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The village of Noordwelle village on Schouwen-Duiveland gets its name from being on the northern side of a quay built to dam a creek. Together with long-gone Zuidwelle, it was part of the Welland manor estate.

Long prosperous, Noordwelle specialised in cheese, flax and the associated dye plant madder ‘rubia tinctorum’. It is still dynamic today, in its post-productive rural state.

The Ring street around the church is lined with monumental houses from the 18th and 19th centuries. Two national monuments stand outside the village: the stately farms Zeelandia and Hoeve Landzicht.

Also on the Ring: the shoeing-shed stall (‘travalje’) where the village smith held horses and mules while re-shoeing their hooves.

Every self-respecting village had its smithy, and horses. Most have gone. Noordwelle is one of seven to maintain its annual ‘Straô’ ritual to celebrate the sturdy Zeeland work horse. As winter dissolves into spring, in each village in turn, a procession of richly decorated horses clip-clops down to the beach (‘strand’ – the ‘aô’ suffix means ‘thingy’). To wash their hooves in the salty sea. This cleans them after a long winter in the stables, and cleanses any small wounds. And chases away evil spirits.

The Straô is one of the many sides of sense that is Zeeland. Be there: a gloriously fresh Saturday on the beach watching a village’s equine aristocracy- dressed up to the nines – be subjected to a health ritual five centuries old, before the entire village rejoices its popular science wisdom. Noordgouwe organises other events too. See the Events Calendar.

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