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    This database contains bibliographic descriptions of all Wageningen University PhD theses from 1920 onwards. It is updated on a daily basis by WUR Library.

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    mail icon WUR Library, 9 july 2012


Record number 968806
Title Landschappen van Maas en Peel : een toegepast historisch-geografisch onderzoek in het streekplangebied Noord- en Midden-Limburg
show extra info.
door J. Renes
Author(s) Renes, J.
Publisher Leeuwarden [etc.] : Eisma [etc.]
Publication year 1999
Description 538 p + 4 krt
Notes Proefschrift Wageningen
ISBN 9074252842
Tutors Vervloet, Drs. J.A.J. ; Jansen, Dr. J.C.G.M.
Graduation date 1999-09-01
Dissertation no. 2648
Author abstract show abstract


The theme of this book is use of data on the historic cultural landscape in physical planning. The book contains a general introduction into this subject, as well as a case study: a large survey of the northern and central parts of the Dutch province of Limburg.

Structure of the book

The book consists of five parts. The first, introductory, part presents the contours of the research project, as well as chapters on terminology and on the development of applied historical geography in the Netherlands. Parts 2 and 3 pertain to the regional survey. In part 4 the large-scale maps are explained, an assessment is presented and some general remarks are made on the preservation of historic landscapes. Part 5 presents conclusions and recommendations.

The way the regional description of North and Central Limburg is structured reflects the specific problems of research in historical geography. This type of research is partly historical and partly geographical, with the first calling for a chronological, the second for a regional treatment. The approach in this book is to describe both aspects more or less separately. Part 2 provides the geographical characteristics. This part gives a description of the spatial structure of the landscape and corresponds with Map 1 (`Characteristics of the cultural landscape'). Part 3 deals with the development in time: the chronology of reclamations, development of towns etc. This part is especially connected with Map 2, the map with historic elements. Cross-referencing ensures consistency in the description as a whole. Each chapter concludes with a summarizing section on the most important relics in the landscape.

Part 1. Introduction

Introduction (Chapter 1)

Studying the history of the landscape provides a better insight into the present cultural landscape. This insight can be used to preserve characteristic historic elements and patterns. It can also serve as a source of inspiration for planning new developments.

The present research was commissioned by the provincial government of Limburg, as part of the preparations for the renewal of the regional plan. The project started with the following questions:

  1. How did the present cultural landscape of North and Central Limburg come into being and which forces shaped the landscape?
  2. Which relics in the present landscape are reminders of that historical development? Where is the historic cultural landscape still more or less recognizable?
  3. What is the value of those relics and what measures and policies are necessary to protect historic landscapes and their relics?

To answer each question, knowledge of the history of the cultural landscape is essential. However, in the region under consideration, very little was known of that history. Therefore, much time went into compiling an overview of the history of the region's cultural landscape.

Furthermore, we aimed at presenting the data within the wider scope of the development of research in applied historical geography in the Netherlands during the last few decades. Thereby, we posed the following questions:

  • - What are the backgrounds of applied historical-geographical research? Why is this research being done and who uses the results?
  • - What are the possibilities and restraints for the future?

The main arguments for preserving historic landscapes are located in: ethics (the roots of our culture), irreplaceability, science (the landscape as a historical source), education (teaching history in the field), ecology (the cultural landscape as ecosystem), economics, identity and aesthetics. Different groups have a different interest in the landscape.

Parts 1 and 4 of this study are based on the existing literature, with additional information coming from interviews. The (regional) parts 2 and 3 are based on a variety of sources, including maps, the literature, archives and fieldwork. Exact data on the development of the landscape during the 19th and 20th centuries were collected by inventorizing a sample of 1500 points on the map.

The language of the cultural landscape: terms and definitions (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2 presents a terminological framework for applied historical geography. First (section 2.1) the basic terms are defined: (historical) geography, cultural history and cultural landscape. Next (section 2.2), the relics are divided into different categories: [1] elements, ensembles, patterns and structures and [2] functioning, archaic and fossil objects. Then (section 2.3) the concept of preservation is discussed, with special emphasis on the question of `what' is being preserved and why. Lastly, section 2.4 looks at heritage management, including the relation between maintenance, restoration and reconstruction, as well as the difference between material and conceptual preservation and the matter of authenticity.

Historical geography, landscape and planning (Chapter 3)

Chapter 3 describes the growing interest in landscape history and the emergence of applied historical geography in the Netherlands. Four periods are distinguished.

