The oldest visible evidence of human habitation dates back to the Iron Age. Since then, the area was inhabited and used permanently. A megalithic tomb north of Diever and burial mounds close to Oude Willem and Vledder are evidence of the first inhabitants. The characteristic esdorp landscape was formed much later.
Shifting sands are on their way
Shifting sand areas came into existence within the heathlands. The heathlands were used so intensively that the plants stopped growing here. The shifting sands started to be blown about. By 1850 the shifting sands were so large that they provided an unlimited view over to Friesland. They turned into a serious threat for villages and fields. The first small-scale forestations to stop the sands from shifting were initiated around that time.
Once artificial fertiliser was invented, the heathlands were no longer needed for fertiliser and peat supply. From the beginning of the 20th century large-scale forestation took place. The Appelscha and Smilde forestries and the Berkenheuvel and Boschoord forests came into existence around that time. Other parts of the heathlands were cultivated and turned into crop fields. Relatively small areas of heathland and shifting sands were preserved. Changes in farming, like the use of ever bigger and heavier machinery, have caused many changes in the brook valleys and esdorp landscapes. Scale increases as well as drainage and cultivation have drastically changed parts of the landscape.
Old parcelling structure
The structure of the villages and their direct environment is well preserved. On some fields (‘essen’) around the villages, the old parcelling patterns can still be observed. A number of fields are still surrounded by wooded banks, used in earlier days to keep cattle and wind away from the crop fields. Funnel-shaped cattle drifts, used to drive cattle to the grazing fields, can still be seen around Diever.