West Frisian Islands Waddeneilanden
Provinces of Groningen, Friesland andNoord-HollandStrung out along the north and northwest coasts of the Netherlands are the West Frisian islands (in Dutch Waddeneilanden) of Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Schiermonnikoog and Rottum, lying at varying distances (between 2km/1-.25mi and 25km/15mi) off the mainland. The West Frisian islands are continued to the east by the East Frisian islands off the coast of Germany. The chain of islands protects the mainland, from which they are separated by the Waddenzee, from the open North Sea.As recently as 2,500 years ago the Waddenzee was a large expanse of moorland which was sheltered from the destructive force of the sea by a barrier of sand mixed with flotsam cast up by the waves. Thereafter the steady rise in sea level resulting from the melting of the glaciers of the last ice age combined with the subsidence of the land led to the flooding of great stretches of the old moorland. The most devastating storm tides occurred during the Middle Ages, when both the Waddenzee and the Zuiderzee (now, since the construction of the Afsluitdijk in 1932, the IJsselmeer) came into being. The present chain of islands is the remnant of the old coastal barrier, breached in many places by the sea. On the seaward side the West Frisian islands are fringed by young dunes, which tend to be driven steadily eastward by marine currents and westerly winds. This movement has now largely been halted by the planting of marram grass and the construction of groynes.In addition to sheep farming, fishing and arable farming in some areas the summer tourist trade is now a major element in the islands' economy. The miles of beaches of light-colored sand are among the most beautiful in the world, and many visitors are also attracted by the many nature reserves, in which thousands of seabirds nest or spend the winter, for example on the north coast of Texel (Schorren) and on the islands of Vlieland and Terschelling (Boschplaat).
Schiermonnikoog (Frisian Skiermuontseach) is the most easterly of the West Frisian islands. Its name comes from the "gray" (schieren) monks of Rinsumageest, near Dokkum, to whom the island once belonged. Around 1580 Schiermonnikoog was incorporated in Friesland, in 1638 it was sold as an independent lordship, and from 1892 to 1945 it belonged to the German Counts of Bernstorff- Wehningen. It was acquired by the state in 1945.With a length of 16km/10mi, a breadth of 4km/2.5mi and a total area of 4,000 hectares/10,000 acres, Schiermonnikoog is the smallest of the Dutch West Frisian islands. No cars are permitted on the island, large areas on which - Kobbeduinen (2,400 hectares/6,000 acres in the east and Kapeglob in the west) - are nature reserves.
The only village on the island of Schiermonnikoog is the village of Schiermonnikoog which was established in 1760 after an earlier settlement was engulfed by the sea. The church (Reformed) and churchyard date from 1860. The lighthouse, built in 1854, is now a water tower. The days when Schiermonnikoog was a whaling center are recalled by the whalebone arch set up in honor of the navigator and discoverer Willem Barentsz.
Vlieland, the most westerly and the smallest of the West Frisian islands (12km/7.5mi long, 2km/1.25mi across), has a beautiful beach. It can be reached by ferry from Harlingen. No cars are allowed on the island. The Vliehors sand-flats to the west of the island are now a gunnery range.
Address: Dorpsstraat 150, Vlieland, Friesland 8899 AN, Netherlands
Since West-Vlieland was engulfed by the sea in the 18th century Vlieland's only village has been Oost-Vlieland, situated at the eastern tip of the island amid coniferous and deciduous woodland. The village church (1605) contains a fine pulpit, an 18th century organ, a number of tombs and one of the five brass lamps presented to the church by Admiral de Ruyter, who - like Admiral Tromp - had a house on the island.
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