The Beemster Polder which lies about 10 km south-east of Alkmaar is the oldest area of reclaimed land in the Netherlands. It was created in 1609-12 by draining a lake and the whole area lies 3.5 m below the normal sea level at Amsterdam. The new land was divided into square fields measuring 1850 m x 1850 m. The grid of roads serving the polder and the parallel grid of canals remain much as they were in the 17th century. The polder extends over some 7200 ha, and currently has a population of about 8,550.
There is a small museum in the village of Middenbeemster. Beemster Cheese made from the milk of cows grazing on the polder is renowned for its quality, and is produced by CONO, a co-operative formed in 1901.
The Beemster polder was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 in acknowledgement of the achievement of Dutch engineers of the 17th century which set an example not only for their fellow countrymen but for people seeking to drain land in many parts of the world.