stage 4: Mid Frisia
River Vlie (NL) to River Lauwers (NL)
Length: 266 km (165 miles) in 13 sections
Region: Mid Frisia (also Central Frisia)
From (former) island Wieringen to the River Lauwers, marking the border between the Netherlands’ provinces Friesland and Groningen. Or, a stage also nicknamed the ZZ-Top, since it is from the village Zurich to the village Zoutkamp in the north of the Netherlands. Now you entered the (former) salt-marsh area. From here until the end of the trail you more or less walk along the Wadden Sea coast, along the UNESCO protected wild life area. And during section 4.6, walk the River Marne and the River Moselle in one day!
During this stage you have the possibility to stay in one of the countless medieval churches that have been opened as refugio for hikers. What bothies are for hikers in Scotland, are the churches in Friesland. A concept, actually, that came over from the southeast of England and called champing. Check www.jabikspaad.nl for the terms and conditions to make use of these churches.
section 4.1: Kop Afsluitdijk – Hindeloopen
section 4.2: Hindeloopen – Rijs
section 4.3: Rijs – Balk
section 4.4: Balk – IJlst
section 4.5: IJlst – Irnsum
section 4.6: Irnsum – Wommels (Slachte Dike – part 1).
section 4.7: Wommels – Sexbierum (Slachte Dike – part 2).
section 4.8: Sexbierum – Zwarte Haan.
section 4.9: Zwarte Haan – Seedykstertoer
section 4.10: Seedykstertoer – Great Sminia
section 4.11: Great Sminia – Holwerd
section 4.12: Holwerd – Anjum
section 4.13: Anjum – Zoutkamp
The land is bordered by the UNESCO protected Wadden Sea, together with its many islands stretching all the way into Denmark.
The hinterland consisted mainly of peat areas, which have been mined and excavated through the centuries for the production of salt and fuel. Read our blog post The United Frisian Emirates about the relatively unknown history of commercial peat exploitation. Dikes were needed to protect the land, resulting in a.o. the Slachtedijk (‘sliced dike’). Read our blog post about this mother of all dikes.
According to the early-medieval law code the Lex Frisionum ‘Law of the Frisians’ this area belonged to the region Mid Frisia (also named Central Frisia or Westerlauwers Friesland), the area inter Laubachi et Fli (‘between Lauwers and Vie’). River Vlie (beside its old name Fli, also called Flehi and Flevo) itself does not exist anymore. But it used to be a river flowing from Lake Flevo (current Lake IJssel) in the Roman times to the North Sea, a time when there was no Wadden Sea yet. Between the present-day islands Vlieland and Terschelling, the River Vlie flowed into the North Sea.
When we say that the River Vlie does not exist anymore, know that part of it will be restored soon. This is the project Vismigratierivier Afsluitdijk ‘fish-migration river Enclosure Dam’. It is being constructed 2020-2022.
Early-medieval Mid Frisia consisted of two pagi 'districts' Austrachia and Uuistrachia, meaning respectively ‘east-island’ (Eastereach) and ‘west-island’ (Westereach). Later the names changed into the present names Oostergo and Westergo, meaning respectively ‘east-district’ and ‘west-district’, with the extension –go/-goa/-gouwe/-ga which is, in fact, of Frankish origin.
This is the classic terp region and it is often regarded as the cultural, historic heartland of Frisia. Terps are artificial dwelling mounds. But West Frisia (present-day Dutch provinces of Zeeland, Zuid-Holland, Noord-Holland and part of Utrecht including pagus ‘district’ Niftarlake) might very well have a legitimate claim for this title too. And, of course, do not tell it to the East-Frisians in northwest Germany. But the oldest terps are indeed found in Mid Frisia (district Westergo) and from there spread to the east along to coast into Germany.
During the Roman Period this area was called Frisii maiores ‘greater Frisians’. The area is part of the 2,600 years old terp region stretching from River Vlie to River Weser, although terps are also build in Kreis Nordfriesland (also North Frisia) in Germany, and province Noord Holland in the Netherlands. Want to build your own terp? find here our manual, the first ever and only on terp-building.
The area is of origin a barren, treeless tidal salt-marsh area, and you will encounter salt marshes of the trail during this stage 4.
Recommended posts for this stage
For a first, visual impression of this stage, click here.