Cultural Entities 
(The Netherlands)


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1. Overview




Island in the Wadden Sea


40 km≤

Location - map:

Province of Frysl‚n

Origin of name:

Related to the river Vlie.

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Relationship with Texel and Terschelling, neighbour islands.

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

The island consist purely of dunes with a settlement on the south-east side, duck decoy, lighthouse.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
Vlieland is one of the Frisian Wadden Sea islands off the northern coast of the Netherlands that separate the Wadden Sea and the North Sea. The natural landscape rose above sea-level after the last ice age. Since the rise in sea level was accompanied by a higher fresh groundwater level, there developed a zone parallel to the coast in which peat was able to develop on a large scale. Clay and sand were deposited on this peat layer facing the sea, while the peat on the landward side spread out over the more elevated sandy areas. As a result of the flooding of the Strait of Dover, the sea currents changed direction and began to run more parallel with the coast. This gave rise to a series of low-lying dune ridges, broken by rivers flowing into the sea. As a result of later incursions by the sea, the peat behind the ridges was eliminated and the ridges were divided up into smaller pieces, forming the Wadden Sea Islands. Vlieland bears the evidence for a dynamic coastal area, where the erosion in some areas and depositions in others, due to the strong sea currents have had a major influence on the form the island has taken. Unlike the other three inhabited Friesian Wadden Sea islands, Vlieland does not have any salt-marsh polders. The island consists almost entirely of dunes, with a hamlet on the north-eastern side.

Hamlet on the south eastern side of Vlieland The highest dune in The Wadden Sea: Vuurboetsduin

2.2 Present landscape
On the other Wadden Sea islands the sand flats, main village and ferry causeway are on the western side of the island and the extended beach and dunes on the east, on Vlieland this is the other way round. The village is in the eastern part of the island, and the natural landscape, in the form of an extensive, barren plain and an elongated, narrow strip of dunes, in the west and middle. The large quantities of sand on this Vliehors flat and the prevailing westerly winds led to the formation of the highest dune on the Wadden Sea islands: the 40-metre high Vuurboetsduin, on which the lighthouse has been built.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

The earliest documentary reference to Vlieland is for 1317. For many centuries Vlieland had two villages, but as a result of coastal erosion the village of West-Vlieland slipped into the sea in the early 18th century. Vlieland was formed thanks to intensive interaction between natural forces and human action. People made use of the possibilities afforded by coastal erosion and the deposition of sediment. The sand dunes were stabilised by means of artificial planting and extra coastal defences were added where the dune belt was particularly low or narrow. The island is subject to erosion for almost the entire length of its North Sea coast, and short breakwaters have been built along this coast in order to protect it.

Dykes on Vlieland Coastal protection measures on Vlieland

3.2 Early Modern Times
In the 17th century the village of Oost-Vlieland grew because of the large number of ships anchored in the lee of Vlieland waiting for favourable winds. Vlieland played an important role in pilotage and provisioning for these vessels. A lighthouse was built on the island to aid the passage of these ships. There are a number of 17th-century properties in the village, including the Tromphuis, which was formerly owned by the Admiralty and is now furnished as a museum. In the 18th century the village of West-Vlieland slipped into the sea.

Apart from shipping, important sources of income for the island economy were the maritime trade and fishing, plus such activities as beachcombing and smuggling. In contrast to the other islands, the lack of suitable agricultural means that there is no farming practised on Vlieland. The importance of maritime activities to the local economy changed with the opening of the North Sea Canal (1876) and the advent of steam-shipping. After a severe depression, the emphasis shifted from the 1920s onwards to tourism. In addition, the military exercise grounds of the Ministry of Defence provide work for some 20% of the current labour force.

Bath pavilion  Duck decoy (eendenkooi) on Vlieland

There is a duck decoy at Vianens Vallei on Vlieland, consisting of a lake, the cage-pond and one or more tunnels. The area is surrounded by a wood or swamp forest where ducks can rest on the water and take refuge from the wind. These areas provide a contrast of green within the dune landscape. Decoys were used in order to catch wild duck and similar fowl. Wildfowl trapping was a traditional activity of cultural-historical value and the decoys represent unusual, historic elements of the landscape where peace and space are highly important.

3.3 Modern Times
On the western side of the island, against the large sandflat known as the Vliehors, are the Kroon's Polders.