During the first period (until ca. 1945) interest grew slowly and, from the end of the 19th century, a First Green Wave can be distinguished. In the first part of the present century, the then emerging physical planning had strong roots in preservation.

The second period (`Postwar reconstruction') was characterized by very limited interest in landscapes and monuments. Physical planning was superseded by different types of sectoral planning, especially for agriculture and infrastructure. In the meantime, historical geography developed as a discipline, made possible by the growing numbers of staff within university geography departments.

During the third period (`Years of reflection'; ca. 1970 - ca. 1990), a protest movement developed against the rapid loss of historic relics and landscapes: the Second Green Wave. In the inner cities the demolition scenes of the former period gave way to `urban renewal'. In the rural areas interest in the values of landscapes grew and new legislation for landscape protection was introduced. This led to a demand for data on historic landscapes and landscape values. The opportunities for research in this field presented new vistas for historical geographers. They were in a good position for this job because of geography's old contacts with planning. Moreover, historical geographers had become isolated within geographical institutes that had turned away from regional and landscape studies.

During the 1970s the first regional surveys of historic relics and landscapes were carried out. In the 1980s survey methods became standardized and historical geography gradually carved out a niche of its own in rural reconstruction schemes and regional plans.

The present (fourth) period (from ca. 1990) has witnessed greater speed in urbanization processes. Historical geographers got involved with new themes, such as nature development, river dike reconstructions and infrastructure, sometimes within the framework of Environmental Impact Reports. Also, cooperation with other heritage disciplines (archeology, architectural history) grew and GIS techniques came into use.

Part 2. Space: the structure of the cultural landscape of North and Central Limburg

In this part, the spatial structure of the landscape is described, with a special emphasis on those parts of the cultural landscape that changed so slowly that they do not fit into the chronological description of Part 3.

Introduction to the region (Chapter 4)

Within the region, three old and two recent cultural landscapes can be distinguished. The old landscapes, based on physical geographical regions, are those of the river terraces , the ice-pushed ridge and the cover sand . The recent landscapes are the landscape of the recent reclamations and the peat excavation landscape .

The natural landscape (Chapter 5)

The physical-geographical landscape was formed by a number of forces (section 5.1): earth (tectonics), ice, water, wind, vegetation, fauna and man. Man has adapted the physical-geographical landscape radically, and changed it into a cultural landscape. In section 5.2 the three physical-geographical landscapes ( river terraces , ice-pushed ridge and cover sand ) are discussed.

Streams have shaped parts of the landscape and have for millennia played a central role in human settlement and activities. In sections 5.3 and 5.4, respectively, the River Meuse and the smaller streams are described. The Meuse crosses a number of faults that divide the river valley into three parts. In the central part, the river crosses a horst (uplifted fault block), and has cut out a narrow valley. North and south of this, the river valley is broad and the river has been very dynamic. In these parts, the valley settlements were protected by a unique system of hooked dikes.

Since Roman times the Meuse has been used for shipping. The smaller streams were used in a number of ways: drinking water, irrigation, industry (breweries), watermills and defence.

The components of the cultural landscape (Chapter 6)

The common basis for all old agrarian cultural landscapes of North and Central Limburg is the former mixed farming system. In this system, every farmer had some arable land as well as a certain area of pasture (grassland, heathland, wood). Although most of these landscapes have changed enormously since the 19th century, the old characteristics are still recognizable.

In this chapter, each of the basic elements of these cultural landscapes is described, starting with the situation in the 19th century.

Arable land A factor which determined whether land is used as arable is the groundwater level. On the ice-pushed ridge, the arable land is found low on the slope, between the wetland in the valley and the dry hilltops. Elsewhere, usually only the highest parts of the landscape were arable land. The open fields are characterized on the one hand by visual openness (large scale) and on the other hand by a fragmentation in terms of ownership and land use. These characteristics were already developed during the Middle Ages.

Grasslands Grasslands were situated partly in wet places, partly beside the farms, with the best grasslands in the stream valleys. Here, water-filled ditches and hawthorn hedges, acted as field boundaries.

Uncultivated areas Until the 20th century, every settlement had at its disposal a large area of commons. In the early modern period, most of these consisted of heathlands, but other parts were forest, fenland or sand dunes. All these areas were used. Forests provided wood, that was used in many different ways, as well as pasture, especially for pigs. Heathland was used as pasture (especially for sheep) and as a source of sods. For centuries, peatbogs were excavated for peat. Even sand dunes have been used for keeping rabbits. Many raw materials, such as gravel and clay, were taken from the commons.

