In Zaandam, only 6 km from Amsterdam as the crow flies (and as a ferry floats), there’s a remarkable terrain. It is called the HEMbrug.
I was curious to visit it. So when I got an invitation for a special Instawalk, I went.
Why I was so curious? Well, because of:
Fact 1: this 42 hectare big terrain used to be a ‘secret’ military spot with a weapon and munition factory.
It is one of the more modern industrial culture spots in Zaandam.
From 1890 the Dutch government built a large factory and testing complex on the HEMbrug terrain to fabricate weapons, munitions, army tools and gas masks. There’s over 100 old buildings, of which 51 classified as monument.
Since the beginning of this century the place was dismantled and abandoned.
Around 2013 the redevelopment started. Now it’s a spot for artists, designers, lifestyle shops, offices and conceptual restaurants and will be even more vividly soon with a brewery in the former laboratory.
Rijksvastgoedbedrijf is a company from the Dutch government that has taken care of the first development and restoration of the monumental buildings. And clean some polluted grounds…
On the 1st of March of 2017 the terrain went ‘on the market’.
The intention is that a project developer will invest in the property to develop it further for housing and make it an even more interesting hub for citizens, entrepreneurs and visitors.
Fact 2: this terrain contains a large wood in the middle of an urban area.
You can’t imagine that till some years ago those woods were used to test bombs and bullets… That’s why they called it the Plofbos (freely translated by me as the Bangbush).
And because of those bomb testing activities, there have been built all kinds of sand walls and bunkers, to protect the nearby inhabitants against a possible big explosion. The bunkers provide a good hiding place for bats now.
There’s a lot of monumental trees and in the bushes animals and birds found a safe corner in a busy industrial and urban area.
In the north is the so called ‘clay wood’.
This extended forest has not been watched over for the last decades.
It houses impressive chestnut and even almond trees, various ferns, butterflies (fritillary, Argynnis aglaja), and there’s foxes and buzzards (saw 3 of those!) on the hunt – so probably there’s mice too…
It is important that this green lung stays, in the middle of the crowded Metropole Amsterdam.
The plan is to replant the forest floor and to dig out the water canals to encourage more wildlife.
Monumental building ‘Number 8’, the former head office that will now be restored and sold.
Information about HEMbrug in Zaandam
- In the North West of Amsterdam, a ferry goes to Zaandam.
- There’s a HEMbrug-museum that tells and shows more about the history of the terrain.
- There’s festivals, like the HEMbrug Happening in september.
- There’s restaurants and a foodcourt and soon a brewery with shops and brasserie in the former laboratory.
- Design lovers will like this shop, and Dutch designer Dirk van der Kooij that has his workshop over here.
- This website of Hembrug gives info in Dutch about the whole HEMbrug-area.