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January 20th 2021
Winter hiking close to home: in green parks with waterfalls!
Below a story will follow about the St. Jansbeek stream from its source to the point where it flows into the Rhine – at least until the moment when the stream disappears under the railway dam to the city centre. This is an intentional choice: I have noticed that they are really two different worlds: first the St. Jansbeek stream flows through the green parks, but then it continues through a completely different environment: the part in the city, with buildings from many centuries and with a history of war and reconstruction, up to the Rhine, with another waterfall. The St. Jansbeek stream now flows through two city parks, Park Zijpendaal and Park Sonsbeek. In the northwest, the former estate Park Gulden Bodem (“golden soil”) borders these parks, separated by the winding Zijpendaalseweg road. The name Gulden Bodem refers to the type of soil that doesn’t only occur in the south of the Province of Limburg, but also in this area, the Veluwezoom, i.e. loess. This park does have hills, but no streams of water itself. However, water drains from this park as well: in the north-western part of Park Zijpendaal. In total, the three parks cover 200 hectares. Many longer and shorter walking trails run through the two parks – and not only the long-distance walk the Maarten van Rossumpad (stage 10: Oosterbeek to Rozendaal, 15,6 km – the entire trail runs from ‘s-Hertogenbosch to Steenwijk) or the start of the Veluwe Zwerfpad (from Arnhem Central Station). A number of other walks are mentioned on the website of the Natuurcentrum Arnhem (Nature Centre Arnhem), located in the white building of the Molenplaats on the Zijpendaalseweg road, such as the St. Jansbeek walk of 9 kilometres via both parks, the Janssingels streets and the Rhine, and the Bergwandeling (“Mountain Hike”) of 11 kilometres over the peaks of various “mountains/hills” in and around the parks. The IVN (Institute for Nature Education) Arnhem department has also drawn up a number of walks on the estates, including through Park Zijpendaal and Park Sonsbeek, with an emphasis mainly on flora (mostly trees) and fauna, but which also includes a lot of facts about the history and the buildings. Just wandering through the parks is of course also a possibility – it has offered me hours of walking fun!
Above the source of the St. Jansbeek stream rises the Bicksberg hill – it is also called the Schuttersberg hill. Here is the highest point in Park Zijpendaal – 68 metres. From the higher hills of the Veluwe massif, but also from the Bicksberg itself, water flows, often in small streams. The water seeps out of the lower ground here – that seeping has also led to the name of this estate: Zijpendaal, pronounced in the Arnhem-way as “Séépendahl“…
The St. Jansbeek stream was originally a natural stream, but man has helped it by excavating the seep just north of the present Huis Zijpendaal manor. This allowed the stream to carry a lot of water. This water could be put to good use for powering water mills for grinding grain, making paper from rags, pressing oil from seeds. Long before the landscape parks in this part of Arnhem were created, there was a real “industrial park” with up to seven water mills up to where the railway now runs – and where until 1830 there was the city canal! This was only possible by cleverly using the drop between the seep at Huis Zijpendaal manor and the former city canal which eventually amounts to 35 meters. Of this “water mill park” there are now two mills left: the Begijnemolen (or St. Agnietenmolen) and the Witte Molen (White Mill), both on the Zijpendaalseweg road, near the city – about which more later. The seep looks unspectacular: in a valley in an old beech forest that grows against the Bicksberg hill lies a small pool with a wooden shoring, from where a narrow stream flows to the south. The stream flows into a large pond around the Huis Zijpendaal manor: bordered by large rhododendron bushes on the shore and a lot of yellowish reeds. The bottom of the pond is covered with loam, so that the water cannot sink. Huis Zijpendaal manor stands with the northern side and its back in the pond. The trees and the Manor are mirrored in the quiet water – there is certainly no question of fast flowing water here yet!