In the course of time, rights to use the commons gradually became more strictly regulated. That often brought degradation to a halt for longer periods, but not indefinitely. In the long term, all primeval and almost all secondary forests disappeared and also the resulting heathland was often overused. In this respect agriculture was not sustainable. Only in the course of the 19th century did the pressure on the commons diminish.

Roads and tracks Local roads connected the settlements with arable land, pastures and other settlements. Long-distance routes crossed the region in different directions. In the north-south direction the Meuse was the most important route, from east to west overland routes commanded almost all the traffic, although from the 17th century onwards attempts were made to construct shipping canals.

Settlements In the old mixed farming system, the border between the high arable land and the low-lying grasslands was the optimal location for building farms. Most agrarian settlements were situated on such locations. The small enclosures near the farms contrasted with the open, large-scale landscapes of the open fields and heathlands.

The agrarian settlements show great differences in size: from dispersed farms to large villages. The larger settlements varied in morphology: linear or concentrated and with or without greens.

Besides the agrarian settlements there were other settlements where other functions, such as trade, industry or services, dominated. In the late Middle Ages, two proper towns, Roermond and Venlo, were located in the study area as well as a large number of small towns and large villages.

The cultural landscapes (Chapter 7)

In chapter 4 the different cultural landscapes are described according to the situation prevailing in the 19th century, but for each landscape the historical development is reconstructed.

The old cultural landscape on the edge of the ice-pushed ridge Only the southernmost extension of the landscape of the ice-pushed ridges falls within the area under study. Here the village of Mook, the origins of which must go back to Roman times, lies low on the slope of the ridge. The higher parts of the slope were heathland during the 19th century, but have since then been planted with forest. On top of the ridge are some 18th-century reclamations.

The old cultural landscapes of the cover sand region The cover sand region used to be flat and marshy, with small, oval-shaped cover sand ridges. The ridges which were well drained were suitable for settlement and arable land. The ridges varied in size. The smaller ones, with a size of a few hectares, became the arable land of a single farm (an enclosure or `kamp'; plural: `kampen') and formed the basis for a small-scale landscape with a dispersed settlement pattern.

Elsewhere, larger cover sand ridges made larger arable fields possible. Here, the basic settlement pattern consisted of hamlets or small villages with `open fields'. The shape of these settlements varied: loose rows of farms on the edge of the ridge were found beside nucleated hamlets. The church villages often developed into large and densely built nucleated villages.

In most cases, the origins of the (differences in) settlement types are still unclear. The main question here concerns the relation between the church villages and the surrounding hamlets. A large amount of research in the nearby `Kempen' region clearly showed that the early medieval churches there were centrally situated on the cover sand ridges. During the High Middle Ages (12th and 13th centuries) most church hamlets were deserted and the population moved to newly founded hamlets on the edges of the stream valleys. This points to the importance of the (possibly newly reclaimed) grasslands in the stream valleys within the agricultural economy. However, this model does not seem to apply to the region under study. Here, the development is obscure. In most cases the present church village is certainly old (Venray), in other cases the hamlets seem older than the central villages.

A gradual and varied development is most likely. Already during the Early Middle Ages (500-1000 AD), people had settled on some of the cover sand ridges. In the course of the Middle Ages the arable land on the cover sand ridges was expanded and new, smaller, ridges were reclaimed. Some of the hamlets became church villages, maybe because of the existence of a manor, other (not necessarily younger) settlements remained as hamlets. Especially around the larger villages, small areas of low-lying land between arable land were filled in and the original `kampen' and small open fields fused to become extensive open fields.

The old cultural landscapes on the river terraces The cultural landscape of the river terraces shows great similarities with that of the cover sand landscape. Here also, dispersed farms with `kampen' as well as hamlets and villages with open fields, can be found. Furthermore, until the 19th century, arable land and settlements were limited to ridges. However, the physical-geographical landscape of the river terraces shows a different origin (the ridges were shaped by past erosive activities of the Meuse and Rhine) and more variation. In addition, the history of settlement seems longer, with continuous occupation since the Roman period, and more varied.

Two small regions are noteworthy. [1] The highly fragmented landscape in the southwestern part of the region is dominated by dispersed settlements. The individual enclosures account for a small-scale landscape. [2] The valley of the Roer is dominated by large, manor-like farms with small forests and lanes.

Of the settlements in the Meuse valley, the ones that were based partly on trade are situated directly on the banks of the river. Most of the agrarian settlements, however, turn their backs to the river. The settlement pattern on the river terraces changed considerably during the Middle Ages and after. Sometimes the reasons are clear, for example where villages were threatened by river erosion. In other cases, the reasons are still obscure. In a number of villages the focus of the village moved, sometimes leading to a changing location of the village church.

