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Historical management of small landscape elements



Authors: Adriaan Haartsen and Paul Burm
– Final report of the Oral History project

– Manuscript for the book ‘Farmland as nature’

Also included: tips for interviews


The modernisation of agriculture has led to a reduction in the diversity of the Dutch landscape. This ‘flattening’ of our landscape has still not come to an end, as the Nature Explorations of recent years make clear. In recent decades, however, more attention has been paid to the characteristic parts of the landscape. The planning of the landscape of the future explicitly involves history. What have been the most important developments in a region and in what way were they reflected in the landscape?

Small landscape elements are very important here, because they contribute to the uniqueness of a region. This book is about these small landscape elements. About wooded banks, duck decoys, hedge belts. About farmyards. It describes what they were used for, what products were obtained from them. And how they were maintained. Because that also varied: a wooded bank in Twente was maintained differently from one in the Frisian Woods.

An important part of the project is interviews with experts. And by this we do not mean scholars, but people who used to be active in chopping grienden or cutting reeds. People who can just remember the pre-war agricultural business, before the big changes. Their stories are important for the people working on landscape management now. Firstly, because it gives us more insight into the maintenance of different parts of the landscape in the past. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, because so little of this work has been written down. We may now look a little strange at this, but it is simply the case that the most mundane work is not described in detail. We don’t know a detailed manual on how to do the dishes or sweep the pavement. In the same way, there never used to be much written about the maintenance of an alder hedge: the farmers in the areas concerned knew this very well, it had been done in the same way for generations, and nobody bothered to go and describe this everyday work in detail. As a result, we now actually know very little about the management and maintenance of such landscape features: when was work done in the duck decoy, how were the prickly hawthorn hedges cut, what tools were used in the osiers?

The stories in this book, from people who actually experienced the work, answer these questions.


Duck decoys – Interview Herman ten Klooster
Elzeningelsingels – Interview Jan Boerema
Heathlands and peat pits – Interview Klaas Kiers
Wooded banks – Interview Johan Klaassen
Oak coppice – Interview Bart Elshof
Wood paths – Interview Maarten van der Wind
Farmyards – Interview Piet Kelder
Reed beds – Interview Sophie Kea
Grienden – Interview Aart Horden
Hawthorn hedges – Interview Adriaan Harthoorn
Poplar bushes – Interview Rien van de Laar
Standard orchards – Interview Toine Jacobs