The mansion wasn’t mentioned in 1643 as “Zijpendaal“, but as “de Zijp“, when it became a certain Laurens Swaenswijck’s property. A century later (1743) it was bought by Hendrik Willem Brantsen, secretary of the Municipality of Arnhem. The original Huis Zypendaal manor was commissioned by this family of regents from Arnhem as an estate around 1762–1764 and was situated almost on the same spot as the current manor. In 1883–1884 it was rebuilt by the famous Dutch architect Pierre Cuypers, who added a tower to the mansion. This family lived in this mansion until 1926. In 1930 the Municipality acquired it. Since 1975, the headquarters of Stichting Het Geldersch Landschap and the Stichting Vrienden der Geldersche Kasteelen (Foundation Landscape of the Province of Gelderland and the Foundation Friends of Gelderland’s Castles, cooperating as the foundation Geldersch Landschap &Kasteelen, Gelderland’s Landscape and Castles) have been located here. The main floor is decorated as a museum: the rooms are still decorated as in the 19th century… The original manor from 1650 was surrounded by ornamental and vegetable gardens. In 1720, grass parterres were built with waterfalls and fountains. The differences in level and the flowing water fed by the seeps were put to good use. The gardens and the park are a nice combination of the formal “French style” and the romantic “English landscape style”. A little over a century later, landscape architect Johan Philip Posth (1763–1831) made adjustments in the landscape style. He designed the pond with the many bends around the manor and the lawn with the groups of trees and the paths. In 1863, the German landscape architect Carl Eduard Adolph Petzold (1815–1891) created exceptionally beautiful spatial effects in the gardens.
On the north side of Park Zijpendaal stands an elegant white-finished house with the beautiful name “Casa Bianca“, which forms quite a contrast with the Huis Zijpendaal and the other buildings in the area. It was built in the 19th century as a staff accommodation for the “pluimgraaf” (a kind of fowl supervisor) of the then owner, the Brantsen family. The profession of pluimgraaf stems from feudal times and was reserved for high-ranking persons. The pluimgraaf‘s task is to supervise and enforce feudal “plume law”, including the law on swans and pigeons: without his permission, no one in that area was allowed to keep poultry. From the eighteenth century onwards, the term was also used for less distinguished keepers of poultry in a country estate, such as here on Zijpendaal. Another striking building is the “Gouverneurshuisje” (school building), just south of the Huis Zijpendaal manor: it is idyllically located at the top of a narrow pond that is bordered on both sides by beech avenues. Here the children of the Brantsen family were educated. With such a view, the temptation to look out of the window often instead of looking into the books will have been great… – even with less beautiful weather!
A special feature of the Park Zijpendaal are the three “terraces” in the landscape north of the pond at the “Gouverneurshuisje“. These were dug into (or out of) the hill and first sown in with grass, but later planted with beeches. They date back to the 18th century and have also beautifully been integrated into the landscape after the construction of the park in landscape style in the 19th century. On an information panel a drawing is shown from the famous book from 1713, “Théorie et la pratique du jardinage”, written by Antoine-Joseph Dézallier d’Argenville (1680–1765) who was not only a high-ranking official at the French Court, but also an expert in what we would now call landscaping: he was the first to approach landscaping and maintenance on a more scientific basis. This drawing provide instructions on how to build “terraces” – perhaps the owners of the 18th century got inspired by this? The information panel also states that these “unique terraces” are unfortunately in poor condition due to erosion and old age: many trees have died or are on the verge of collapsing. I myself saw how dogs, but especially young children, ran uphill and downhill, leaving their mark in the soil of the terraces… The Municipality is in the process of restoring this area to its former glory.
On a lawn between the pond in front of the “Gouverneurshuisje” (school building) and the Spiegelvijver (Mirror pond) a marble sculpture group from the late eighteenth, early nineteenth century of an unknown sculptor is standing on a pedestal. The group represents the Greek gods Asklepios, Hygieia and Telesphoros, each of which has a connection with health: Asklepios (in Latin: Aesculapius) is the god of medicine and healing, his daughter Hygieia is the goddess of health and “hygiene” and his youngest child, his son Telephoros, is a child god of healing as well. They are often depicted together and often with a snake: here two snakes are laying at their feet. It is a beautiful statue, which was placed here in the 1960s – originally it had been standing at the estate Rhederoord (east of Arnhem), also owned by the Brantsen family.