The young landscapes The young cultural landscapes can be found in those regions that were still unreclaimed in the beginning of the 19th century. Parts of these regions have remained as forest, heathland, fenland or sand dunes to the present day. A much larger part has been reclaimed during the last two centuries. With the exception of a small part that is still recognizable as a peat colony, we find here the landscape of the `recent heathland reclamations'.

This landscape is characterized by dispersed settlements and a very regular layout of straight roads and field boundaries. The roads were mainly planned during the 19th century as the basis for new, large-scale forest plantations. Later, this regular configuration of roads became the basis for the new agrarian landscape, when dispersed farms were built on these roads. In large reclamations, small villages (were) developed as central places.

Within the landscape of the recent heathland reclamations a number of subtypes can be distinguished: large-scale forests, small-scale reclamations (by individual farmers) and large-scale reclamations (by local governments or by estate owners). However, all these types share the basic characteristics (straight lines, little connection with the physical landscape, few hedgerows) that make them easily distinguishable from the older landscapes.

The non-agrarian landscapes The peat colony (peat excavation landscape) around the village of Griendtsveen is the only non-agrarian landscape that is large enough to be identified as a separate landscape type. The pattern of peat canals is based on techniques developed elsewhere in the Netherlands, although details (the trident structure) of the pattern followed here are unique. During the 1920s, narrow gauge railways replaced the canals as the principal means of transport.

Towns and large villages The large towns are relatively uniformly spread over the region. Since the late Middle Ages, the main cities have been Roermond and Venlo. The oldest part of Roermond was a castle on a hill. At the foot of the hill, a settlement grew, which was later extended with the provision of a large rectangular marketplace and a regular configuration of streets. This new town was walled during the 13th century and extended and surrounded by a new wall during the 14th. The original castle, now outside the city walls, was demolished.

The town of Venlo grew out of two older settlements: an agrarian village around the present St. Martin's church and a traders' settlement on the banks of the Meuse. Between those two nuclei, during the 14th century a regular street pattern was laid out.

Part 3. Time: the landscape of North and Central Limburg through the ages

The historical section gives a chronological review of the history of the cultural landscape. Each chapter is divided into sections which describe the development of individual functions (corresponding with the classification of the individual relics on Map 2): socio-economic development, political and juridicial, infrastructure, mineral resources, industry, agriculture and forestry, settlements and (for the most recent periods) urban and landscape planning.

Prehistoric and Roman Periods (Chapter 8)

Paleolithic and Mesolithic The oldest traces of human activities date from the Paleolithic. During this period, and also during the following Mesolithic, man lived by hunting and foraging. Population density was low, as was the influence of man on the environment.

Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age With the introduction of agriculture, in the beginning of the Neolithic (ca. 4300 BC), human influence on the environment became so great that we speak of a local cultural landscape. Agriculture brought with it reclamations and permanent settlements. A number of tumuli, the earliest visible relics in the landscape, date from the Neolithic. During this period, parts of the region, especially in the western and northeastern parts, became uninhabitable because of the growing fenlands. The centre of gravity in the settlement pattern moved to valleys of the Meuse and some smaller streams. This distribution pattern remained characteristic until the 19th century and, to some extent, until the present day.

Human influence on the landscape gradually grew in the Bronze Age and Iron Age.

The Roman Period until circa 270 AD During the Roman Period, Limburg was part of an Empire that spanned a major part of Europe. Within the Empire, a unique degree of political and economic integration was developed. Towns and fortresses were connected by a system of military roads. Parts of these extremely straight-running gravel roads are still recognizable in the present landscape. The roads were also used for trade, although the Meuse was a much more important trade route. In a zone along the Meuse and the main roads, villas (large farms) were built. Brickworks was an important industry in parts of the region.

The Late Roman Period and the Dark Ages A long period of prosperity ended around 270 AD, when the border defences collapsed and German tribes caused havoc. Together with the military collapse came an economic crisis. Especially the villas, dependent as they were on garrisons and towns, ran into problems. Many were deserted.

Although the border was restored, the old times did not return. During the fourth century AD, the Roman presence was essentially a military one. In the beginning of the 5th century the last Roman legions moved southward. Everywhere in presentday Netherlands, population size reached minimum levels during the 5th and 6th centuries. Especially on the edge of the Meuse valley some settlements survived. A number of place names date from the Roman Period and point to some continuity.

