and now has some 2,100 inhabitants.
Until 1835, there was no ‘street’, at least not in formal planning terms. A street was simply the muddy path of clay from house to house. Sometimes very muddy. The dynamic mayor of 1840, a certain Van Weel, introduced infrastructure such as paved roads.
At that time, most dwellings were low and small. Along the Molendijk, workers could lease small pieces of ground for an unlimited period. They grabbed this chance to own a (larger) home with a bit of garden, despite the hefty mortgage.
For its size, Melissant has plenty of churches: five in all. The oldest is the Roman Catholic, followed by the various reformed versions: the ‘Hervormde’ is their oldest, then the ‘Gereformeerde’.
During the flood disaster of 1953, Melissant was one of the few villages on Goeree-Overflakkee not to be flooded.
Agriculture has long dominated. Until the 1870s, much of the island cultivated common madder (Rubia tinctorum) heavily, typically on small farms. The red dye in the madder roots has extensive uses after being processed in a ‘meestooof’ facility for drying and grinding. This was often operated by a rudimentary form of farmers’ cooperative.
Today, agriculture remains an important source of income, as is trading. Melissant is also well known for a large kitchen centre, a transport and coach company and the nation’s largest aerial crop sprayer, K.A. van Beek BV.
On the village outskirts, the Nollestee care farm grows shrubs and various garden plants, as part of its social therapy for vulnerable people. Each ‘staff’ member is supervised according to their skill level. On Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the farm opens for purchases, and the staff will happily tell you more of their work.
Spring is the best time to enjoy the beauty of Melissant. Splendid arable fields and sheep grazing on the outer dikes and long pastures paint a ‘typically Dutch’ living landscape . You’ll see Heck domestic cattle (they’re very shy) and Norwegian Fjord horses out on the marshlands called the Slikken van Flakkee along the Grevelingenmeer lake. The Slikken are owned and managed by the Dutch forestry commission, Staatsbosbeheer, which only opens them up in July and August for excursions with a guide. Book your visit via the VVV.