In the area between the lawn with the Greek statue and the Zijpendaalseweg road in the west, the landscape is a bit wilder than in the rest of Park Zijpendaal. Suddenly one has a beautiful view across a rolling and sloping grassy plain on a large forest with rhododendrons and the old trees of Park Sonsbeek in the distance: here as well a seep has been excavated from which the water originates from the hills of Park Gulden Bodem. Here the water meanders, flowing quickly around bushes, through grassland into a quiet pond, in which the branches of the trees mirror themselves. Not only Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) is growing there, some of which have already expanded above the water, but also a plant with bright green leaves that looked quite like watercress! The water is clear and at the bottom the layer of loess can be seen. From the pond the water flows through a dense forest to the Spiegelvijver pond.
The creation of the Spiegelvijver pond north of the Grote Vijver (Great Pond) is due to the city secretary, Josias Harn, who in 1663 was granted the right to dam the water that was gathering in a swampy area and to excavate this swamp, turning it into a fish pond. That dam became the later Parkweg road. The fish pond is the same as the current pond north of the road.
In both Parks, hydraulic elements have also been laid out, such as aeration pots in the stream to increase the oxygen content, smaller waterfalls, the sides of which, as with the Grote Waterval (Great Waterfall), are lined with boulders, and gutters of brick that lead the rainwater from the slopes to the ponds and the St. Jansbeek stream. On the southern roadside of the Parkweg that is laid out on the dam between the Spiegelvijver pond and the Grote Vijver pond is a modern low brick construction covered with a large hatch of stainless steel. Below that, two ingenious water pumps are installed, so-called “water rams”, if one fails, the other can take over the work. A water ram can be described as “a pump that uses hydropower to pump. For example, a ram can be used in a river with a small water drop to pump water to higher altitudes for, for example, domestic use and irrigation. The principle is that running water in a tube example, a ram can be used in a river with a small water drop to pump water to higher altitudes for, for example, domestic use and irrigation. The principle is that running water in a tube is suddenly brought to a standstill by closing a valve. The kinetic energy of the water is used to pump a little water to a much higher height, up to thirty times higher“. The reason for switching to the system of a water ram was to reduce costs: in the 1980s it became too expensive to power the fountain in the Grote Vijver pond with electricity. It is the only water ram-powered fountain in Arnhem – and in the Netherlands. The information panel proudly states that this is a good example of alternative energy…
On the dam/Parkweg road the “Molen van Naberman” mill had been situated, a paper mill named after the last miller, Gerrit Naberman. In 1776 it was demolished by the then owner Brantsen, when Mayor Pronck bought this part of Sonsbeek and did not want the mill. This was the seventh mill seen from the city. Baron De Smeth bought the Sonsbeek estate in 1806 and remained the owner until 1821. Then he sold the estate, including the Gelderse watermolen mill, for 210.000 guilders to H.J.C.J. Baron van Heeckeren. This Hendrik Baron van Heeckeren had almost immediately begun to transform the park into a landscape styled park. The design has often been attributed to the landscape architect J.D. Zocher jr. (1791–1870), but nowadays it is generally agreed upon that the baron has entrusted the assignment to experts from Arnhem. When at the end of the 19th century the last baron couldn’t afford to run the estate (rumour had it that he had had a very exuberant life style in Paris…) and sold a piece of his land in the east of the estate (where not long after three chic districts emerged, the Transvaalbuurt, St. Marten and Sonsbeekkwartier) the Municipality of Arnhem bought the park in 1899 for 1.1 million guilders – half the annual budget! Ir. J.W.C. Tellegen, Director of Public Works, was of great importance for this purchase: he had seen with sorrow how estates were sold in parts to developers for building purposes and did not want that to happen to Sonsbeek – see below for more information. The Municipality immediately opened the estate as a park for all citizens of Arnhem. It still is to this day! In 1963, Park Sonsbeek was the first park to be granted the status of “national monument” as a protected cityscape.
