stage 3: West Frisia
IJ river, Velsen (NL) - Vlie river, Wieringen (NL)
From the river IJ to Wieringen, for centuries an island, where once the river Vlie separated West Frisia (present-day provinces North Holland, South Holland and Zeeland) and Middle or Central Frisia (present-day province Friesland).
For a visual impression of this stage, click here.
According to the early-medieval law code the Lex Frisionum (law of the Frisians) this area belonged to the sub-region West Frisia, the area 'inter Fli et Sincfalam' (between Vie and Zwin).
After stage 1 and 2 you return at the North Sea coast and hike along one of Europe's broadest and longest beaches. Behind these superb beaches is the typical dune landscape. It's the Kinnin or today's name: Kennemerland. This includes Nature Park De Schoorlse Duinen, the broadest dune-area in the Netherlands and the highest point of the Frisia Coast Trail too. So come prepared for high altitude.
From the coast you hike east into the sub-region Westfriesland enclosed by its Omringdijk (a circular dyke enclosing the whole region), a dyke of nearly a 1,000 years old. The dam indicates a change of landscape, from the sandy beaches and dunes of the North Sea coast into former wet peat areas. During the early Middle Ages and before, this impenetrable landscape made up a third of current Netherlands.
From Westfriesland you turn north towards the former island of Wiron or Wieringen as it's called today. During the Viking Age this was a stronghold of Vikings, indicated by no less then three hoards that have been found here. From the eastern point of this former island you cross the 31 km of water along the Enclosure Dam, splitting a sea into two, almost like Moses and the Red Sea.
At the river IJ the Roman Empire suffered serious defeats against the Frisians at Bahundenna woods and their castle Flevum at the present-day town Velsen was destroyed. When crossing the river IJ to the north you enter what was in Roman times called the territory of the Frisii minores, (the minor Frisians) more or less modern province North Holland.
The Kennemerland, especially the area around Egmond aan Zee, Heiloo and Castricum is found to be a Central-Place-Complex, similar as in southern Scandinavia. This indicates a elite powerbase during the early Middle Ages. The old name of Egmond was Hallum, not be confused with the village Hallum in the province Friesland. This name suggest the former presence of a hall as haven been found in southern Scandinavia and we also know from the Old-English epic Beowulf. It has been suggested that the Viking Dukes ruling on behalf of the Franks over West Frisia had their seat in this region. Of course, the abbey of Egmond-Binnen is one of the oldest in the Netherlands and was important for the counts of West Frisia, who later renamed themselves counts of Holland.
During the Middel Ages Westfriesland was the Frist of the mythical 'Seven Lands of the Sea'. But the free republic Westfriesland had to admit its defeat after 2 centuries of battle against the counts of West Frisia (later to become the counts of Holland). Read more about the history of Westfriesland in our blog post. Still Westfriezen consider themselves a specific region with its own separate tongue derived from Old-Frisian and Dutch.