The area to the north east of the city of Groningen, from the Punt van
Reide to the vicinity of the former mouth of the Hunze.
Province of Groningen
Origin of name:
Fivelingo refers to the
river Fivel which shaped the area.
Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:
Fivelingo is somewhat
similar to the reclaimed land in the Middelzee.
Characteristic elements and
Open area, predominantly
grassland with small dwelling mounds (terps) and ribbon settlements.
Extensive dikes and waterways both natural and man made.
2. Geology and geography
During the penultimate (Saale) ice age, the ice cap reached the Netherlands.
Geologists have distinguished five different phases under the ice cap cover.
During the first four phases the area which is now Fivelingo was under the
ice and a stratum of boulder clay was deposited. In the final phase, after a
period of thaw, the ice front advanced to Winschoten, Onstwedde and the
Hasseberg. The boulder clay stratum was forced upwards, along with older
deposits. At the end of the ice age, when the icecap had already melted, the
boulder clay landscape was eroded to form broad valleys, which later became
the Fivelboezem and Hunzeboezem (Fivel and Hunze bays).
In the Holocene period, around 600 BC, the sea extended its influence and
formed large sea bays on either side of the rolling hills to the north of
the town of Groningen: the Hunzeboezem to the west and the Fivelboezem to
the east. Vast tidal flats developed with salt marshes, mud flats, and
gullies. People began to settle the highest areas on the salt marsh
embankments, and over time had to raise the height of the settlements to
protect them against floods. The Fivelboezem gradually silted up and the
salt marshes expanded on the seaward side. Heavy clay was deposited in the
interspersed salt marsh basins, in contrast with the light sediment of sand
and loam on the higher embankments. The settlement and oxidation of the peat
strata continually increased the difference in height between the former
salt marshes and the hills behind them.
2.2 Present landscape
The moraines still remain as high points in the landscape as a remnant of
the Pleistocene era. The higher sand embankments are recognisable by the
settlements built on them, like the villages of
Harkstede-Slochteren-Siddeburen. The salt marsh area itself is in continuous
use as pasture and arable land. Over the last 20 years,during the
re-allotment of land, many trees have been planted in the Groningen
landscape, where it had previously been open landspace.
Old map of settlement
3. Landscape and settlement history
3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
Stone axes found near Slochteren and Siddeburen date from the
Neolithic era. In the 1980?s an excavation on the dwelling mound of
Heveskesklooster revealed a megalith burial chamber. The extensive formation
of peat bogs after the Neolithic period would have made it very difficult in
much of the area to find suitable sites for settlement. However, once the
Fivelboezem silted up, people were able to settle on the higher areas.
||Map with terps
A series of
terp villages rose up on the salt marsh embankments on either side of the
Fivelboezem, just as they had on the southern bank of the Ems. This
embankment housed a long line of settlements, which were raised to counter
the risk of flooding. These terps can still be found in the German part of
the Reiderland and in the district between Termunten and Delfzijl, but they
have disappeared from the Dollard area. Remains of some (uninhabited) terps
can still be found at the Punt van Reide.
Presumably the salt marshes were
originally used for summer grazing or small-scale arable farming.
The first permanent inhabitants settled on the top of the salt marsh
embankments. Later, as the storm tides grew more frequent and
dangerous, people started to build dwelling mounds ? the terps (or
wierden). Individual dwelling mounds quickly grew into communal
village mounds. Eenum, Eenumerhoogte and Farmsum are among the
oldest settlements in the region.
|Terpen in Fivelingo
In the period around the beginning of the Christian era, there was a growing
and thriving community on the terp settlements, who developed a barter
system with the Romans. The terp dwellers were by now almost entirely
dependent on cattle farming: only small areas were suitable for arable
farming, as the crops could not withstand sea-water inundation. Small arable
fields (valgen) were laid out on the flanks of the terps. From the 4th to
the 7th century AD, the formation of new salt marsh embankments along the
coast reduced drainage, and gradually cut off the Fivel. Some terps were
abandoned during this period.
The terp farms were built with the living quarters in the centre and
the farm lower down, providing easy access to the surrounding pastures.
Often an 'ox road' (ossenweg) was created at the foot of the village terp to
connect with neighbouring farms. Numerous terps have been found to have this
kind of road. For a terp village it was important to have a navigable route
to the nearest watercourse. Consequently almost all terp villages had a
reedy lake (maar or riet). These waterways had a meandering course, as they
often used an existing stream to create the lake. Sometimes it is possible
to tell from the shape of the terp that it is an ancient trading settlement.
