Coronavirus (COVID-19) information and precautions in Drenthe. Read more.

Tour of benevolence

(36.0 km)
Managed by: Recreatieschap Drenthe

Cycle through nature and discover the world of the paupers. Experience the Free Colonies of Benevolence. This is where General Johannes van den Bosch founded the Society of Humanitarianism 200 years ago. Traces of his ideology remain even to this day. A unique Dutch piece of heritage with a rich history located in Drenthe, Friesland and Overijssel, surrounded by three stunning National Parks: the Drents-Friese Wold, Weerribben-Wieden and the Dwingelderveld.

A beautiful cycling route in a UNESCO-nominated area.

This 36-kilometre cycling route leads you past extraordinary monuments in the Free Colonies of Benevolence Frederiksoord, Wilhelminaoord and Willemsoord.

This route can be started at various locations. Possible starting points with free parking are:

    Hotel Frederiksoord (Majoor van Swietenlaan 20 in Frederiksoord)

    Eetcafé de Steen (Steenwijkerweg 155 in Willemsoord)

    Ons Dorpshuis (Linthorst Homanstraat 14 in Wilhelminaoord)

Sights on this route

Museum de Proefkolonie Frederiksoord
Majoor Van Swietenlaan 1 A
8382 CE Frederiksoord

Logement & Gasterij Frederiksoord

Maj van Swietenlaan 20
8382 CG FREDERIKSOORD
Logement & Gasterij Frederiksoord

Majoor van Swietenlaan 14
8382 CG Frederiksoord

Museum de Proefkolonie Frederiksoord
Majoor Van Swietenlaan 1 A
8382 CE Frederiksoord

Majoor van Swietenlaan 1
8382 CE Frederiksoord

Kon. Wilhelminalaan 53
Frederiksoord

Koningin Wilhelminalaan 76
Frederiksoord

Koningin Wilhelminalaan 6 66
Frederiksoord

M.A. van Naamen van Eemneslaan 63
Frederiksoord

Koningin Wilhelminalaan 30
Frederiksoord

Linthorst Homanstraat 14
Wilheminaoord

Koningin Wilhelminalaan 53
Wilhelminaoord
49

Kon. Wilhelminalaan 22 22
8384 GH Wilhelminaoord

Koningin Wilhelminalaan
Wilhelminaoord

Koningin Wilhelminalaan 35
8384 GG WILHELMINAOORD

Koningin Wilhelminalaan 33
Wilhelminaoord
13

M.A.v.Naamen v. Eemneslaan 5
8384 EA Wilhelminaoord
42

8384 Wilhelminaoord

De Maartjestuin
Gierwal 3
8347jn Eesveen
92 90 91

De Pol

Steenwijkerweg 175
Willemsoord
47

Oldemarktseweg 94
8341 SH Steenwijkerwold
37 38 16 46

Majoor van Swietenlaan 28
8382 CG Frederiksoord

Majoor van Swietenlaan bij 2
8382 CG Frederiksoord
47

Museum de Proefkolonie Frederiksoord
Majoor Van Swietenlaan 1 A
8382 CE Frederiksoord

Directions

Museum de Proefkolonie Frederiksoord
Majoor Van Swietenlaan 1 A
8382 CE Frederiksoord

The year is 1818. Johannes van den Bosch and his Society of Humanitarianism want to offer paupers in the Netherlands the prospect of a better livelihood. To achieve this, the Society established farming colonies. The first Colony is called Frederiksoord, and Willemsoord and Wilhelminaoord follow soon after.