In the Grote Vijver is an island covered with large trees. When Baron de Smeth ordered in 1806 to excavate the area around the St. Jansbeek stream south of the dam with the Parkweg road to create the Grote Vijver pond, remains of the walls of Karel van Gelre’s 16th century hunting lodge, the “Gulden Spijker“, were found at some point! That’s why they didn’t excavate that part of the pond. A drawing (from 1915) of what the area and the buildings looked like around 1555 is in the collection of the Gelders Archief (Provincial Archive). Now the island is a refuge for many birds: many blue herons nest there in the trees – enough fish is swimming in the clean water of the pond. From the banks of the Grote Vijver pond on the side of the city one has a beautiful view on the “Gouverneurshuisje” and even of the sculpture group of the Greek gods. The old farmhouse on the north-eastern “branch” of the pond – which is fed by another seep – is now a brasserie with a nice sunny terrace and a deck in the pond where music is made in the summer. Not in the winter months: yet the winter light is beautiful, even if there is a thin layer of ice on the water…
On the southern side of the Grote Vijver pond is a large semi-circular bench made of bricks with a hardwood seat and backrest and with a rim of bluestone. At one end is a relief in bluestone with the text “Ter herinnering aan Ir. J.W.C. Tellegen Directeur Gemeentewerken 1890–1901” (In memory of Ir. J.W.C. Tellegen Director Public Works 1890–1901). At the other end is a round column with a sculpted stylized deer. Both reliefs were made by the Arnhem-born sculptor Gijs Jacobs van den Hof (1889–1965), of whom several more sculptures can be found in Arnhem. This “Tellegenbank” is a tribute to Ir. J.W.C. Tellegen (1859–1921), Director of Public Works. He is considered to be an important key figure in the rehabilitation of working-class neighbourhoods in Arnhem (including the Klarendal district), but certainly also as a saviour of the country estate Sonsbeek: he convinced the Municipality of Arnhem to buy the Park (for 1.1 million guilders, being – as already mentioned – about half of the Arnhem annual budget…!) to prevent it from falling into the hands of land speculators. The “Tellegenbank” was designed by the Arnhem municipal architect, and Deputy-Director of Public Works, Hendrik Barend van Broekhuizen, an architect in the style of the Amsterdam School. In 1928, the bench was unveiled by Ir. Tellegen’s widow.
At the Grote Waterval (Great Waterfall) used to be the Gelderse Molen mill, the sixth mill (seen from the city). It was for the first time officially mentioned in 1281, making it the oldest mill in the valley. The mill was used as an oil mill. He is probably named after Duke Karel van Gelre who was then the owner (16th century). In 1823 the mill was demolished to make way for the waterfall with cave. The structure of the waterfall consists of boulders that were brought in from the Kootwijkerzand sandy plains on the Veluwe upon north. These boulders had been left there after the melting of the glaciers after the Penultimate Glacial Period (about 150.000 years ago). Baron van Heekeren had been travelling a lot in the Alpine countries and had been very impressed by the (Swiss) waterfalls. He wanted to realize one on his estate… He had to spend quite a lot of money for this beautiful example of landscaping: the construction cost no less than 70.000 guilders – an astronomical amount at that time! Converted to today’s money this would now be about 3 million euros…
It was nice to see how this waterfall still attracts so much attention! That hadn’t been different in former times, as witnessed by the photo from 1890, which I found on the Facebook page of “Oud Arnhem” (Ancient Arnhem)… One can “climb” on this waterfall, walk over a narrow stone beam across the water and watch the water fall down. One can also walk through a dark and rather humid tunnel to a “cave” and look through the curtain of falling water at the park. A stone bench has even been placed against the damp wall made from boulders.
Further downstream is a smaller pond facing north, in connection with the St. Jansbeek stream: the “Koude Vijver” (Cold Pond). There was originally a seep at the head of the pond, from which water was flowing to the stream. In 1812, by order of Baron de Smeth, this seep was excavated and the soil was used to raise a “mountain” (the “Engelse berg” hill). An ice cellar was built in it. In an extensive booklet (“De ijskelder van Baron de Smeth”, The Ice Cellar of Baron de Smeth) a lot of information can be found about this “refrigerator from a distant past”. For a good ice cellar, a hill of sand in a shady spot is needed and in the near vicinity a pond, where blocks of ice can be carved in winter: here in the valley east of the Kleine Waterval waterfall, a few hundred meters from the White Villa. There is no fixed building plan for an ice cellar. In the Netherlands, most ice cellars have straight walls – those on Sonsbeek are sloping: this prevents the water that freezes into ice from breaking the walls. In this cellar it was possible to store ice that was sawn from the Koude Vijver pond for up to two years. When the remains of the ice cellar were measured in 2008, it turned out that the cellar was probably made by a landscape architect and not by an architect: the main size is the “Rijnlandse roede” (former unit of length from the west of the country – 3,767 metres), divided into nine equal parts, and not, as an architect would, the ell (69.9 cm), the Amsterdam foot (28.3 cm) or the Amsterdam thumb (2.57 cm). This ice cellar has a diameter of 366 cm and a depth of 295 cm at the beginning of the curvature of the dome. The basement has a dome vault; 6½ mᵌ of ice can be stored (“useful ice content”). On the covering layer of sand a wooden gazebo or teahouse had been built: this shielded the sunlight and would keep the ice cellar cooler.
