Cultural Entities 
(The Netherlands)


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1. Overview




Island in the Wadden Sea


85.00 km²

Location - map:

Province of Fryslân

Origin of name:

Not known

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Relationship with Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog, neighbour islands

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

The island consists of dunes with on the south side the polder (former marsh) a string of four settlements in the area between the dunes and polder.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
Ameland is one of the Frisian Wadden Sea islands off the northern coast of the Netherlands that separate the Wadden Sea from the North Sea. The natural landscape arose from a rise in the sea level after the last ice age. Since the rise in sea level was accompanied by a higher fresh groundwater level, a zone was created 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. After the flooding of the Strait of Dover, the sea current changed direction and began to run more closely in line with the coast. This gave rise to a series of low-lying dune ridges, interrupted here and there by rivers flowing into the sea. As a result of later incursions by the sea, the peat behind the ridges was washed away and the ridges were divided up into smaller pieces: the Wadden Islands.
Ameland still forms part of a dynamic coastal area, where the erosion in some areas and deposition in other areas due to the strong sea current have had a major influence on the form the island. Like Terschelling and Schiermonnikoog, Ameland is an elongated island that becomes narrower towards the east, with a number of villages sheltering in the dunes. The structure of the islands corresponds closely with that of the East Frisian islands. In addition the island has an area of reclaimed salt marsh, hook-shaped sandbars on the western side and extensive dunes and salt marsh flats on the eastern side.

Dykes on Ameland  Old map Nieuwlandsrijd

Dykes were built around the polders of Ameland in the 19th century, however, the island also has an area that has not been enclosed by dykes and which is therefore submerged at high water. This area, the Nieuwlandsreid, is only separated from the sea by a summer dyke.
Efforts are made to control the process of accretion and erosion as the island is continually subject to erosion on the western side and has a perceptible tendency to shift to the east; over the past three centuries there has been an eastward shift of one kilometre per century.

Land reclamation west Ameland

Old map Polder Nes

From 1943 onwards some 200 wells became exposed on the beach to the west of Hollum, belonging to the hamlet of Sier, that was engulfed by dunes in the 15th century. This locality has since been reclaimed by the sea again.

2.2 Present landscape

The island has four villages in the lee of the dunes, from east to west; Buren, Nes, Ballum and Hollum. Historically each village had its own salt marsh polder. On the eastern side of the island there is an area of dunes, one of which, the Oerd, is 24 metres high.

Photo: Hollum 

Photo: Hollum lighthouse

Photo: Street in Hollum

Photo: House of a whaler captain in Nes

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

The first reference to Ameland dates from the ninth century. The island was an individual domain for a long time, over which the landed gentry of Cammingha held sway. The castle belonging to the Cammingha family in Ballum was demolished in 1829. Agricultural activity on Ameland consisted mainly of livestock farming, with the cultivation of vegetables and cereals, both for human and cattle consumption. The row of villages and the dunes were separated by areas used as hayfields. The cultivated land on Ameland was concentrated in farmland around the villages, such as Hollum and Ballum. Seepage from the dunes resulted in standing water, giving rise to a boggy and peaty area.

3.2 Early Modern Times
Beside agriculture as a main activity, the inhabitants of Ameland worked as fishermen, sailors and in whaling.Whale jawbones in Hollum museum and at Burgemeester Walda School are a tangible reminder of the areas links to the whaling industry.

There are two duck decoys on Ameland, consisting of a lake, the cage-pond and one or more tunnels. The area is surrounded by a wood where ducks can rest on the water and take refuge from the wind. These areas provide a contrast in green to the dunes. Decoys are used in order to catch wild fowl.

Photo: Whale jawbones

Old map of duck decoy (Eendenkooi)

3.3 Modern Times
In the late 19th and early 20th century, agriculture, with the introduction of fertilisers and the commercial availability of animal feed, became more productive and concentrated increasingly on dairy farming. In 1889 a woodland, the Nesserbosch, was planted, both for timber production and in order to attempt to prevent the dunes from blowing away.

