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Webmatters : The Belgian Front Line: Ganzepoot Sluice Complex at Nieuwpoort
Rough Map of Area

Ganzepoot Sluice Complex

Location

Nieuwpoort is a town in the Province of West Flanders on the south-west side of the River IJzer (Yser), three kilometres from the sea. Note that you are travelling towards Nieuwpoort (Stad) and not Nieuwpoort-Bad which is on the coast.

The main road into the town is the N 39 (Astridlaan) and this brings you out to the banks of the IJzer river. Stay on the Astridlaan, do not follow the signs for Centrum.

You will come out at a large roundabout.

The road system can appear overly complicated by the double tram line that runs along it. Be very careful that you do not turn down it instead of the road.

The sluice gates are close to the King Albert Monument and the Westfront Centre (worthy of a visit for an explanation of the inundation of the polders via the nearby sluice gates).

At the roundabout turn right towards Middlekerke. This requires crossing the tramway before you do so. The memorial will soon be visible off to your left. Follow the signs for Middlekerke then Westfront. Parking can be had alongside the CWGC Nieuport Memorial to the Missing. To visit the Ganzepoot sluice system it would be easiest to park near to the Westfront and then walk around the gate system.

GPS N E Wikimapia
Decimal 51.134270 2.757855 Map

 

History

In October 1914 the German arrived in front of Nieuwpoort at the western limit of the Race to the Sea. Although French reserves were sent to assist the Belgian Army, there was grave doubt about the Allies’ ability to hold the line long enough.

On 25th October 1914 King Albert gave his permission to commence flooding the polders between the IJzer River and the railway line between Nieuwpoort and Diksmuide.

The system of sluice gates at Nieuwpoort is known as the Ganzepoot or Goose Foot as that is the form it takes as the various water systems join the IJzer river.

Some of these waterways are navigable and have a lock as well as sluice gates. The latter are used to control the level of water in the polders. At high tide they are closed before being opened at low tide to allow surplus water out again.

The Ganzepoot at Nieuwpoort

There are six waterways connected at these gates. From north to south :

  • The Nieuwbedelf: drains the area between the dunes, the Nieuwpoort-Plassendale canal and the Vladslo canal. Sluice gates only, not a lock.
  • The Gravensluis (The Count’s Lock): the Nieuwpoort-Plassendale canal was dug in the 17th century and is still the shortest route to Brugge and Oostende.
  • The Springsas: the Nieuwendamme creek is a former, meandering waterway of the IJzer which became unnavigable in the 17th Century. Sluice gates only, not a lock.
  • The Iepersluis (Ieper Lock): The IJzer is Belgium’s third largest river and the only one with an estuary in Belgium. Although there is a lock gate here, it is no-longer in use.
  • The Noordvaart drains a large area south-east of Nieuwpoort. Although reconstructed since the war it still has eight shafts each fitted with two sliding doors. Sluice gates only, not a lock.
  • Veurnesluis (Veurne Lock): The Nieuwpoort-Dunkerque Canal was also dug in the 17th Century and is still used as an inland waterway as well as a drainage system.

The old sluice gates

The Noordvaart today

The Noordvaart was instrumental in creating the inundation of October 1914. On the southern side of the Noordvaart you will see a memorial plaque to the Company of Engineers who maintained the inundation. In the grassy area to its north is the Yser Memorial and near the Gravensluis a memorial to the French soldiers who helped the Belgians hold the town.

 

Other memorials nearby