After the sale of the estate to H.J.C.J. baron van Heeckeren (in 1821), the ice cellar remained in office as a “refrigerator” for almost a century. Around 1900, the Municipality, as the new owner, still invested in the restoration of the ice cellar, but because “factory ice” came on the market, the function of the ice cellar was lost. In 1919 it was demolished and filled with soil. In 1999, the remains of the ice cellar were recovered; Because of its special cultural-historical value, the “Friends of Sonsbeek” Association had the ice cellar restored to its original state in 2009. A steep path with steps leads from the hiking trail up the sandy hill and on the north side of what just seems like a sand bump from the road is an outside façade like a small farm: the access to the ice cellar. A large memorial stone has been bricked mentioning that on 12 November 2008 the first stone for the restoration was laid by a great-great-grandson of Theodore de Smeth: Jan Anne baron de Smeth (1924–2017). On the accompanying info panel there is a schematic design of the ice cellar. For now, there are no tours…
Back at the Kleine Waterval waterfall one gets to the spot where until 1823 the fifth mill from the city stood: near the place where the Zwanenbrug (Swan Bridge) and the ornamental ponds are now located. This water mill was the Sonsbeekmolen, which is already mentioned in 1470, but which after 1636 got its name, after the then owner, Anna van Sonsbeeck. She was a distinguished young lady from Arnhem in the 17th century. The mill was initially a flour mill, then a bark mill, but was converted into a paper mill in 1718. In 1823 it was demolished for the construction of the ornamental ponds. A column with a plaque reminds us of this.
The Zwanenbrug bridge was built in 1902 in Art Nouveau style and will undoubtedly refer to the feudal “swan right”: there are still some mute swans swimming around, especially in the Grote Vijver pond. The wrought iron swans on the bridge look graceful. The eye-catcher is the swan in the middle of the ornamental fence: it seems to fly out of the bridge with spread wings! The swan motif returns looking more modern, further downstream of the St. Jansbeek stream: on the eastern border of Park Sonsbeek with the Sonsbeekweg road. During the remediation of this part of the St. Jansbeek stream in 2005, this ornament was placed on the spot where the St. Jansbeek stream is led underneath the road. There is a nice view of the white buildings of the Molenplaats and the Witte Molen (White Mill).
Here too is the admiration for the elegant Zwanenbrug bridge of all times: the image of the bridge in a somewhat gloomy winter light in 2021 flows into a sepia-coloured and lovely scene from over a century earlier!
Against the western slope of the “Hartjesberg” hill with the “Witte Villa” (White Villa) is a garden, interesting from a historical point of view, called “De Steile Tuin (The Steep Garden) for a reason: there is a height difference of 16 metres at an angle of 15%! On the north side, the garden is closed off with an authentic brick wall from the 18th century. Characteristic are the terraces that emphasize the difference in height even more. Flowers were grown in this garden from 1904 to 1956; then came a miniature golf course. Unfortunately, around 1990 there was little to notice of the original grandeur: the garden was overgrown and neglected… With the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the municipal Park Sonsbeek in 1999 in mind, various plans were made for the restoration of the garden: a planting scheme by colour was chosen in the terraces, so that the appearance fits nicely with the English perennial borders and therefore – in a modern way – with the English landscape style. In winter, high ornamental grasses provide a different, also striking colour accent. That is also very nice! A wide and sleek middle path of dark tiles with many small steps divides the garden with the swinging terraces in two. Here attention to water has been paid as well: there are small streams of water that flow along the terraces into a rectangular pond at the bottom of the garden. Through an ingenious system, it is pumped back up. On a large information panel at the entrance near the Zwanenbrug bridge and the Sonsbeek Paviljoen pavilion are indicated the various perennials in the Steile Tuin garden and also (with a colourful drawing) how these plants are placed in the garden by colour.
