The characteristic esdorp (village with farms centred around a square/church, surrounded by fields on the inside and heathland on the outside) landscape originates in the Middle Ages. ‘Essen’ are old field complexes. Forests disappeared in favour of fields and heathlands. Here and there, some small forests remained. These were needed for utility wood for farms, sheds, fencing and firewood. The heathlands were used to graze the sheep and – to a lesser extent – cattle. The animals were usually taken out to the heath in the morning and back to the stable at night. Dung from the stable was mixed with peat from the heath, to improve fertility of the fields.
The haylands in the brook valleys were used, as the name suggests, to provide hay. Lack of manure on the grasslands made that they were poor in nutrients. That was an ideal situation for many plants that have since become rare. They took their nutrients from groundwater, which came up to the surface in places. Other places in the brook valley were used by the farmers to graze young cattle and a few dairy cows. Wooded banks and belts divided up the grassland parcels. This made for a brook valley landscape with few forests and many trees.
Damage and restoration
Changes in farming, such as the use of ever bigger and heavier machinery and the cultivation of heathland and shifting sands on a large scale, have caused many changes in the brook valleys and esdorp landscapes. An increase in scale as well as drainage has drastically changed parts of the landscape. In the area around the Drents-Friese Wold the esdorp landscape has more or less remained intact. This landscape will specifically be preserved and promoted around Doldersum and along the south side of the park close to Diever. This means that the large heathlands around the Doldersummerveld and Wapserveld will remain intact. The “Drentse Landschap” owns beautiful field complexes around Doldersum that nicely runs into the Doldersummerveld. The Society for the Preservation of Nature is developing a nature-rich brook valley landscape between Doldersum, the Wapserveld and Berkenheuvel. The small-scale wooded bank landscape around Diever will remain intact. The Hezenes close to Diever can still be recognised as an old field complex. Eastward, this landscape beautifully changes into a small-scale wooded bank landscape with woodland, fields and grassland.