History of De Hoge Veluwe landscapes

Sand drifts, shrub steppes, and heathland are all the result of human land use. As early as the Stone Age, the forests were cleared using slash-and-burn techniques. Due to intensive sheep grazing, the forests were unable to recover on their own.

In the Middle Ages, the deep litter system replaced traditional agriculture: the heathland was stripped of its peat, mixed with sheep manure, and spread out onto the fields. This peat cutting and the overgrazing by sheep created a landscape of vast heaths and sand drifts. With the advent of chemical fertilizers, however, this heathland was rarely used for grazing or peat cutting. Trees were planted and the landscape gradually reverted back to its natural forested state from the end of the nineteenth century.

The transformation from wasteland, which includes sand drifts, heaths, and natural grasslands, to forests was the combined result of natural forestation and planting. Pine and oak were the first to be planted. In areas of richer soil, these were often followed by non-native species, such as Douglas fir, Japanese larch, and American oak. Native trees were also planted, such as beech. The forests were created on rectangular plots, interspersed with straight roads and paths.

Timber production was the forest's primary purpose. The pine timber was used primarily in mining. The forests were managed per plot, with planting, maintenance, thinning, and felling taking place over large areas. This often led to monotonous forests of low ecological and amenity value. In other areas, the open landscape evolved naturally into dense pine forests.

Under the influence of human activity, the wealth of flora and fauna reached its peak around 1900. The area was rich in biodiversity, boasting dozens of plants and animals that are now either extinct, like the black grouse, or on the Red List of Threatened Species.

In 1906, the areas that now form the park were purchased by the Kröller-Müllers and merged to form one large expanse, of which a part was reserved for big game.

Nature & Landscape

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