Kroon's Polder on Vlieland

TThese formed in the early 20th-century and are now a nature reserve. The Vliehors sandflat itself is a military training area. Like the other Wadden Sea islands, Vlieland remains locked in a struggle with the sea. The centuries-old battle against accretion and especially the erosion of land, whereby the island appears to be ?walking?, continues unabated. However, the principal danger to the village of the Oost-Vlieland was not water but sand, which used to drift into the village, especially in winter. Around the turn of the last century the situation became untenable. For the symbolic sum of one guilder the municipality sold its wasteland to the National Forest Service, which undertook the planting of a woodland to stabilise the sand. After some searching and experimentation with the right tree species for the previously treeless island, a wide belt of trees was planted around the village between the two World Wars. Virtually all the land outside the residential area is still owned by the National Forest Service.

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The island of Vlieland differs from the other islands in the Dutch Wadden Sea. It is small and it has an almost totally natural landscape. There are no marshland polders, and only one very small area of agricultural land on the island.

4.2 Settlement development
The only surviving village (there had been two villages in the medieval and early modern period) is sited on the Wadden side with a harbour. Most of the villages on the other islands have developed on higher grounds, on the transition between the dune zone and the marshland. However the history of habitation and cultivation of Vlieland differs from the other islands, giving it its own unique character and the feeling of a place apart from the rest of the world. The wide views, quietness and darkness are mentioned as parts of the island?s unique selling points. Trade and fishery have left their marks in the village, which is well kept, with many historic structures. The first major extension to the village was built in the forest, only recent houses are built on the north side on the higher grounds (dunes). The good accessibility of many parts of the island by foot or bike is an additional benefit to the tourism of the area. Tourist accommodation is in the form of hotels and a lot of bungalows, which have their impact on the dune landscape.

4.3 Industry and energy
Overall, more then 40% of the employment on the Dutch Wadden Sea islands is directly related to tourism. On Vlieland tourism forms the principal basis of the economy.

Places of accomodation on Vlieland

4.4 Infrastructure
Visitor's cars are not allowed on the island, there is a high density of bicycles and footpaths.

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 FryslÉn. Due to the scale of the cultural 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.

The regional spatial plan for the province of FryslÉn, called Streekplan, is an important document in terms of the integrated management of landscape and heritage. This plan presents objectives for regional and local policy, as well as considering issues of landscape and heritage. At this moment (mid 2006) the province of FryslÉn is finalising her new regional spatial plan. The essential qualities of the different landscapes of FryslÉn are described. These qualities are seen as important and should be taken into account when making planning decisions. The recognition of the essential qualities of the landscapes, and the strengthening of them, is a primary objective. The plan (Streekplan) emphasises the need for protection of the historic landscape and protection by development.

In provincial (spatial) policy, the Frisian islands have a special position because of their very specific situation. The landscapes, the nature and the cultural heritage is highly valued, and the space for development is limited. The general vision for developments on the island is to look for opportunities for improving the quality of the existing supply, instead of a further extension of it.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Settlement
Vlieland only contains a single surviving settlement, Oost-Vlieland, which is under pressure to expand with the growth of tourism on the island. This could detract from the historic core of the settlement if development is not carefully planned.

6.2 Tourism
In some locations there is a need for upgrading and widening the quality and appeal of the tourist accommodation. Discussion has started on how to design and build recreational housing in the dunes. On Vlieland tourism is almost the only basis for the economy which is therefore rather fragile. Lack of investments in the quality of the tourist infrastructure can lead to a decline of the tourist economy and therefore a threat to the maintenance of the landscape and the cultural heritage of the island.

7. Potentials

7.1 Settlement
The settlement on the east side of the island, Oost-Vlieland, provides a centre for tourism. Careful control of new buildings and expansion should protect the historic core which retains its historic authenticity

7.2 Tourism
The island of Vieland is a popular place for family tourism. There is an opportunity for investment in the quality of the landscape and cultural heritage as this is seen to be important in attracting tourists. The policy for sustainable tourism for the Wadden Sea islands supports the objectives of quality and diversity. The cultural heritage of the island and in particular its maritime history, provides opportunities for the creation of cycle tours or walks around the island, especially when these are integrated with promotion of the natural environment.

7.3 Maritime history
The settlement of Oost-Vlieland, developed as an early trading and fishing centre providing the early economy of the island. The trading and fishing industry provide a source for the potential promotion of the maritime history of the area.

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 Fryslan, 2006, Streekplan. Leeuwarden