The Defence Line of Amsterdam is more than a unique system of fortresses, dikes and sluices. A stone’s throw from Holland’s hectic capital, the ‘Stelling’ is also set in a surprisingly green landscape that offers beautiful spots of tranquillity. For many years no construction was allowed in the areas around the forts, giving free reign to Mother Nature. The Defense Line area is one of 20 recognized National Landscapes in the Netherlands.
No building allowed
With regard to fortifications such as the Defence Line of Amsterdam, the Prohibited Areas Act (in Dutch: Kringenwet) applied. This meant that in a circle with a 1,000-metre (3,280-feet) radius around the fortresses any type of construction or agricultural activity was only allowed under very strict conditions. The result of the Prohibited Areas Act, which remained in force up until 1963, was that a ring of 18,590 hectares (almost 46,000 acres) around the city of Amsterdam escaped the claws of urbanization.
Long after the ‘Stelling’ had lost its status as a defensive structure in 1950 the forts still remained under the management of the Dutch Ministry of Defence and were forbidden terrain for citizens. As a result, the forts - often put to use as storage depots - were able to develop into oases of rest and tranquillity where animals and plants flourished. This resulted in a remarkable open area, wedged in between urban clusters, that is well suited to hiking and biking.