"European class nature "De Wieden"" Zwolle by avdb1948
Zwolle Travel Guide: 102 reviews and 331 photos
<center><font color = #0000FF><b>European class nature.....
'De Wieden' in 'the head of' the province of Overijssel, with its more than 5.700 hectares of water, reed, grass and hay land and marshland woods, is one of the lager nature reserves. With the 'Weerribben','De Wieden' is the largest, continuous peat bog area of Western Europe. To increase the natural value of these peat bog areas even further, the connecting zone between the two nature reserves is broadened wherever possible and the water balance is improved.
The area that is now called 'De Wieden' is situated between two lateral moraines: the high area of Vollenhove and the area around Steenwijk. These lands used to be wetlands and there were several rivers. At some places the water stagnated, and reed lands were formed, with many large sedges and peat moss. These plants mainly formed the peat bog in 'De Wieden'.
In the Middle Ages, it was already commonknowledge that dried peat could be used as fuel. Especially in the seventeenth century, the trade in peat flourished. In Blokzijl, Vollenhove and Zwartsluis you can still see the houses that were built in this time of prosperity.
The creation of 'De Wieden'
The peat cutters dredged the peat bog in strips of approximately 30 metres in width. Where the peat was removed, water returned: the excavated holes. Between the excavated holes strips of land were left intact, to lay down the peat to dry. These fields were called levees. The fields were not very wide, because the peat cutters wanted to obtain as much peat as possible. During heavy storms and high water, these fields (and in 1776 even the village of Beulake) were flooded. The peat cutting and storms resulted into more and more open water in the area. These lakes were given names that end in '-wijde'; for instance Beulakerwijde, Belterwijde. In this part of the country, 'wijde; is pronounced 'wiede'. That explains the name of the area: 'De Wieden'.
When the earnings of peat cutting became less and less, the peat cutters had to look for other means of support. On the remaining fields, they took up farming. They raised cattle, made hay and cut the reed. All transportation had to take place by boat. In the beautifull vilage of Dwarsgracht you can still meet some of the 'sailing farmers'.
Most of the farmers were also fisherman or reed cutters or they had a duck decoy. When cattle earnings dropped, a great part of the hay land became reed land.
Water turns into land again
Land accretion is typical of areas where peat used to be dredged. The strips of water, the excavated holes, are overgrown gradually with all kinds of plants, for instance crab's claw. In time, you can walk on it, although the (floating) ground is not so solid and is shaking and trembling: the water has turned into 'quaking bog' or a 'floating island'. Very rare species of plants grow here.
The bottom of the quaking bog is getting more and more solid, and shrubs and trees grow on the bog: willows, alders and birches in particular. When nature can take its course, there will be bog woods instead of water.
Explore 'De Wieden'
With all its lakes and many waterways 'De Wieden' is a wonderful area to explore by boat. Cycling around the lakes and through villages like Dwarsgracht and Giethoorn with all the waterways and towns like Vollenhove or Blokzijl is also very rewarding. A walk down the 'Veenweidepad' near Wanneperveen is also highly recommended. This 'rubber boot path' gives a good impression of the peat grasslands in 'De Wieden'.
An excellent start of an exploration of 'De Wieden' is a visit to the visitor's centre 'De Wieden'. It is situated near the town of St. Jansklooster, to the southwest of the area. Here you will find an interesting exhibition about 'De Wieden', which has a lot to offer to young and old. In an outbuilding, you can visit temporary exhibitions and slide shows. The nature study path near the visitor's centre will take the visitor through the reed land to the banks of the 'Beulakerwijde'. There are special programmes for children, like school trips.
The boat, walking and cycling trips from the centre will give you the opportunity to know more about the area and to visit places you are not allowed to visit on your own.
<font color = #FF0000><b>Internetinformation: www.natuurmonumenten.nl
You want to go out in Zwolle, the capitol of Overijssel?
Go to www.horeca.inzwolle.net
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Giethoorn in the North of Overijssel more travel advice
Written Nov 24, 2001
Written Dec 25, 2001
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