The farming terps are usually round, while the trading villages were
elongated. Stedum is an example of a trading terp of this kind. The river
Fivel provided a communication route. Nearby Loppersum also developed from
the early Middle Ages into an elongated trading settlement.
||Stedum as example for a trading
3.2 Early Modern Times
In the 12th and 13th centuries a number of monasteries were founded in the
province. The monks worked with the local people to build dikes and bring
new land into cultivation. Of the many monasteries in the region, Bloemhof
was probably the most influential.
For centuries influential houses played an important role in rural areas, in
the province of Groningen as elsewhere. The ruling families operated from
strongholds, originally fortified manor houses, known as borgen.
|Monastries in Fivelingo
||Borgen in Fivelingo
evidence in the remaining structures of centuries of renovation and
alteration. Many, but not all, were demolished in the 19th century: the 17th
century Rensumaborg is still standing in Uithuizermeeden, as is the
(pre-1400) Menkemaborg in Uithuizen and the Fraeylemaborg near Slochteren.
|Photo: Memkemaborg in Uithuizen
Fivelboezem began to silt up in the Early Middle Ages, particularly on the
western side, a new series of villages were established, from Stedum in the
south to Oldorp in the north. From the 12th century onwards dikes were
gradually built around the rest of the bay. In 1444 a final dike was built
from Godlinze to the coastal embankments at Uithuizermeeden and Roodeschool,
after which the sea could no longer exert its influence on the Fivelboezem.
Further land reclamation took place in stages from 1718 (Oostpolder and
Polder Vierburen) to 1944 (Emmapolder). In addition to sea dikes the
Fivelingo also has two dikes to protect the lower-lying areas from the tides,
the Wolddijk and the Graauwe Dijk (Grey Dike) of the Duurswold.
The creation of the dikes
also marked the beginning of large-scale water management: an
artificial runoff was built from the Winneweer to the river Delf (now
the Damsterdiep) near present-day Delfzijl. The dike settlement of
Garrelsweer was established on the Delf dike. After obtaining market,
mint and toll rights in 1057, Garrelsweer developed into a trading
centre. Dams with discharging sluices (zijlen) were built at
Westeremden and Appingedam. These sluices, for discharging
superfluous water from the bays, were an important element in water
management. The construction of a discharging sluice often triggered
the establishment of a new settlement, such as Zijldijk. When a new
sluice was built an organisation, the zijlvest, was set up to
Dykes in Fivelingo
3.3 Modern Times
Dikes were being built around parts of the high-lying, silted-up salt
marshes right into the 20th century, to transform them into agricultural
land. In the 19th century agriculture was accompanied by rapid
industrialisation. Brickworks were established on the Damsterdiep, in
Garrelsweer, Wirdum, Appingedam and Delfzijl. Permanent brickworks and tile
kilns were set up in places where the raw material (sticky clay) or fuel (peat)
were readily available, and where there were suitable transport facilities.
The Damsterdiep was practically ideal. The works produced the characteristic
red Groningen bricks.
|Photo: Ruin of a brick factory in
Between 1840 and 1940 the large-scale levelling of old terps and settlements
had an enormous influence on the entire Groningen salt-marsh area. The
fertile soil excavated from the terps was brought by boat to fertilise the
poor sandy soils in the Groningen and Drenthe peatlands (veenkoloniŽn).
4. Modern development and planning
4.1 Land use
The dikes created a lot of new land which then had to be prepared for
agricultural use. Many old and once natural watercourses were incorporated
into the rigid pattern of land divisions, producing the characteristic
blocks of land that define the area. The farmers ploughed around the heavily
contoured land to accelerate the drainage. This resulted in the
characteristic bolle akkers (convex fields) or kruinige percelen (crowned
||Photo: Bolle akkers (convex fields)
4.2 Settlement development
The area is characterised by the terp villages. Some of them are
protected by the Historic Buildings and Monument Act like Marsum, Biessum,
Spijk, Stedum and Loppersum. Most have seen new housing development since
the Second World War, but still retain their characteristic features in the
landscape. Places like Appingedam and Delfzijl have developed into urban
centres and provide services to the region.