Another building in Park Sonsbeek is the Belvedère: this watchtower built in red bricks was constructed in 1821 by the then owner, Hendrik Baron van Heeckeren. The tower stands on the Ruyterenberg hill (70 metres), close to the eastern border of the Park, on the Apeldoornseweg road. It initially had a height of 24 metres, but it has been raised by 6 metres in the 1950s, because the trees had been growing in all these years of course! Until recently it had been possible to climb the Belvedère: on certain Sundays during the year it was open and one could still enjoy the view after 140 steps… Let’s hope this is possible again soon!
The fastest way to reach the Belvedère is from one of the entrances to Park Sonsbeek on the Apeldoornseweg road. Then one also has a view through the trees of another item that often occurs on estates: the deer park. Behind Huis Sonsbeek on the sloping hill of the “Apostelenberg” (Apostles’ Hill) (named after a bench with 12 lime trees around it) there is a pack of fallow deer. At the top of the meadow is a “Swiss chalet”: a white barn with a thatched roof (!). This “folly” is supposed to give the area the appearance of a mountain meadow…
From the top of the Ruyterenberg hill one has a view to the northwest of a green lawn in a kind of excavated valley, which is called the “Ronde Weide” (Round Meadow), but it is actually oval. This lawn with a stage was already laid out in 1820, but has been expanded in 1959. Until recently, concerts were organised on Sunday afternoons in the summer with music of different genres and from many eras. Often people went there with family or friends, a pleasant afternoon out and taking a picnic basket along! When I walked past it was quiet – except for a lonely football player…
Art events have regularly been held in Park Sonsbeek: some works of art have been purchased since and placed in the Park. This was the case with the artwork from 2001, “Skies Captured” by Finnish artist Henriëtta Lehtonen (1965). Here she has combined her passion for astronomy and for art. In the Koude Vijver pond a copy of our solar system is displayed: the distances from the planets to each other and to the sun aren’t correct, but the ratios in size are corresponding with reality.
Another work of art has been created on the north side of the Parkweg, opposite the brasserie – in the Vlindertuin (Butterfly Garden). The spiralling hill of grass, rimmed with steel strips, entitled “All Happy Now!” by the American artist Peter Santino (1948) also originates from the Art Event Sonsbeek 9 (2001) and is an example of “land art“. The artist wants to respond to landscape characteristics, manipulate them and thus give a new experience of space. By using the spiral shape, he also wants to give people a positive feeling when they walk up barefoot, following the spiral. For that it was a bit too cold in January: when I was there, there had been a touch of frost and there was some ice on the small waterhole in the otherwise wintry-looking garden.
The art event Sonsbeek 9 (2001) has produced another subject of “land art”: “Fresh Epitaphs” by the Mexican artist Gabriel Kuri (1970). In doing so, he has engraved many smaller boulders throughout the park, which have been there for a long time, with trivial texts, and given this little interesting information the same value as those on monuments or headstones. In this way, this “non-information” will last for a very long time. Gabriel Kuri, for example, opted for the TV overview and winning lotto numbers (at the suspension bridge near the Kleine Waterval waterfall), but also for the text “Jan Hoet gaat in dialoog met het Sonsbeek-publiek” (Jan Hoet enters into dialogue with the Sonsbeek audience, him being curator of Sonsbeek 9) and “Vlechtwerk“ (Braiding) with explanations on boulders at the Grote Waterval waterfall.
After the 11th edition of the Sonsbeek sculpture exhibition in 2016, it was decided to organise such an art event every four years. The theme for “Sonsbeek 20→24” is “Force Times Distance: On Labour and its Sonic Ecologies“. Based on the themes of labour and the “sonic” (sound, music, oral history), the curator, the Cameroonian-born Bonaventure Ndikung, and his team wanted to link fact and fiction about Arnhem and the region with stories worldwide. On the website there are some of these “soundscapes”: I personally like the item with the bleating sheep very much – at the end the dog has the final say! Due to the Corona pandemic, the 12th edition in 2020 could not take place in the usual way… The event goes digital for now. The opening initially planned for summer 2020 has been moved to April 2021. Not only Park Sonsbeek will be involved – there will also be an extension to the north, to the village of Schaarsbergen and the National Park “De Hoge Veluwe” with the Kröller-Müller Museum. I’m intrigued!