Early Middle Ages (500-1000 AD; Chapter 9)

During the Early Middle Ages the basis was laid for the present cultural landscape. A slow demographic and economic recovery brought new settlements and land reclamations. The Meuse was important as a trade route, as is shown by the existence of tolls and a few trade settlements.

Part of the land was organized within manors; reminiscences of some of the larger demesnes can still be traced in the present landscape. Many of the oldest churches, for example, seem to have a manorial origin. A common sight in many old villages is a manor with an adjoining church, a combination which may be early medieval in origin.

A number of settlements are mentioned before 1000 AD or have typical early medieval name types. During the 9th and 10th centuries a sizeable number of the present settlements, together with parts of their open fields, must have been in existence. Most settlements were small; of their morphology very little is known.

High and Late Middle Ages (1000-1500) (Chapter 10)

The period from the 10th to the beginning of the 14th century was characterized by expansion. Population size grew and much land was reclaimed. In an administrative sense, during the 11th and 12th centuries the region showed extreme fragmentation, as is illustrated by the large number of castles and small towns. In the following centuries a concentration of power took place, especially in the hands of the counts of Gueldres.

New settlements were established throughout the region. The growth of settlement can be reconstructed by the many settlement names from this period. Characteristic settlement types are (usually triangular) village greens and linear settlements, the latter often accompanied by strip fields.

From the 13th century onwards a network of country-towns developed. Only Roermond, with an important textile industry, and Venlo, the main transhipment harbour on the Meuse, developed into proper towns. Weert was a late and partly successful town, developed as a regional centre of rural industry. The other central places stagnated in an early stage of their development or before they could attain the status of a town. Many attempts by local and regional lords to found towns failed completely. The region is characterized by a large number of settlements that have an intermediate position between town and village (Kessel, Linne, Montfort, Echt, Arcen, Wessem and Neeritter).

Early Modern Period (1500-1795) (Chapter 11)

Between the large expansion period of the high Middle Ages and the rapid changes of the 19th and 20th centuries, the Early Modern Period is often seen as a period of stability for the cultural landscape. That view, however, is too simplistic. The Early Modern Period was a dynamic period, in which population grew, new lands were reclaimed, land use changed and the Meuse valley became more and more influenced by external socio-economic and political developments.

The shift of the economic centre of the Low Countries from Flanders and Brabant to Holland, made the Meuse valley more peripheral. This can be seen in the development of the two main towns: during the 17th and 18th centuries Roermond went through a long period of stagnation, whereas Venlo at first profited from the growth of shipping on the Meuse, but stagnated during the 18th century. Economic development did not take place in any of the small towns, but rural industry grew.

Politically, the Early Modern Period was a period of unrest. This is illustrated by the imposing fortifications around the towns of Venlo and Roermond and around the new fortresses of Stevensweert and Genneperhuis, as well as in the many `farmers' fortresses', built in almost every village, that offered shelter against marauding troops. The Spanish attempts to build a canal from the Meuse to the Rhine (the Fossa Eugeniana) also had a military and political background.

In the development of land reclamation, the influence of the agrarian conjuncture is recognizable. In both developments a long period of growth was followed in the middle of the 17th century by a century of stagnation, to give way to a new period of growth in the second half of the 18th century. Most of the land reclamations were on a small scale, being the work of local farmers who gradually extended their arable land on former heathland. Land reclamation led to the emergence of rings of small enclosures around the open fields. Locally there were also larger reclamations by rich capitalists and landlords. Biesselt (near Mook) is the only example of a planned `heathland colony'. The growth of population and economic activities led to a growing pressure on the surviving commons. The end of the the 18th century saw the first successful new forest plantations. Peat excavation, which was carried out for private use already during the late Middle Ages, gradually increased in scale and became more commercial.

New methods were introduced to agriculture. In crop rotation, the fallow period was replaced by the growing of fodder crops. Other changes included the cultivation of commercial crops and the rise in potato cultivation. Crop rotation systems became more complex and land use on the open fields became more individualized.

Dispersed farms were the typical rural settlement type of the Early Modern Period. Villages grew and non-agrarian activities increased: craftsmanship, shopkeeping etc. Towns changed their appearance as wooden houses were replaced by houses built of stone. The dissolution of the monasteries freed space for new activities in parts of the towns.

The Early Modern Period was the first period in which people purposely tried to beautify the countryside. Castles were rebuilt into country houses with pleasure gardens. Long alleys bore testimony to the power and riches of the owners far into the surrounding countryside.

