The Dutch landscape
Differences within the Netherlands
In Veere, a small town on the lake of Veere, there is a mineral shop in which precious stones from the whole world are sold. Tourists who wish to take a stone from Holland as a souvenir however, will be disappointed. Why are there no stones from the Netherlands?
The reason is down to the development of the Netherlands. The largest proportion of Dutch soil is covered by the sea and rivers. Only in the areas where the land ice covered the land during the ice ages, has the landscape changed significantly. In the provinces of Utrecht, Gelderland and Overijssel, a number of hills are typical of this scenery. In the province of Limburg (in the south-east), the scenery is also somewhat 'un-Dutch'. Loess can be found there, which is also knwon as Limburg clay. There are only a few other places in the Netherlands (between Velp and Ellecom, near the lee sides of the lateral moraines near Nijmegen and the Veluwe), where fine-grained sediments exist. In South-Limburg the scenery is much more hilly than the rest of the country. The Vaalser mountain, which is the highest point of the Netherlands with a height of 322.5 metres above sea level, is situated in this area.
The last 10,000 years
In the last 10,000 years, the scenery has primarily formed through the influence of the sea and the rivers. The sea influenced the scenery in three ways. Firstly, the sea deposited large amounts of sea clay along the coast. Secondly, the sea formed enormous dune complexes. Thirdly, the sea ruined the peat areas piece by piece, which were originally situated behind the banks. As a result, the Zuider sea (which is called the IJssel lake nowadays) and the Biesbosch were created. Additionally, the wind caused the formation of the dunes.
Besides natural factors, the scenery is largely determined by humans. Two thousand years ago, the whole west of the Netherlands, and large parts of Groningen, Drenthe, Overijssel, North-Brabant and Limburg were covered with different types of peat. Humans dug up the majority of this peat, and dried it to use as fuel. The lakes which were created as a result regularly dried up. A good example of this is the Prince Alexander polder, which is the lowest point of the Netherlands, six metres below Amsterdam Ordnance Zero. At the areas where the peat disappeared, sloping sand soil remained at the surface. Before humans modified the scenery, a lot of space was taken up by creeks. Because of the diking of the creeks, a large part of the fertile soil was freed up for agriculture.