Former Island, neighbouring entities Texel, Kop van Noord-Holland
Province of Noord-Holland
Origin of name:
Derive from the Frisian word
'Wird' which means height.
Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:
Connected with Texel, both islands have a core of glacial till.
Characteristic elements and
Glacial till relief, duck
decoys, eel grass, seaweed/eelgrass dikes, Romanesque churches,
sod-banks and Pleistocene beaches, 'cloche' farmhouses.
2. Geology and geography
Like Texel, the island of Wieringen differs from the other Wadden Sea
islands in that the island consists of a Pleistocene core. Wieringen was not
actually a Wadden Sea island, but a Zuiderzee island. Like the former
islands of Urk, Schokland and Marken, Wieringen has no offshore bars, dunes
or beaches. Before the island was connected to the mainland, the old island
consisted of a Pleistocene core on a somewhat smaller scale than that at
Texel. This layer of glacial till was deposited during the penultimate ice
age when large parts of the Netherlands were covered by glaciers. While the
surrounding areas underwent considerable physical changes after the last ice
age, about 10,000 years ago, this till deposit remained firmly in place and
thus determined much of the coastline of the northern Netherlands. In the
Roman period almost the entire northern half of the province of
Noord-Holland was covered by peat. This peatland stretched far into the
present province of Friesland, broken only by the river Vlie, which at that
time was a narrow channel connecting Lake Flevo with the North Sea. The
higher ground of Wieringen rose above the peat landscape and was
consequently inhabited from the earliest times onwards.
2.2 Present landscape
The structure of the former island is still recognizable. The land is
higher than that of the surrounding polders. In addition the composition of
the soil is derived from the glacial till.
3. Landscape and settlement history
3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
The higher ground of Wieringen island was inhabited from the earliest times
Finds from the Viking Age (c. 800-1100 AD) include two silver hoards,
indicating that Wieringen was an emporium or trading place in Early Medieval
In the medieval period the landscape around Wieringen was characterised by
the disappearance of large areas of peat. The human population played a
significant role in this process. Farmers moved from the higher ground such
as Wieringen into the fenland to reclaim it for agricultural use and also
cut peat turfs to burn as fuel. By draining the area and burning off the
peat the farmers reduced the ground level by several metres within a
relatively short time-span. This made it much easier for the sea to
penetrate into the area. In the 12th century storms broke up and carried
away large areas of the peat deposits between Friesland and Noord-Holland.
The present-day Ijssel and Wieringen lakes and the Marsdiep channel were
created at this time. During this period the inhabitants were continually
forced to adapt to new conditions. They had to abandon some places because
they could not be defended against the sea; in other places they were able
to take measures to protect their homesteads against the water. Wieringen
provided a secure refuge within this dynamic natural environment.
3.2 Early Modern Times
The inhabitants of the small island of Wieringen were farmers and
fishers. As on Texel, they built tuunwallen, sod banks, as their field
|Photo: Sod-banks (tuunwallen)
For its size,
the island contained a large number of settlements, harbour and fishing
towns like Den Oever.
|Harbour and fishing villages in
||Photo: Harbour of Den Oever
where the modern Barrier Dam begins and the Stevin lock and sluices are
situated, is the main harbour, having taken over this role from De Haukes.
|Photo: Afsluitdijk Stevinsluis
In addition, the island has several farming settlements: Hippolytushoef,
Oosterland, Westerland and Stroe.
Apart from agriculture, the island was known for two specific
activities. First, the harvesting of eelgrass (Zostera marina), which was
used as thatch, as litter or bedding for livestock and as a material for
|Historical farmhouses in Wieringen
||Photo: De Haukes dyke
The dike along
the southern coast of the island still consists partly of eelgrass. When it
became popular as a filling for mattresses, the eelgrass harvest became one
of the principal industries on the island. A few of the old eelgrass
warehouses still stand today. This industry came to an end in the 1930s when
disease all but wiped out the eelgrass beds. The second activity concerns
ducks. In the seventeenth century there were 15 duck decoys on the island,
which were used to trap wild ducks for the table. Two still remain. Domestic
ducks were also kept for their down and to supply eggs.
(eendenkooi) in Wieringen
Duck farming was concentrated around De Haukes and was closely tied to the
fishing industry because the ducks were fed with undersized fish that could
not be sold.
A special feature of both Texel and Wieringen is the type of
farmhouse found on these islands. It is a variant of the Noord-Holland
stolpboerderij or ?cloche? house, known for its pyramid-shaped roof that
covers both the living quarters and the livestock shed in one building. In
the farmhouses on the island, the barn is housed within the square base of
|Photo: Typical farmhouse in
all the living space and livestock stalls can be accommodated in this space
and these sometimes are housed in extensions built onto the sides. Experts
say that this is an older form. One of the unique characteristics of a
Wieringen farmhouse is the high wooden rear wall of the barn. Another
special feature is the chimney by the threshing floor at the corner of the
working area and the living quarters, where fires could be made for cooking
livestock feed and heating washing water.
