The Drents-Friese Wold is an undivided area of forest and nature, in total occupying over 6,000 hectare. Lying on the border of two northern-Dutch provinces, its name means Wood of Drenthe and Friesland (although the appellation Wold is in fact Old Dutch). The National Park shows a huge diversity in landscapes, from vast woods, heath and shifting sands to little ponds, peat lands and dunes. At the borders of the preserved area one will find farmlands and characteristic regional villages.
The region is inhabited since around 3000 BC. The most visible witness is Diever’s hunebed, one of the many megalithic tombs over which one almost stumbles in this region of the Netherlands. Near the villages of Vledder and Oude Willem ancient grave hills illustrate the archaeological value of the National Park.
Over the centuries, farmers have exploited the peat in such a heavy way that most plants died and only sand was left. Therefore around 1850 forests were planted on a small scale. The current forests of Appelscha, Smilde, Berkenheuvel and Boschoord came into being from the beginning of the 20th century, when large woods were set off here. Fortunately, the planters saved a lot of heath fields, streams and sand areas.
The National Park contains rich flora and fauna. An overview:
Apart from the Veluwe in the centre of the country, the Drents-Friese Wold is the largest undivided forested area in the Netherlands. The collection of trees is varied, also causing the animal world in the woods to be quite diverse.
Although the name might indicate otherwise, the Wood of Drenthe and Friesland consists of more than wood. The large open nature areas are called Wapserveld, Doldersummerveld and Aekingerzand. Here almost any type of heath can be found, from very dry to very wet around the pools. The heath is accompanied by unique flora and fauna like bog gentian, other gentianaceae, orchis, mountain tobacco, vipers and red-breasted wheatears.
- Farmland and grass
The area called Oude Willem (Old William) was cultivated over the years. Part of it is still in use by farmers, but the National Park maintainers have bought large sections, developing these into nature zones, like rough grassland and herb areas. Partridges, yellowhammers and whinchats are the rare animal species living here.
Many small villages in Drenthe are so-called esdorpen. An esdorp is an old village architecture, stemming from the Middle Ages, where farmlands (es in Old Dutch) are situated around a concentrated living area, using trees as borders and protection 'walls'. The National Park claims to preserve this historically interesting phenomenon.
Maintenance of the Drents-Friese Wold used to be done by many different proprietors and safeguards. It was mainly aimed at wood production, the transformation of production forestry to natural, and to preserve pure natural values like heath, pools and shifting sands. The nature area officially becoming Nationaal Park Drents-Friese Wold means that there is a broad-spectrum notion in maintaining the environment now. The general idea has been described in a Plan, which is subsidized by the Dutch government.
Therefore unlike many other National Parks, this one has multiple owners and maintainers. Two thirds ‘though (4,150 hectare) are in the hands of Staatsbosbeheer, the national forest maintenance service (literally: State Wood Maintenance). They have an unmanned information service in the area Bosberg near Appelscha. The organization Natuurmonumenten (Nature Monuments) owns 950 hectares in the west of the National Park, while the association Het Drentse Landschap (Landscape of Drenthe) owns the 450 hectare large heath section called Doldersummerveld, and a cattle farm with exclusive Limousin cows grazing the countryside.
The Drents-Friese Wold has been a National Park since May 2000. Aside from wildlife preservation, the park also has an important tourist value. The region is one of the most important tourist areas in the northern Netherlands, especially aimed at rest seekers, hikers and horse riders. Near Appelscha a visitors’ centre is built to replace the unmanned station. This will be the northern entrance to the National Park in the future. The maintainers will also erect a smaller centre near Diever in the southern part of the Drents-Friese Wold.
Current visitors’ centre:
Infocentrum De Bosberg
De Bosberg 1
8426 GJ Appelscha
Opened daily from April 1 to October 31 (10.00 to 17.00)
The National Park has information available online at http://www.drentsfriesewoud.nl.