Not far from the Grevelingenmeer lake, and now near the centre of Goeree-Overflakkee island, the village of Nieuwe-Tonge has stood since the 15th century. Clustered around De Kruiskerk, with its surrounding canal and church ring, it exudes authenticity. To its south, on the lake’s edge, the hamlet of Battenoord is counted – at least for statistical purposes – as part of the village which now has about 2,400 inhabitants.
It grew during the 1400s among the gently swaying reeds of diked-in marshes of Dirksland. The area was previously occupied by sheep and their shepherds.
The flood disaster of 1953 was a catastrophe here. Within a few tragic hours, the waters had surged over houses and other buildings, to a depth of three metres – and claimed 85 souls. When the waters receded, three houses stood – with the church on its raised ground. All other buildings date from the 1950s and later.
One exception is the d’Oranjeboom (corn) tower mill, built in 1768 on the site of a post mill. Its vividly painted plaque over the western door is a real eye-catcher – but do look around further. Completely restored, the mill is fully operational. Open every Saturday, from 10:00 to 16:00.
In days gone by, onions (‘juun’) were cultivated here. Nowadays, they’re replaced by bulbs more colourful, of flowers. Springtime is a delight to behold, with fields chequered around the village. Best seen when flying into AMS or RTM from the South, but even on a cloudy day, down below at walking and cycling speed, it’s a visual feast. The VVV can tell you the best route.
Deltas are always fertile. So too the thinking of locals. One place started as mud, became an orchard, and grew into a bird park. Fast-forward a few years, and it has become Faunapark Flakkee. Spread over park-like grounds, with dedicated ‘animal areas’, you’ll see more than 60 species, ranging from birds to kangaroos. In 2017, the Faunapark was named by the AD daily paper as best zoo (outing) in the province of Zuid-Holland. A reminder that Goeree-Overflakkee is, for governance, seen as in one province, and, in many a mind, in Zeeland. Let the fauna decide?
Down south a few klicks, lapped by the Grevelingen. Battenoord and your jetty awaits. Like all small harbours, with patience and the clink of ropes on masts. Unlike most, with serried rows of pretty flamingo’s, the seasonal tropical pink migrants here for their winter. Other migrants, equally welcome, all seasons are nature lovers and cyclists, for the peace, quiet and landscape.