Old map Nesserbosch Old map Ballum mieden

The first re-allotment of land in the Netherlands took place on Ameland in 1924 when the highly fragmented and tiny lots were substantially enlarged and made more equal in size. The former arable fields were converted into meadows, the water level in the polder was lowered substantially and the drainage was improved by cutting drainage channels. New roads were also constructed and old dykes cut away. Within this process characteristic farmhouses were built in the polders of Hollum and Ballum; before the re-allotment farmers still operated out of the villages.
Like the other Wadden islands, Ameland remains locked in a continual struggle with the sea. The centuries-old battle with erosion, and to a lesser extent accretion, of land, whereby the island appears to be ?walking?, continues but in a more controlled way. In particular on the far eastern side of the island the natural geomorphological processes are allowed to continue.
For a long time agriculture was the most important source of income for the island. In the 19th century tourism gradually became more important. In comparison with the German Wadden islands, tourism on the Dutch Wadden islands developed relatively late; Ameland did not obtain its first beach bathhouse until 1853. Poor accessibility was probably the main reason why tourism took so long to develop. Ameland?s accessibility improved when the sealed road from Holwerd to Dokkum and Leeuwarden was constructed in 1854.
During the 20th century holidays became increasingly affordable. The growing number of tourists resulted in all sorts of alterations to the landscape, such as the construction of holiday homes, campsites and camping farms, as well as cycle-paths, footpaths and bridleways.

Accommodation on Ameland

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The land is used for agriculture purposes with a big influence from the commercial tourist sector. An accessible landscape is important for the tourist industry.

4.2 Settlement development
Like the other Wadden islands, tourism is the most important industry on Ameland. The municipality of Ameland is trying to intensify the tourist sector.

4.3 Industry and energy
Except for local stores, there is no industrial activity on Ameland. There is one gas extraction plant in the dune area on the eastern side.

4.4 Infrastructure
Besides connections from east to west and the routes to the beach and villages, the infrastructure in the dunes is concentrated on bicycle and footpaths.

5. Legal and spatial planning aspects

The Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects are described here in a generalised way, as they are relevant to all the entities in the province of Fryslan. Because of the scale of the cultural entities (most cover more then one municipality) the focus is on regional policy and management. However the goals of regional policy and planning are taken into account by local sector policy. The regional goals and strategies are formulated after discussion with a wide range of sectors, stakeholders and organisations.

The regional spatial plan for the province of Fryslan, called Streekplan, is an important document for the integrated management of landscape and heritage. This plan contains objectives for regional and local policy, and covers issues of landscape and heritage. At present (mid 2006) the province of Fryslan is in the process of finalising a new regional spatial plan. The essential qualities of the different landscapes of Fryslan are described within this planning document. These qualities are seen as important and should be taken into account when considering planning and policy decisions. The recognition of these essential qualities in the landscapes, or strengthening it, is a main objective. The plan (Streekplan) emphasises the need for protection and protection by development.

In provincial (spatial) policy, the Frisian islands have a special position because of their very specific situation. Their landscapes, nature and cultural heritage are highly valued, whilst the space for development is limited. The general vision on development in the area is to look for opportunities for higher quality within the existing supply, instead of further expansion of development.
Ameland has its own zoning plan.

6. Vulnerabilities

6.1 Settlement
Whilst, historically agricultural land use was connected to the villages, the layout and structure of the villages in relation to the surrounding rural area is becoming less typical as a result of developments to meet the housing demands of the local population.