The 19th and the first half of the 20th century (Chapter 12)

Politics/government The large province of Limburg, a result of the governmental reorganizations of 1815, was divided into a Dutch and a Belgian half when Belgium gained its independence in the 1830s.

Both remaining fortress towns, Venlo and Stevensweert, were dissolved in 1867. During the 20th century new fortifications were built: the Peel/Raam line of fortifications from 1934-1940. During the Second World War an airfield and a number of casemates were built. The Cold War brought its own landscape features, such as a system of air reconnaissance watchtowers.

Infrastructure One of the biggest changes in the landscape was the construction of a system of main roads. This construction started in the French Period, when the region became part of the centralized Napoleonic Empire. New roads, such as the one that is still known as `Napoleonsbaan', connected Paris with the frontiers of the Empire. The French also revived the old plans for a canal from the North Sea to the Rhine, and started building the Noordervaart (`North Canal').

The new Kingdom of the Netherlands (since 1815) continued this policy of road and canal construction. On the east bank of the Meuse a new national road was built and a long canal (the Zuid-Willemsvaart) replaced parts of the Meuse (which was often difficult to navigate) as the main shipping route. From the Zuid-Willemsvaart the large peat area of the Peel region was finally opened up for shipping, after which large-scale commercial peat digging started.

During the rest of the 19th century, almost all investments went into railways. From 1860 onwards, under strong governmental influence, a dense network of railways came into existence. In the beginning of the 20th century this network was supplemented by local narrow gauge railways.

During the 1920s the Meuse was reconstructed to make it more suitable for shipping. However, during the remaining part of the 20th century most investment went into roads, to accommodate the growing number of bicycles and, later, cars.

Reclamations and afforestations Agriculture remained the most important economic activity. Aforestation and reclamation on a large scale imposed a new agrarian landscape on the former commons.

During the 19th century, the heathlands gradually lost their function as sheep pasture, but lack of manure, knowledge and organization made large-scale reclamation impossible. Large-scale forest plantations dominated during this period. Locally, attempts were made to introduce water meadows on a large scale, but this proved unsuccessful. Also the introduction of buckweat cultivation with slash-and-burn techniques on peatland was short-lived.

The agricultural crisis of the 1880s was a major factor in prompting change in agriculture. Agriculture changed from a system of mixed farming aimed at producing grain (rye) to a system in which animal farming (particularly poultry and pigs) was predominant and arable land was mainly used to produce fodder crops. The new agriculture was increasingly intensive. Around the town of Venlo market gardening developed.

During the same period, reclamations reached an all-time high. From the 1890s, good prospects, together with the availability of chemical fertilizers, beter education and new credit facilities, made it possible to reclaim the majority of forests and heathlands within a few decades. The world crisis of the 1930s again brought private reclamations and aforestations to an end. This time the goverment started to play an active role, through employment subsidies and other measures.

In these years the reconstruction of the older landscapes started. Already during the 1920s parts of the small-scale `kampen' landscapes became more open when hedges were replaced by barbed wire. Employment subsidies during the 1930s made possible the canalization of many streams as well as the first land consolidation schemes (Dutch: `ruilverkavelingen').

Mining Large-scale exploitation of the peatbogs in the Peel region started when this region was intersected by canals and railways. In 1853 the first peat colony (Helenaveen) was established to produce peat for fuel. With the opening of a new peat colony, Griendtsveen (1885), the emphasis shifted to the production of moss litter. When the upper layers were excavated, the deeper layers were found to be more suited for fuel and the emphasis shifted back to this purpose. Other resources that were excavated were clay, gravel, sand and, on a small scale, lignite and iron.

Industry During the first half of the 19th century nowhere in the region was large-scale industry to be found. On the other hand, a number of small industries could be found in the cities as well as in parts of the rural areas. Some branches of industry, especially brickworks, developed quickly during the rest of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. The village of Tegelen developed into a proper industrial settlement (brickworks, metal).

Settlements The 19th and the first half of the 20th century witnessed remarkable changes in the settlement pattern. The `empty' regions shrank because of the spread of farms throughout the new reclamation areas. In these areas, new villages grew as rural centres. Peat reclamation led to the interesting factory settlement of Griendtsveen.

Roermond and Venlo started growing only during the first half of the 20th century. The urban extensions were dominated by large building blocks. The growth of villages was mainly due to individual houses.

