Island without farmers
Vlieland has all of the landscape you would expect on a Wadden island. But there are no pastures. Vlieland is an island without farmers.
You might not notice it right away but there is not a single farmer on Vlieland. You'll find no farmland or pastures here. Yet the inhabitants of Vlieland are called ‘goats’, a nickname from a not-so-distant past.
There is only one village on Vlieland: Oost-Vlieland. The inhabitants kept cows and sheep, but mainly goats. At night these were kept in stables in the gloppen (narrow alleys). In the morning the entire herd would run through the Dorpstraat (main street) straight to the dunes. The island consisted mostly of dunes until about a hundred years ago. Not ideal for agriculture. The dunes were quite barren and the grazing animals only contributed to this of course. The wind had free rein and blew the sand up quite high. This resulted in beautiful outlook points like the Kikkerbult and the Poterslid. Or climb the 42-metre high Vuurboetsduin, the highest dune in the Wadden.
More and more sand started blowing into the streets and houses. The Forestry Commission remedied this by planting sand reed and trees; quite a difficult task considering the barren soil. Planting trees was done with the help of peat moistened in ponds. The Klaas Douwers Vijver, a quiet spot in the forest, easily accessible on foot from campground Stortemelk is an example of this. To protect the new plants the animals were no longer allowed to graze freely and when tourism began to take off it ended entirely. Animals now only graze on Vlieland to aid in nature preservation.
At one time there was some farming on the other side of the island. But the suitable farming land disappeared into the sea along with the village of West-Vlieland. Although the western part of Vlieland is now one vast sandy plain where nothing grows or grazes, it is quite a magnificent place to take a walk, when there are no military exercises going on. If you’re lucky you might see a poem in the sand, left behind by the tires of the Vliehors Express.
Route: Round trip to Vlieland with viewpoints
Cycle across the island of tranquillity and open space, along the sea, through forests and across dunes.
Distance: 23,6 kilometers | Length: 2 hours and 10 minutesView the route