13 - Landscape: forest, roads and roadsides

The landscape of the polder is straightforward and seems predictable. That predictability is increasingly disappearing. Within a short period of time, the landscape underwent big changes and even now, there are still drastic changes happening that add variation to the straight lines drawn on the drawing tables. The Landscape Plan of the Noordoostpolder was finally adopted in 1942.

Wide, barren and quiet

Immediately after the reclamation, the landscape of the polder was wide, completely barren and, above all, quiet. The cultivation started on the east side of the polder. Nature was allowed to take its course in a large part of the polder. Species of which the seeds were already present in the soil, such as marsh endive, rush and reed, created a green blanket of plant growth. In the last year of the war, water drainage faltered. Reeds strongly gained the upper hand in the western part then. On poor soils (boulder clay, peat and sand), a thin vegetation developed. Around Urk, spontaneous grasslands arose where farmers grazed their cattle.

Man-sized reeds in the Noordoostpolder
Man-sized reeds in the Noordoostpolder

With the cultivation, the natural landscape changed into a culture landscape with clear lines. The polder was divided into lots of 800 x 300 meters (see also window 11) with a premise including a farm building in the front, surrounded by trees and shrubs. Many farms were positioned in groups of two or four, with adjacent workers' houses on paved roads. Wide parkways with tree lines were planted along the canals Zwolsevaart, Lemstervaart and Urkervaart. Small tree lines were planted along the ring roads. Around all villages, forests were planted for shelter and recreation.

One-sided tree planting of the Steenwijkerweg with Populus regenerata. In the background, windbreakers of fruit farms, 1960.
One-sided tree planting of the Steenwijkerweg with Populus regenerata. In the background, windbreakers of fruit farms, 1960.

Large forests

Large forests were planted on soils that were unsuitable for agriculture: The Kuinderbos, Urkerbos, Voorsterbos - including the later Waterloopbos - and Schokkerbos.

A small forest was created at each village. The planting took place under the responsibility of the Board in the period 1941 (Voorsterbos) until 1957

C. van Eesteren, General planting plan Noord-Oostpolder, 1947.C. van Eesteren, General planting plan Noord-Oostpolder, 1947.

(Tollebekerbos). After that, only one large forest was planted in the period 2006 - 2008: The Wendelbos (110 ha.), adjacent to the Voorsterbos. That forest is planted entirely on sands and may be rewet.

The artificial Wendelbeek meanders through the new forest and flows into the Zwolsevaart. Arable farming dominates the polder. Dairy farms are mainly located around the edges on the lighter soils. The polder has its own `glass city` at Ens and Luttelgeest, the surroundings of Kraggenburg and Marknesse is partly a closed landscape with orchards.

Apple picking at the fruit farm on plot S 53 of P.J. Provoost, 1958.
Apple picking at the fruit farm on plot S 53 of P.J. Provoost, 1958.


Landscape is colour, too. During the six winter months, the colour of the polder landscape is predominantly dark grey because of the bare clay soil (actually sandy clay, sand). In some places, like around Urk, fields appear almost white, due to the countless shells that died out after 1932, due to the sweetening of the former Zuiderzee. 

In the spring, the polder changes to different shades of green or becomes multi-coloured because of the tulips. In May, wild chervil provides elongated white strips along parkways and waterways. The species took more than fifty years to colonize the entire polder. Roadsides along the main roads are used as hayfields by farmers, just like on the old land. In spring, they are yellow with the sharp buttercup and in the summer greenish yellow of parsnip. The scraped roadsides on the eastern edge of the polder will then turn yellow with common clover.

The expectation is that the colour purple will brighten the roadsides more and more as orchids (marsh orchids) increase in number. The polder landscape also includes the many colourful farm gardens. A new element has been added to the polder landscape since 1990: The nature areas which developed from agricultural land. In 1990, the Nature Area Plan was published which was the beginning of the Ecological Main Structure, including the conversion of farmland into nature. 

Marsh orchids in the Voorsterbos.
Marsh orchids in the Voorsterbos.

The largest project concerns the rewetting zone east of Schokland. Here, about 350 hectares of arable land have been transformed into wet grasslands with swampy lows. The remains of old dikes are preserved with a high water level. The area has developed an ecosystem that is now popular with many bird species.

Aerial view Noordoostpolder east side.Aerial view Noordoostpolder east side.

Natural monuments

In ten years’ time, around the Voorsterbos, a lot of nature was developed by the Dutch Society for the Preservation of Nature: Kraggenburgerveld, Voorsterveld, Kadoelerveld, Leemringveld and Zwarte Hoek, with a total of 110 hectares. All those nature reserves add variety to the landscape. In the Kadoelerveld, a combination has developed of rich grassland on clay (with grazing highlanders), open water and herbaceous wet grassland. In the Voorsterveld, next to the glider field, dry sandy hills alternate with reedy lows. At the Kuinderbos, a large artificial lake is dug by sand extraction in the Schoterveld on behalf of Staatsbosbeheer. The revenues from the latter will fund the altering of an agricultural area into a meagre grassland and heathland.

Video: The Waterloopbos is part of the Voorsterbos. The “Waterloopkundig Laboratorium” (water science laboratory) conducted tests for thirty years. Barrages, dams and wave machines were used to imitate reality. 

Finished old waste dump in the Kuinderbos, 1978.Finished old waste dump in the Kuinderbos, 1978.

Kuinderbos forest

The Kuinderbos forest has undergone a severe metamorphosis in the past sixty years. From a young forest with densely planted trees, it changed to a mature forest with trees more than thirty meters high. But due to the consistency of the peat soil and diseases, the loss of some species is significant. Tree logging has worsened the situation. After sixty years, the forest is open with many saplings (forest rejuvenation) that react to the light that penetrates to the bottom. We also see a lot of blackberries and nettles (roughening).

The recreational development of the Burchtbos, which also contains remains of the Castle of Kuinre (see also window 4), started in the eighties when the military claim to that forest ended.

The Kuinderplas, part of the Kuinderbos.
The Kuinderplas, part of the Kuinderbos.

In 1984, the sand extraction in the former agricultural enclave in the middle of the forest ended.

This is where the Kuinderplas was created, which has on its dry banks the only heathland on the bottom of the sea! In 2007, a strip of forest was chopped to connect Kuinderplas and Schoterveld. It has a stream and heather has been planted.

Surprising landscape with lavender visitor centre and nursery.Surprising landscape with lavender visitor centre and nursery.

No less spectacular is what happened east of the lake. Here, the remains of fens had grown together thousands of years ago. In some of these fens, the peat was removed in 2008 after which they were again filled with groundwater and rainwater. This is where a thousand-year-old history comes back to life!