|Photo: Barn in Wieringen
3.3 Modern Times
By building a succession of dikes the inhabitants were able to
reclaim land from the sea, piece by piece. When Lake Wieringen was drained,
Wieringen lost its island character, and when the Ijssel dike was built it
even became a stopover place between Noord-Holland and Friesland. Den Oever
is now the most important town on the island, for two reasons. First, when
Lake Amstel was enclosed by dikes in 1924 the old harbour of De Haukes
became less accessible and the fishing fleet chose to move to Den Oever and
use it as their home port.
harbour of De Haukes
Secondly, during the construction of the Barrier Dam many of the labourers,
who came mainly from East Groningen and the peat harvesting region of the
northern Netherlands (the VeenkoloniČn), settled in Den Oever. The migration
resulted in a growth of non-churchgoing inhabitants and the small church of
Den Oever gradually fell into disuse. In the second half of the twentieth
century it was dismantled and rebuilt in the Zuider Zee Museum in Enkhuizen.
The rolling glacial till ridges of Wieringen are still recognisable.
However, most traces of the old field pattern have been largely effaced by
the land consolidation projects of the 1930s, and almost all the tuunwallen
(sod-banks) were removed in the complete remodelling of the landscape during
these projects. In a remarkable turnaround, a number of new tuunwallen have
recently been built as part of a new rural land development project.
|Glacial ridges in WIeringen
||Field pattern in Oosterklief
4. Modern development and planning
4.1 Land use
Wieringen has managed to retain its agricultural character. In recent years
plans have been made to enhance the islands historic character through the
creation of a large lake on its southern border, between the old island and
the former Wieringermeer (now polder).
4.2 Settlement development
Wieringen contains a lot of villages within a small area, a
characteristic of the landscape. These largely retain their historic
character. Only Den Oever has been extended in recent decades. In the new
plan Wieringerrandmeer there are a lot of new houses planned on the edge of
Wieringen outside the island.
4.3 Industry and energy
Den Oever is famous for its role in the fishing industry. Part of the
fishing fleet from the former Zuiderzee is stationed in Den Oever.
The island Wieringen provides the connection with the province of FryslÉn by
the Barrier Dam (Afsluitdijk), which is important for regional development.
In the northern region this is a very important connection.
5. Legal and spatial planning aspects
The Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects are described in a general way, as
these are relevant to all the cultural entities in the province of Noord
Holland. Due to the scale of the entities (which cover more then one
municipality), the focus is on regional policy and management. However, the
goals of the regional policy and planning strategy are taken into account by
the local sector planning policy. The regional goals and strategies are
formulated after discussion with a wide range of stakeholders and
In October 2004 the Province of Noord Holland adopted the development
perspective of the sub region Noord Holland within the framework of the
regional spatial planning. Wieringen is designated as a Landscape Pearl
because of its very special landscape and cultural history as a former
island with a core of glacial till like Texel. The landscape and cultural
history heritage has the lead in local developments concerning housing and
industry. Quality tourism is to be promoted. Agriculture should be continued
in a sustainable way. The main road between Den Helder and Den Oever
crossing Wieringen needs improvement.
6.1 Spatial planning
Unless it is carefully planned, the creation of a lake on the southern side
of Wieringen could damage the old eelgrass sea wall. Improving the main road
across the island is potentially a big threat as the island is small and the
road already has a significant negative impact on the landscape.
Development within the historic settlements on the area of the original
island needs to carefully consider the nature of the built heritage and
where possible compliment it.
The land consolidation project of the 1930?s have caused extensive damage to
the historic landscape. Although this has now ceased there needs to be
careful planning in trying to restore some of the historic landscape and its
A significant increase in tourism could have a detrimental effect on the
historic settlement pattern and landscape. The pressure for second homes and
tourist accommodation, in particular new lake side tourist centres, will
need to be carefully managed.
7.1 Spatial planning
The creation of the new lake provides oppertunities for the recreation of
the sea walls and possibly other landscape features on the island edge.
Careful design and planning could provide the opportunity to improve the
visual impact of the main road across the island.
Sensitive re-use of historic building and careful design of limited new
local housing and industry has the potential to contribute positively to the
existing landscape of the former island. The historic settlement pattern
also provides the opportunity for the creation of cycle routes following
Sustainable agriculture is important for keeping the existing landscape
values and to provide opportunity to restore historic landscape features (e.g.
tuunwallen, duck decoys).
The main potential of Wieringen is the tourism value of the landscape and
cultural history. This should be developed taking into account the return to
life as an island, with a new shore and new relations with the surrounding
area. The unique history of eel grass use, the characteristic farmhouses,
duck decoys and duck farming and the use of the island during the Viking
period are important themes for tourist information and interpretation.
7.5 Industry and energy
Den Oever has potential for the promotion of the historic fish industry of
the former island.
Marrewijk, D & A.J. Haartsen, 2002, Waddenland Het
landschap en cultureel erfgoed in de Waddenzeeregio, Ministerie van Landbouw,
Natuurbeheer en Visserij / Noordboek, Leeuwarden
Provincie Noord-Holland, 2004, Ontwikkelen met kwaliteit, ruimtelijke
samenhang op uitvoeringgericht, (streekplan) Ontwikkelingsbeeld
Noord-Holland Noord. Haarlem