|Photo: Street in Appingedam
||Photo: Dampsterdiep in Appingedam
4.3 Industry and energy
The majority of regional and supra-regional activity is currently
found along the coast at Eemshaven and Delfzijl. Formerly economic activity
centred on the river Delf, which became the Damsterdiep. The construction of
the Ems canal and the train line laid the foundations for growth in the 20th
century, in the form of the Brons Motor Factory (1906), the co-operative
strawboard factory at Eendracht (1908) and urban expansion. The dwelling
mound (wierde) villages of Solwerd, Opwierde, Farmsum, Heveskes and Weiwerd
were eventually incorporated into the new developments. Large-scale port
development made Delfzijl the third largest seaport in the Netherlands.
|Photo: Industrial plant in Delfzijl
Inside the dikes the countryside between the terp villages of Farmsum and
Borgsweer has become an extensive industrial zone including a soda factory
and an aluminium plant. The next step in the development of the region as a
port and industrial area began around 1970, with the construction of the
port at Eemshaven. Large sections of the port zone are still to be developed.
Natural gas is another important aspect of the region?s economy. The village
of Slochteren is known for the discovery of gas in 1959. Natural gas is
extracted from great depths at 30 sites throughout the Duurswold.
During industrialisation rail and waterways grew up around Fivelingo. After
the Second World War, however, the peripheral position of the area ensured
that more jobs were lost than gained. For many years the state has actively
pursued employment schemes in the area. The lack of economic development
means the area has never had a motorway. The two most important roads are
the Eemshavenweg and the N33, from Assen to the Eemshaven in Delfzijl.
5. Legal and spatial planning aspects
The Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects are described in a general way, as
they are relevant to all the entities in the province of Groningen. Because
of the scale of the entities (most covering more than one municipality), the
focus is on regional policy and management. Regional policy and planning
goals are also taken into account in local and sectoral policy. The regional
goals and strategies are formulated following discussions with a wide
variety of stakeholders and organisations.
The regional spatial plan for the province of Groningen, the Provinciaal
Omgevingsplan II, is an important document in terms of integrated management
of landscape and heritage. It details the objectives for regional and local
policy, and issues relating to landscape and heritage. Part of the Groningen
regional plan, Karakteristiek Groningen, covers the main goals for
integrated landscape and heritage policy. The historic landscapes must be
taken as the starting point for new developments and the diversity of
landscapes must remain recognisable.
These main goals are subsequently incorporated into other plans, dealing
with specific parts of the province. Regioperspectieven (long term
perspectives for a region) are drawn up for the sub-regions. These
perspectives culminate in gebiedsuitwerkingen (development plans for
specific sub-regions). For example, the Landschapsontwikkelingsplan Noord
Groningen (Landscape Development Plan for N. Groningen) deals with
protection of the landscape and heritage and the integration of new
developments. These plans are drawn up in consultation with the main sectors
and various local and regional organisations (public bodies and NGOs).
The historic settlement pattern is under threat from modern development and
expansion. The larger communities are expanding and in some cases have
already incorporated several dwelling mound villages. Within the smaller
historic villages there are pressures for new buildings and expansion on the
edge of the settlements.
The intensification of agriculture has resulted in significant changes to
the historic landscape with orginal creek lines incorporated into the
present regular field pattern. The intensification means that buried
archaeological depsoits are vulnerable to ploughing. New investments in
biogas plants have resulted in the visible landscape being significantly
Agricultural intensification means that access to some cultural assets is
6.4 Industry and energy
The industrial development of Delfzijl and Eemsmond with extensive harbour
developments such as oil refinery, electricity plants and other industrial
buildings create a threat to the below ground archaeological depsoits as
well as having a significant impact on the visible character of the
The surviving historic settlement pattern, especially those on dwelling
mounds, some of which are protected by law, provide the potential for the
promotion of both tourism and sense of place to the local population.
Careful development within historic cores should be used to enhance the
The historic landscape has the potential to be attractive for tourism,
especially for cultural heritage tours, and leisure activities associated
with the waterways. Footpaths along the inlets, dikes and between and
through the histroic settlements provide potential for tourism as well as
local recreation. In the village of Zeerijp there is an archeological
information point, which provides information on the area. The presence of
the small villages on dwelling mounds - wierdedorpen - with old Romanesque
churches, interspersed among the inlets and lakes of the open landscape have
great potential for tourism.
Marrewijk, D & A.J. Haartsen, 2002, Waddenland Het
landschap en cultureel erfgoed in de Waddenzeeregio, Ministerie van Landbouw,
Natuurbeheer en Visserij / Noordboek, Leeuwarden
Provincie Groningen, 2000, Provinciaal Omgevingsplan, Koersen op Karakter,