Urban and landscape planning The first half of the 20th century saw the rise of modern physical planning. The background was twofold: [1] improving living conditions in towns and [2] protecting the countryside against urban sprawl. Around the turn of the century a number of organizations for nature research and nature protection were founded. Their attention was mostly directed to the uncultivated areas - heathlands, forests and peatbogs - that were threatened by reclamations. It was only during the 1930s, that the stream canalizations and land consolidation schemes turned part of their attention to the cultural landscape.

The second half of the 20th century (Chapter 13)

The second half of the 20th century was characterized by the competition between various land uses. When the few surviving heathlands and forests became protected, there was no `unused' land left for new activities. The situation was worsened by the growing amount of space for urban land uses (houses, industrial estates, roads etc.) and the unprecedented distinct and rapid developments in agriculture.

Socio-economic development The government played an important role in almost all of the main developments in the cultural landscape during this period: land consolidation, road-building, urban extensions. Agriculture, under the umbrella of EU regulations and subsidies, was very dynamic and remained the most visible and economically dominant activity in the rural areas.

Infrastructure The car was an important factor in the sharp increase in mobility. Construction of dual-carriage motorways started slowly in the study region, but speeded up later. In the rural area, the number of local roads diminished when a dense network of sandy roads was replaced by a smaller number of metalled roads.

Mining The extraction of sand and gravel developed into a very large-scale activity, that changed large parts of the Meuse valley into lakes. On the other hand, peat digging stopped when the remaining peatbogs were protected and the planned coal mine was never finished.

Agriculture and forestry During the second half of the 20th century agriculture intensified and mechanized. The agricultural area started to diminish as urban land use grew and, since the 1960, the ban on reclamations took effect. Agriculture developed into a very capital-intensive and specialized activity. From the 1960s onwards, many small farms survived by specializing in intensive animal husbandry. Developments in agriculture have been a major influence on the cultural landscape. Especially the land consolidation schemes, which developed into complex rural restructurings and which have covered almost the whole region, brought enormous losses in the number of historic landscape elements.

Settlements The last decades were characterized by a strong growth of urban land use. Especially the two large towns have grown enormously, and a number of large villages have multiplied their built-up area. During the 1950s and 1960s the extensions aimed at housing a growing population; since that time the growing land use per capita is the main driving force.

Most of the houses built are of two types: high-rise buildings in the main cities and single family homes in towns as well as in villages. Planning during the second half of the 20th century was characterized by the division between the functions of housing, work, recreation and traffic. The inner cities lost many of their functions and were sometimes partly demolished to make room for traffic. During the 1970s the ideas about urban planning changed. Since then, urban planning aims at preservation of the small-scale and functional mixture of activities in city centres.

Urban and landscape planning The biggest changes no longer took place within the uncultivated areas, but in the old cultural landscapes. These were, one after another, totally transformed by land consolidation schemes. Also, development of housing and trade and industry moved from cheap heathlands to agrarian land. Especially large parts of the medieval open fields, with their dry and solid soils and their proximity to the villages, were used for building.

In practice, from the 1950s to the 1980s, agriculture almost succeeded in monopolizing rural planning. Since the 1980s, other interests regained some influence. For example, with the new Land Development Act (1985) the purely agrarian `land consolidation' was succeeded by `land development', a procedure in which more attention was given to recreation, nature and landscape.

For a long time, the main activity of the organizations for nature conservation and landscape protection was the acquisition of more or less natural areas. This has led to the preservation of small parts of peatbogs and heathlands. When pressure on the old agrarian landscapes grew, more acquisitions were carried out in these areas. In recent years the attention shifted to the purchase of agrarian land that is suitable for renaturation.

Some of the main features (Chapter 14)

To conclude, in the towns as well as in the rural areas three phases can be distinguished: traditional, intermediate and modern, whereby the intermediate period covers the second half of the 19th and the first half of the 20th century.

  1. - The traditional landscape was characterized by limitations. In the rural areas the expansion of population and agriculture was limited by lack of manure, capital and education. The expansion of towns was physically limited by town walls and other fortifications but, in a more fundamental way, also by the carrying capacity of the surrounding countryside.
  2. - During the intermediate period, the main barriers were removed, and an enormous expansion of settlements and arable land became possible. The new rural landscapes and town extensions had many modern characteristics, but the old urban and rural landscapes were still functioning.
  3. - During the modern period the old inner cities and the old rural landscapes were reconstructed.

