Cultural Entities 
(The Netherlands)

Kop van Noord-Holland

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1. Overview




Neighbouring entities Wieringen, Texel.


250 km²

Location - map:

Province of Noord-Holland

Origin of name:

Most northern part of the province of Noord-Holland

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Connected with the entities on the mainland of Groningen and Fryslân.

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

Marshland, sea dykes and polders. Open landscape, large water courses, (former) seawalls, polders with large scaled rectangle field patterns, modern fortifications, 'cloche' farmhouses.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The boundary of the Wadden Sea region of the mainland Kop Noord-Holland is hard to define, but the southern boundary is taken to be the Westfriese Omringdijk. This part of the present-day county of Noord-Holland first arose after the last ice age. Following the period of Roman occupation the whole of the northern part of the Noord-Holland peninsula became covered with a layer of peat, with the hills of Texel and Wieringen rising above this fenland area. The protective barrier island, which was probably inhabited, lay a few kilometres to the west of the present coastline. The fens drained in an eastwards direction via the Marsdiep channel, which was then a tributary of the Vlie.

Photo: Dyke in Kop Noord-Holland (Krabbendamm) Dykes in Kop Noord-Holland

2.2 Present landscape
The area is divided in two parts, the western portion comprising sand and sand-dunes, whilst the eastern part is marsh. The marsh is characterized by dykes and waterways.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

Evidence for occupation of the area in the Neolithic period can be found on the headland of the Noord-Holland peninsula, e.g. in the Groet Polder and in the Zijpe en Haze Polder. These Neolithic sites contain the remains of settlements of the Funnel Beaker culture and the Single Grave culture and are exceptionally important because they reveal adaptations made by the inhabitants to the marine environment. The condition of the finds are so special that Groet Polder is being considered for nomination to the World Heritage List. The fens were subsequently occupied by people moving in from the surrounding areas during the Merovingian period (c. 450-700 AD), including the present islands of Texel and Wieringen , as well as probably from the area to the south of Rekere (which has now disappeared beneath the sea). The first settlements in the fens, which date from this period, were located along the Marsdiep channel, the Rekere and along the fen river Middenleek in the vicinity of the modern town of Medemblik. In the Carolingian period the settlements in the area were concentrated in four main locations: on Texel, on Wieringen, in northern West-Friesland (between Andijk, Schagen and Medemblik) and a smaller concentration in the area around Den Helder.

At this time Texel was still linked to the mainland (is this a correct interpretation ?). The barrier island between Bergen and Texel was only breached later by the Zijpe, the Heersdiep channel and a tidal inlet to the south of Texel, which would later link up with the Marsdiep channel. This gradual erosion was due not only to the rising sea level, but also partly as a result of human actions. The inhabitants moved into the fenland from the higher ground in order to reclaim it for arable farming. By draining the peatland, they set two processes in motion: the lowering of soil-levels and the oxidation of organic remains within the peat. These two processes led to a rapid lowering of the ground level, which made it easier for the sea to penetrate into the area. Eventually, in the area between the two tidal inlets, mainly to the west of the present coastline, only two islands remained: Callantsoog and Huisduinen.

3.2 Early Modern Times
During the sixteenth century the inhabitants of Kop van Noord-Holland were able to construct more sustainable dikes. They experimented tirelessly with draining polders and a considerable area of land was reclaimed from the sea. During this period the top of the Noord-Holland peninsula was a tidal flat; large quantities of sand were washed in through the inlets and deposited over the area. In Koegraspolder, these sand deposits are still at surface level.

Map with location of sand deposit

In the sixteenth century the Zijpe and Heersdiep inlets silted up, but the Marsdiep channel remained open and became wider and deeper. The Marsdiep became an increasingly important channel for marine activities and was therefore of strategic significance, as evidenced by the construction at this time of fortifications on both sides of channel.

Various attempts were made to reclaim the tidal flat behind the Zijpe inlet. This was finally achieved in 1597 after which more than 6500 hectares of sandy soils in the Zijpe and Haze Polder were improved for agricultural use.

Zijpe and Haze Polder Location of historical farms

Farms were built along three routes through the polder. The most impressive of these is the eastern axis, the Groote Sloot canal, with its fine examples of farmhouses with pyramid-shaped roofs, the so called 'cloche' farmhouses (stolpboerderij).

Photo: A so-called 'cloche' farmhouse (stolpboerderij)

3.3 Modern Times
The Noordhollands Canal, built in 1819?1825, fits perfectly into the landscape pattern of the Zijpe and Hazepolder. The Koegraspolder lies to the north of the Zijpe Polder. The dikes surrounding this polder were built in 1817, just before the construction of the canal. The Anna Paulowna Polder was reclaimed in 1847, just after the canal was finished. Both these polders are divided up into regular parcels. The Waard- en Groet Polder, reclaimed in 1844, presents the same picture.