Even without “art”, the area southwest of the “Witte Villa” is beautiful, spacious, green and above all soggy… Here the water that rises or falls in the form of rain is allowed to find its own way to the St. Jansbeek stream. Since 1990, this marsh meadow has not been disturbed, so that it has turned into a paradise for waterfowl, but also for special plants. Adjacent to this soggy terrain is a drier area of meadows: along the Sonsbeekweg road. This is used for grazing by a breed of cattle called Lakenvelders , or “belted cows” (I personally think the black and white colour scheme is the most beautiful!). In winter, the cows are in stables in the Stadsboerderij “De Korenmaat” city farm on the other side of the Rhine, in Malburgen, which, like the Visitor Centre in the Molenplaats building, resorts under the Natuurcentrum Arnhem (Nature Centre Arnhem).
The road to the “Witte Villa” on top of the Hartjesberg hill leads past the “Lorentz monument” memorial that was erected in honour of the famous Dutch physicist and Nobel Prize winner (1902) Hendrik Antoon Lorentz (1853–1928) and which was festively unveiled by Princess Juliana in 1931. The memorial was designed by Oswald Wenckebach (1895–1962), who we all know from the bronze statue “Monsieur Jacques” (1956) which is now at the entrance of the Kröller-Müller Museum in Otterlo. This bronze statue is standing on a pedestal against a back wall and two wings, each with three panels, made of whitish French limestone. On the left wing are the portraits (“en profil“, directed towards the Professor) of famous physicists from the time before Professor Lorentz: Christiaan Huygens (1629–1695), Augustin Fresnel (1788–1827) and James Clerk Maxwell (1831–1879) and on the right wing the portraits of famous physicists who were still alive when the memorial was made: Max Planck (1858–1947), Albert Einstein (1879–1955) and Niels Bohr (1885–1962).
For the art event Sonsbeek 2008, which was given the name “Grandeur“, the Dutch artist Hans van Houwelingen (*1957) chose 142 names of physicists, which are chiselled into the limestone of the reliefs on the wings: in doing so he wanted to indicate that these scientists “have taken over and passed on Lorentz’“, in many facets of contemporary science and the world. According to Hans van Houwelingen, these names “show how great the influence of a brilliant mind can be, but also how a great offspring makes that spirit survive.” With the expansion under the title “Update“, the artist has tried to give the monument of stone a human appearance: it is “a hymn to perhaps the most ruthless physical phenomenon, mortality.“
Not far from the Lorentz-memorial, on top of the “Hartjesberg” hill, Huis Sonsbeek manor, or also called “De Witte Villa” is situated. The middle part of this striking white villa was built in 1744 for the young orphan Adriana van Bayen (1723-1755?) designed by Anthony Viervant (1720–1775), a descendant of a family of architects from Arnhem. The two side wings have been added by Roelof Viervant, Anthony’s son, at the end of the eighteenth century. After the Municipality of Arnhem became the owner of the house in 1899, it has served as a hotel-guesthouse and later as a school building. Then, after a major restoration, it was turned into an exhibition and sales space of art. Now it is a restaurant with a large terrace from which one has a phenomenal view, first over the green slopes with in the summer the cows and more on the right the two water mills at the St. Jansbeek stream. The city lies in the distance…
The name “Hartjesberg” hill is a corruption of the “Hartgersberg” hill, named after Hartger Hartgers who owned the estate in the first half of the 16th century. One could jokingly say that the Hartjesberg is the “Hausberg” of Arnhem: in the Alpine countries one often refers to the mountain closest to a place with “Hausberg“, such as the Piz Lischana near Scuol in the Swiss Lower Engadin…!