6.2 Agriculture
The continuation of the agricultural sector is important for landscape and nature, but whilst agriculture is still a part of the economy of Ameland, it is in decline. The scale of the agricultural businesses is small so the farmers have to look for additional income through farm diversification, for example into tourism. Unfortunately, the re-use of the buildings on these farmyards doesn?t always fit the character of the typical landscapes of the island. Farmland nature conservation management through land re-allocation plans such as the1996 Land Allocation with Administrative Character (RAK) can also have a negative impact on the historic character of the old polders by the creation of natural areas. The challenge remains to look for new ways of ensuring the continuation of sustainable agriculture on the island which protects, maintains and enhances the landscape for both the natural and cultural heritage

6.3 Tourism
The island of Ameland retains much of its historic character partly as a result of its isolation, but the development of tourism over the last few decades has already had a negative impact on the landscape. Extensions to properties to provide tourist accommodation are visible in the open landscape and in the villages, and cycle paths, holiday homes and campsites have all had a negative impact. There is a serious demand for upgrading the quality and diversity of accommodation for tourism on the island, but a lack of investment in the quality of tourist infrastructure threatens Ameland?s tourist economy and could lead to a decline which would affect the positive management of the landscape and cultural heritage of the island.

6.4 Nature Conservation
Nature protection is important on Ameland but in the recent past, nature conservation measures were sometimes in conflict with existing landscape values; for example old field patterns have been changed to provide a more natural environment with a subsequent loss of cultural value.

6.5 Industry and energy
At present, there are two locations for exploiting natural gas: the dune region of Hollum on West Ameland which is not being used, and the nature area of the Oerd on East Ameland where production began in 1986. The drilling rig and associated structures have a visual impact on the landscape but the exploitation of gas also causes subsidence with the potential for significant consequences for coastal defences, nature and landscape conservation.

7. Potentials

7.1 Settlement
Many of the tangible memories of the islands wealthy and unique past have been preserved; for example many of the monumental commanders houses in Hollum. There are 220 protected monuments or visually distinctive houses on the island and the structure of the old villages in relation to the surrounding rural area has been maintained as a result of an active village renovation policy; including appropriate building renovations, tree planting and characteristic paving which has helped to preserve the character of the four villages. Three of these, Hollum, Ballum and Nes are protected heritage villages. Opportunities to strengthen the historic connections between the development of the island?s villages and surrounding rural landscapes can be provided by measures of protection, spatial planning or interpretation and education. Knowledge and promotion of the island?s cultural heritage among decision makers, planners and architects, could be used to inform the design of new structures and buildings.

7.2 Agriculture
Natural and logistical restrictions prevent an intensfication of production on the island but there are possibilities for a combination of agriculture, tourism and recreation, such as the present cheese farm in the Ballumer polders. Farmland nature conservation through re-allocation plans like the 1996 Land Allocation with Administrative Character (RAK) management area, include protective management options for historic landscape features.

7.3 Tourism
On Ameland there is a strong demand from tourists for well maintained (historical) landscapes and cultural heritage which means there is an opportunity for investment in the quality of tourism infrastructure, from which landscape and heritage can then benefit. This potential should be nurtured, and regional and local policies such as the policy for sustainable tourism for the Wadden Sea Islands supports some growth in tourism on Ameland, particularly in relation to quality and diversity. Sustainable growth could come from the combination of farming and tourism/recreation and this sort of activity might also provide opportunities for the appropriate re-use of historic farm buildings.

Good accessibility to many parts of Ameland by foot or bike is an imporant benefit for tourism on the island. 100 kilometers of cycle track run through the islands diverse landscapes and there are cycle hire shops in all four villages. Ameland has six museums, including the Cultural-historical Museum Sorgdrager that illustrates the Amelander culture, and one nature centre offering various activities for tourists and school groups. In addition to the Tourist Offices (VVV?s) and together with other historic buildings such as the lighthouse, mills, restored firehouse in Nes, churches and free standing towers, these could be used as focal points for the distribution of tourist information and integrated interpretation material, such as self-guided routes and trails around Ameland?s historic and natural landscapes. Tourism is currently concentrated in the villages and dunes but there are opportunities to relieve the pressure on these areas by encouraging visits to the other parts of the island such as the polders, which offer space and an attractive historic landscape to explore.

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