Noordhollands Canal in the Zijpe and Hazepolder Map of Anna Paulowna Polder

TThe fortress of Helder, now Den Helder, a naval port since 1781, lies on the most northerly tip of the area. During the Anglo-Russian Invasion of 1799, part of the French Revolutionary Wars, Den Helder was controlled for a short period by the allies. The coastal defense batteries overlooking the Marsdiep were the only sizeable weapons to defend Den Helder, the invasion therefore took place from the landward side.

Map of Den Helder with fortress

During the period when The Netherlands were part of the French Emprire (1810-1813), Napoleon Bonaparte decreed that a ring of forts should be constructed and the coastal batteries extended to the south. This fortified ring, which includes LaSalle (Erfprins), Morland (Kijkduin), lcluse (Dirks Admiraal), Oostoever (orig. Dugommier) and Westoever forts, is unique and forms an important element in the international heritage of Europe.

Photo: Fort Morland (Kijkduin)

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The large fields in the relatively young polders still contain high quality agricultural land and farming remains the primary land use to this day. Most of the land is used to cultivate bulbs. In the spring the extensive fields of flowering bulbs attract large numbers of visitors, many of them from abroad.

Photo: Tulip field in Kop van Noord-Holland

4.2 Settlement development
The biggest settlement in this area is Den Helder. In the 1990?s international agreements and the fall of the iron curtain led to large-scale unemployment for Den Helder and the adjacent region. New economic opportunities must deliver new jobs in the near future.

4.3 Industry and energy
The largest part of the area is used by agricultural industries but other important industries include tourism, fishing and the naval base.

Photo: Harbour of Den Oever

4.4 Infrastructure
The infrastructure of Kop Noord-Holland is connected by two main roads and one railroad. All the roads come together in Den Helder. Only the ferry to Texel departs from Den Helder.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

The Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects are described in a general way, as these are relevant to all the cultural entities in the province of Noord Holland. Due to the scale of the entities (which cover more then one municipality), the focus is on regional policy and management. However, the goals of the regional policy and planning strategy are taken into account by the local sector planning policy. The regional goals and strategies are formulated after discussion with a wide range of stakeholders and organisations.

In October 2004 the Province of Noord-Holland adopted the Development Perspective of the sub region Noord-Holland-noord within the framework for regional spatial planning. Agriculture continues to be the primary function, with opportunities to develop in scale and in new directions, but with regard to maintaining the quality of the landscape and cultural heritage of the area. In particular the expansion of flower bulb cultivation is considered to be important. In a large part of the area wind energy is regarded as a favoured means of energy production. Housing and industry can be developed in a concentrated way at selected locations, again with due regard to the landscape and cultural heritage. Den Helder will keep its naval identity.

The implementation of the Valletta treaty is likely to enhance aspects of heritage within the planning policy process. As a consequence, archaeological assessments or evaluations will be compulsory for most development plans.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Settlement
Expansion of settlement is a threat to the existing settlement pattern. The sky line of the settlement and the historic core at Den Helder, and its naval identity are vulnerable to new development.

6.2 Agriculture
Intensification and expansion of the bulb growing industry is a potential threat to below ground archaeological deposits. The industry requires large, flat land parcels, and its expansion could also lead to the loss of field boundaries and other historic landscape features.

6.3 Industry and energy
The visible historic landscape is vulnerable to the expansion of wind power which could significantly alter the visual amenity of the wider landscape. Only carefully located and designed concentrations of wind turbines (e.g. around Den Helder) should be allowed. Construction of wind turbines could also lead to the destruction of below ground archaeological remains.

7. Potentials

7.1 Settlement
The tourism sector can exploit the historic settlement pattern by promoting the use of former farm houses and villages for tourist accommodation. New developments within Den Helder should take the opportunity to maintain the historic skyline and enhance the historic core of the naval port.

7.2 Agriculture
The robust structure of the landscape can accommodate agricultural change which does not generally affect the characteristic openness of the area. The careful expansion of agriculture should provide opportunities to manage the historic landscape and buried archaeological deposits in a sustainable manner.

7.3 Tourism
The area has a robust landscape structure of large water courses and former sea walls which could be utilized to enhance visitor access to the landscape and cultural heritage, including its prehistoric settlements, early modern land reclamation, historic farmhouses and existing agricultural landscape. This could be achieved through the development of cycle and walking routes, and the use of historic waterways, providing visitors with the opportunity to combine appreciation of both the natural environment and the historic landscape.

7.4 Maritime history
Den Helder's naval history and the Napoleonic fortifications of the area are of great importance and ideal for further promotion to tourists and to the local inhabitants and workforce.

Photo: Lighthouse in Den Helder

8. Sources

Marrewijk, D & A.J. Haartsen, 2002, Waddenland Het landschap en cultureel erfgoed in de Waddenzeeregio, Ministerie van Landbouw, Natuurbeheer en Visserij / Noordboek, Leeuwarden
Provincie Noord-Holland, 2004, Ontwikkelen met kwaliteit, ruimtelijke samenhang op uitvoeringgericht, (streekplan) Ontwikkelingsbeeld Noord-Holland Noord. Haarlem