On the large green lawn that extends over a large part of the slope to the Karpervijver (Carp Pond) – also an area with seeps! – on the edge of the cow pasture, many citizens of Arnhem like to linger, as soon as the weather is somewhat pleasant. Come rain or shine: the eye-catching, bright white sculpture “Lazy King” created by the French artist Alain Séchas (*1955) especially for the art event Sonsbeek 10 (2008) is lazing in the green grass! It has really become the icon of Arnhem. The shock was great when the statue was first set on fire in 2012 and then beheaded! After that, the second version of the Lazy King had been smeared again – even now someone had drawn a crooked smile on it – for me the least evil way of vandalism…
The Sonsbeek Sculpture Exhibition “Sonsbeek 10” entitled “Grandeur” was opened on 13 June 2008 by Queen Beatrix. In the newspaper De Gelderlander a great photo appeared showing Queen Beatrix looking amused at the relaxed Lazy King!
At the bottom of the foothills of the Hartjesberg hill are the two still existing water mills on the St. Jansbeek. The Begijnemolen or Agnietenmolen mill is the fourth water mill seen from the city. This corn water mill dates from the 15th, 16th century. The mill itself is no longer there – however, in 1993 a new flume and a wheel were installed against the wall of the miller’s house. In 1998, the buildings were transferred by the Municipality of Arnhem to the Waterschap Rijn en IJssel (Water Board for the area around the rivers Rhine and IJssel) for the symbolic amount of one guilder (0.45 euros) rent per year. Although the remediation and management of the St. Jansbeek stream has been thoroughly tackled by the Water Board, as it itself indicates, it has been “treated with kid gloves” because of its great cultural-historical value. In addition, the Water Board has converted the former miller’s house into the Nederlands Watermuseum (Dutch Water Museum), which has been opened in 2004: a museum built largely underground, where the role of water in the Netherlands can be shown in an exciting and educational way. In 2015, the Water Board built in a new wheel at the Begijnemolen, which has no actual function: the water does make the wheel run – it just looks real!
Nearby is the third water mill seen from the city, the “Witte Molen” (White Mill). A forerunner of this mill was the Jamerlomolen water mill which was already known in 1281. The current corn water mill dates from 1583 and was the most upstream of the two corn mills on the stream (the second was the now no longer existing St. Jansmolen mill). Restoration began in 1965 – in 1968 the mill was festively reopened. Grain is still being milled in the “Witte Molen“. Since 1983, the Sonsbeek Visitor Centre has been located in the white agricultural barn next door, the Molenplaats. The buildings can be seen from afar in the green valley due to their colour.
There were two more water mills on the St. Jansbeek stream. The second from the city was the Prümermolen mill, which was bought and demolished by the Municipality in 1899. It stood on the spot where now the wide bridge at the Bothaplein square is situated. Where the mill building had been, a beautiful waterfall has now been made. The St. Jansmolen mill had already been known in 1281 and stood at the outflow of the stream into the city canal. It was a flour mill until 1709, then a paper mill. Because in 1728 the fortifications were expanded, the mill had to be moved. Eleven years later, the mill was set up as a bark mill. Fire destroyed the mill in 1822. The remains of the buildings are located under the railway dam and at the Jansbuitensingel street.
Here one can see the spreading swan wings in the fence of the bridge, just like at the Zwanenbrug bridge! In 2006 the original lanterns and the fencing were restored to their former glory. On a rainy day, these are bright spots in the grey atmosphere. Standing on the Bothabrug bridge one gets a view of the place where the St. Jansbeek stream disappears underground: at the railway line.
Standing on that side one also has a view of the beautiful mansions, and also of the characteristic Jugendstil building from the end of the 19th century, where nowadays Hotel “Molendal” (mill valley) is located and whose name speaks for itself…
In essence, there is little difference between the situation at the beginning of the 20th century and that at the beginning of the 21st century: in a website of the Waterschap Rijn en IJssel Water Board that since 1996 has taken over from the municipality the management of all “city water” (and therefore also of the water in both Parks and the St. Jansbeek stream), there are some nice old photos!
At the railway line that runs over the elevated railway dam, the first part of this story about the St. Jansbeek stream comes to an end: here it disappears into a culvert under the railway dam and resurfaces again on the other side in the city. More about that will be for another time ‘though…!