Heusden, Woudrichem, Gorinchem and the Castle “Loevestein"

The strong winds have abated and the last few days have been mostly sunny. This week the temperatures should rise to the high twenties, which is "more like it , Holland!!!"

On the weekend the big harbour in Heusden filled with Dutch boats on their weekend outings. Yes, here you don’t go for a weekend drive! You go for a sail, a Sunday row or a cruise! The Dutch family next to us was also on their weekend boating excursion. In chatting to the father, Austin asked what prompted him to name his boat “Spring”? He told us that it was partly because of his grandfather, who used to have a boat but wasn’t a very good sailor. In Dutch “Spring” means “Jump!”, and that, he explained, was exactly what people called out whenever his grandfather approached the harbour.

As peaceful as the little Maas towns Heusden, Ravenstein, Woudrichem and Gorinchem are they have all had many threats to their existence during the past 800 years. All of them had their castles stormed or destroyed. When gun powder arrived their leaders saw the need for more substantial fortifications. The way to go in the 16th and 17th century was to built star forts.

Today visitors can stroll along these green ramparts and bastions right around the old town.

These towns forming the defensive waterline have another thing in common: Salmon fishing. From the small Heusden Stadthaven (town port) fishermen could carry their catch up the steps and straight onto the covered fish stands of the fish market. The customs house is conveniently right next door. Today the fish market is a great place to have lunch, coffee or a pancake.

The original castle in Heusden befell a strange fate. When becoming obsolete as a defence post it was used to store gun powder. During a severe thunderstorm it’s tower was struck by lightening which blew up the castle and a good part of the town with it.

Nevertheless over a fourth of Heusden’s houses are 300-400 years old with 185 buildings heritage listed. Since 1968 the government has spend a lot of money restoring them and making them safe for people to live in. It’s a great place to see Dutch architecture like the fancy mosaic brick work and the diverse, steep “Gueldern”, Step- and Bell- gables.

After leaving Heusden we stayed in the quiet harbour of the WSV Woudrichem. Woudrichem lays where a channelled arm of the Maas meets the Waal (the Dutch name for the Rhine). Being a Monday, the museums, restaurants and tourist information in the old town were all closed. Instead we took a seven minute bike ride to shop in the new part of town. In the afternoon we went by ferry across the Waal to the town Gorinchem. A much busier place than Woudrichem, it has a pedestrian shopping precinct where most of life’s necessities can be found. Right near the lock through which one enters the town harbour is a nautical book and map shop where boaties can find every possible map of the European waterways.

Their website if you want something send is:

If your boat is under 2.85m high you can actually cruise right through the city bridges on the river Linge, or you can stay in the Lingehaven. If your air draft is higher like ours there are some moorings just behind the lock.

Back in Woudrichem near our harbour a small ferry took us to the other side of the Maas canal where surrounded by farmland and a lot of water Slot Loevestein lies. This castle presented another strategic point on the Dutch defence line. It was never meant to be a residence for aristocracy but housed soldiers and prisoners, especially political ones. The most famous prisoner was the legendary Hugo Grotius, who managed to escape hidden in a book box. On entering the castle grounds every visitor gets a large key programmed for their language. Inserting it into lit up keyholes can unlock gates or start up audio commentary. There are props too, like period clothes and swords. Great fun for kids like us! Aussie has shrunk somewhat since trying on the 3 kg head piece of an armour. 

View from our mooring and the windmills are still going.

© Austin Robinson 2019