If you cycle through the Scheveningse Bosjes on a nice afternoon, you probably travel along the Galgenpad (‘Gallow path’). But fortunately the time has passed when you could have had a rope around your neck in that area.
Dune area and the Bataaf
Like many parts of The Hague, the Scheveningse Bosjes (‘Scheveningen Woods’) were originally a dune area. But since the 17th century, the area has been planted with oaks, elms, poplars and other species of trees. At the end of the 18th century, Willem Heytveldt received a permit to clear part of the dune soil. He grew potatoes, sugar beets, rye, barley, and buckwheat. Because hikers and hunters came to the area, he built a tea room next to his farm. Heytveldt was a big supporter of the Batavian Republic and was therefore also called “The Batavian farmer”. And his tea room was called “De Bataaf”, a name still in use by the local tennis club.
Centuries ago, this area was not a fun place to be. Until the end of the 18th century, gallows were to be found in various places on the outskirts of The Hague. The bodies of criminals sentenced to death and executed by hanging were left on the gallows for a while. The idea was that visitors to The Hague could see clearly what could happen to them if they did not comply with the law. This display of convicts lasted until 1795.
In 2015, all cycle paths in The Hague were given names, partly to provide location information for emergency services (police, fire brigade and ambulance). Because it was known that gallows were to be found in this area in the Middle Ages one of the cycle paths through the Scheveningse Bosjes was named “Galgenpad”.
Ver Huell beautifies the woods
In 1864 councillor Jhr. Henri Ver Huell took the initiative to turn the Scheveningse Bosjesinto a beautiful walking park. He engaged the well-known landscape architect Zocher, who designed an attractive park with a large pond, varied plantings and winding lanes. The city thanked Ver Huell by installing a handsome marble bench in his name in the park.
There is another ornamental bench nearby, also erected as a monument. This one honours the writer and poet J.J. Cremer (1827-1880). He did not like burial places and said he did not want a monument in a cemetery. He preferred a bench in the Scheveningse Bosjes, “from which those who look for leisure can find enjoyment.”
World War II
In the autumn of 1942, the German occupiers began the work of making the entire coastal area of The Hague into a fortress as part of the Atlantikwall. In doing so, the Scheveningse Bosjes suffered greatly, as many trees were felled and the large pond became part of the anti-tank moat.
The Stekelduin was also excavated, so that the beautiful viewpoint De Kogelenberg was lost. Fortunately, the two bench monuments were carefully taken apart and stored.
During the hunger winter in 1944-1945, there was not only a shortage of food, but there was also no coal. So the last trees disappeared into the stoves and heaters of cold and hungry Hagenaars.
The result: the Scheveningse Bosjes were an almost bare plain. But after the war, they were replanted quickly, with the help of, among others, school children.
The Scheveningse Bosjes feature regularly in the local news. It can be about developments in and around the area that threaten to attack the beautiful greenery. Or there is an unpleasant event, such as a murder.
Despite all this, the Scheveningse Bosjes remain an attractive and interesting place for a walk or bike ride.
You see more of the many green areas of The Hague when you take one of my bike tours with family, friends or colleagues.