Part 4. Maps, assessment and application

Explanation of Map 1: The structure of the cultural landscape (Chapter 15)

Map 1 is meant to provide insight into the structure and history of the cultural landscape. Therefore three groups of data are given:

    Landscapes: the main physical-geographical regions, which form the basis for the classification of the historic cultural landscapes: the ice-pushed ridges, the river terraces and the cover sand landscapes.
  • Land use in the beginning of the 19th century. More than any other landscape feature, historical land use areas (open fields and enclosures, permanent grasslands, settlements and the former commons) still determine the characteristics of the historic landscapes.
  • The reclamations during the 19th and those during the 20th century.

These data can be used to form a better understanding of the cultural landscape, and also as a basis for landscape planning.

Explanation of Map 2: Historic elements in the landscape (Chapter 16)

Map 2 gives a survey of historic relics in the present landscape. Three groups of data are given:

  • Basic information and natural elements: 19th century land use (to facilitate comparison with Map 1); natural water courses.
  • Historic elements, grouped according to their original function: agriculture (field patterns, boundaries, land use), political/governmental, military, infrastructure (roads, canals, railways), water management, extraction of minerals, industry, housing, religion and recreation.
  • Vanished elements, that are interesting as possible archaeological sites or that provide insights into other, surviving, structures.

Historical-geographical assessment (Chapter 17)

Selection is daily practice in planning. The field of applied historical geography has developed methods to evaluate historic landscapes and landscape features. The most widely used criteria are age, rarity, specificity/identity, completeness/authenticity, and context. Of these, the criterion of age is problematic, but the other criteria prove to be useful. This chapter offers some critical remarks, definitions, and operationalizations for these criteria. Clarity and simplicity are important when combining the criteria and presenting the final results of an evaluation.

Preservation of historic landscapes (Chapter 18)

Chapter 18 gives an overview of the problems of protecting and preserving historic landschapes. The priorities are based upon preservation aims, possible instruments and practical possibilities. Preservation aims are themselves determined by values and characteristics on the one hand, and present and future developments on the other.

Next, different possible strategies are possible: firstly, the historic landscape can be preserved, which means in practice that new developments are carefully located and designed. This is a possibility for valuable historic landscapes where no large-scale new developments are expected in the near future. Secondly, the historic landscape can be neglected completely; this is often the case within large-scale developments, such as urban housing estates. Thirdly, an intermediate type, in which large-scale new developments interfere with the main structures of the historic landscape, is often possible.

The role of the government (on different levels) in landscape protection is threefold: [1] protective measures, [2] control and sanctions and [3] incentives (subsidies, information and education). Legislation for landscape protection is incomplete, but a creative use of the existing possibilities could fill most of the gaps. Control and sanctions are underdeveloped. There are subsidies but these are fragmented. Information and education are problematic, especially because a specialized institute is lacking.

What is important is that legislation can only work when there is sufficient support within the society as a whole. This support must be gathered for each type of project, whereby today's ally can be tomorrow's opponent. Possible coalition partners are the organizations for the protection of archaeological or built monuments, nature conservation, landscape planners, agriculture, environmental management, recreation and heritage industries, and the (local) population.

Part 5. Conclusions and recommendations

Conclusions Many of the data are summarized in the two large maps. The landscapes of cover sand, river terraces and ice-pushed ridge are moulded in particular by the old mixed farming system. The historical land use areas are still the backbone of the historic cultural landscape. The three types of old cultural landscapes differ in detail. The recent cultural landscapes show very little connection with geomorphology and are even more man-made than the older landscapes. The individual relics, especially those with an agrarian origin, fit well into the main structure of the landscape.

Recommendations for policy Based on the information in this book, we can make a distinction between three regions:

  1. Regions with a high historic landscape value. Within these (small) regions, preservation should be the starting point.
  2. Regions with a relatively low historic landscape value, but with a number of individual valuable relics, or regions in which the historic landscape is highly fragmented. Here, one could think of some restoration work, aimed at repairing connections between relics.
  3. Regions almost without any historic landscape values. Here, landscape planning and nature development, including the preservation of the few remaining historic relics, should bestow new qualities to the landscape.

Preservation of historic landscape values should, more than what it is at present, become part of the general planning policy. A useful starting point therefore is a division into three steps: land use, structure, and details.

Recommendations for future research This book gives a first review of the history of the cultural landscape in North and Central Limburg and can become a basis for future research. Many issues, such as the historical development of settlements and field patterns, still remain unclear. There are good prospects for in-depth interdisciplinary research into these themes.

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Keyword(s) landscape / historical geography / cultural landscape / de peel / noord-limburg / midden-limburg
Categories History (General) / Historical Geography / Rural History of the Netherlands
Publication type PhD thesis
Language Dutch; Flemish
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