  • Welcome Then Welcome Now to a unique area nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The grand social experiment started in Frederiksoord (Colony 1 & 2), where some of the sights include Westerbeek House, Hotel Frederiksoord, the former Post Office and the authentic civil servant’s homes. This extraordinary village is home to several National Monuments and monumental buildings.
  • The route takes you via Hoeve Koning Willem III to Wilhelminaoord (Colony 4). The Kiemhuis where seed potatoes used to be stored is visible in the distance. Nowadays, it fulfils a beautiful societal role: it is used for projects related to care and labour. Wilhelminaoord is home to the oldest village hall in Drenthe, formerly called ‘the education and leisure building’. It is now known as Ons Dorpshuis (Our Village Hall). The Colony Church and vicarage sit at the heart of Wilhelminaoord.
  • There are more special and historical sites to discover between Wilhelminaoord and Noordwolde Zuid: Rustoord (Retirement Homes) I and II and the Colony School. Retirement Home I is a former home for the elderly, established at the end of the 19th century. It offered accommodation for retired colonists. The building was home to eight colonist couples. Thanks to a generous gift in 1904, the community was able to establish Retirement Home II as well, which was home to 25 unmarried retired colonists.
  • The Mandenmakerij (Basket Weaving Workshop). The colonies initially offered mainly farm field work to the colonists. However, the number of colonists unsuited to farm work was on the rise, so the leaders of the Society of Humanitarianism searched for alternative employment options. Those colonists unsuited to farm work were offered factory work. Initially, they were mostly employed to make items needed at the colonies, such as yarn for stockings, rope, garments, blankets and linen. One of the workplaces was the Mandenmakerij (Basket Weaving Workshop). This National Monument is currently undergoing conversion into thirteen apartments to enable young people with autism to live here and be a part of society.
  • Hoeve Prinses Marianne (National Monument). Johannes van den Bosch commissioned the construction of several large farmsteads, including the Hoeve Koning Willem III in Frederiksoord and the Hoeve De Dankbaarheid in Wilhelminaoord. The small parcels of land of the original colonists were combined to create a large 50-hectare area of agricultural land and enable agriculture on a large scale. The colonists worked as labourers under the supervision of a leader at the farmstead. The new structure proved successful. The name of the Hoeve Dankbaarheid (Gratitude) was changed in 1883 to Hoeve Prinses Marianne in 1883 when it became clear that princess Marianne - who died during this year - had been the anonymous donor of the funds that had enabled its construction.
  • Noordwolde-Zuid is a hamlet in the Westellingwerf village of Noordwolde (Friesland). Noordwolde-Zuid was originally an area of heathland, peat and copses of trees. Peat cutting drastically changed the landscape. The first inhabitants arrived at Noordwolde-Zuid in the 19th century. Noordwolde-Zuid is largely surrounded by woods that stretch from Steenwijk to Appelscha. The recreation area of Spokedam with its Spokeplas lake is a stone’s throw away and offers a cool respite on hot days.
  • The route continues, via Noordwolde-Zuid and the beautiful estate De Eese, towards Willemsoord (Colony 3). The cycling route passes the Westvierdeparten (Colony 6). Your route takes you past the impressive country houses of De Eese, all painted in matt Swedish red.
  • The Jewish cemetery. The Willemsoord colony also accommodated Jewish paupers. A separate neighbourhood was created, also known as the Jodenhoek (Jew’s Corner). A cemetery was established near this neighbourhood for the burials of the deceased Jewish residents.
  • Willemsoord (Colony 3). This colony boasted a relatively large number of educational programmes in addition to the primary school. For instance, there was a sewing and knitting school near the centre, as well as a drawing school. Young people could also be trained in various areas of the manufacturing industry. There was a sack-weaving workshop, a ropery, a carpentry shop and a paint shop, offering young people different prospects after completing the forestry and agriculture course. The Society owned three large farmsteads nearby Willemsoord (Hoeve Utrecht, Hoeve Amsterdam and Hoeve Generaal van den Bosch), so there was plenty of land available to create the students’ trial fields.
  • For some variety during your cycling tour, discover the world of the paupers at the ‘Kolonie Experience’. In this 8-minute Virtual Reality experience, you step into the shoes of a pauper arriving at Colony III. You will be welcomed by General Johannes van den Bosch, who will show you a glimpse of daily life in ‘his’ colony. The VR Kolonie Experience is located at Eetcafé de Steen in Willemsoord.
  • The route continues via the Marijenkampen (Desperado Colony) and once again towards Frederiksoord. Marijenkampen was established after the Society of Humanitarianism had founded the Willemsoord Colony. Some inhabitants from Willemsoord - especially younger colonists who had been banished from the colony - settled in the immediate vicinity in hastily erected turf huts and formed the so-called desperado colonies. Marijenkampen is one such colony. The Nijenslekerveld, Vledderveen and the Oosterseveld and Westerseveld are also known as so-called ‘desperado colonies’.
  • The tour of benevolence continues via Steenwijkerwold and Tuk, past ‘De Bult’ where the forested surroundings will be a joy for the eye. Finally, your route will take you back to Frederiksoords via Nijensleek.

Museum de Proefkolonie Frederiksoord
Majoor Van Swietenlaan 1 A
8382 CE Frederiksoord
49
13
42
92
90
91
47
37
38
16
46
47

Attributes

  • Signposted: Yes
  • Explanation marking: