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Six years ago I wrote a small piece about a peculiar elevation in the garden of Wegdam, near Goor in the Netherlands. A ‘hill’ I called it earlier, but it can’t be much more than 5 meters high. The problem at the time was that it was difficult to present my case,  partly because topographical maps did not indicate there wás an elevation before 1989.

Enter a source I have used earlier this year: the Actueel Hoogtebestand Nederland (AHN). That same technology shows the elevation at Wegdam in all its glory, as well as the ‘canal’ leading up to it from the road. 1)This body of water is not coloured blue on the AHN, but the image shows where the ground level is lower.
This view immediately clarifies the point I was trying to make: that it was and is situated in the central axis leading into the garden from the front door. And thus must have been a deliberate part of the garden’s design.

Wegdam as seen on the Actueel Hoogtebestand Nederland (AHN). The central axis is indicated by the red dotted line.

 

Looking towards the northeast, the stretch of water would have lead the visitor’s eye between the buildings of a farm, further into the countryside. A turn to the west would have given a view of the house. It would have been a perfect belvedere. The questions from six years ago (when was the hill created -the AHN doesn’t solve that issue; was there ever a building or structure on top of it?) remain unanswered till this day. 2)Provided I have not missed anything in a local publication.

The image above leads to a new question, though: near the top there is a junction of two roads, forming an irregular ‘cross’ sign with four arms. But the LIDAR imagery of the AHN shows at least five extra straight lines radiating from this junction. Could this be an indication the area has been used as hunting ground, with a sterrenbos as its centre? Maps over the past 200 years do not show this feature, which means that if this was a sterrenbos, it must have been older than that.

sterrenbos-carolinaberg-dieren

Aerial view of the Carolinaberg in Dieren, an example of a sterrenbos created for hunting purposes. It boasts 14 straight avenues radiating from the centre.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. This body of water is not coloured blue on the AHN, but the image shows where the ground level is lower.
2. Provided I have not missed anything in a local publication.
Summary

Het Actueel Hoogtebestand Nederland geeft een duidelijk beeld van het bergje in de bosrand op Wegdam, nabij Goor. Er zijn elders hoogteverschillen te zien die erop lijken te duiden dat er ooit een sterrenbos kan zijn geweest.

Three weeks ago I visited the marvelous garden of Weldam, which I’ll discuss another time. After that I revisited a small wooded area nearby, where I had seen something interesting earlier. In October 2008 I stumbled upon a small elevation or hill at the edge of the woods. I immediately recognised it as man-made and probably part of a park layout, but couldn’t link it to an estate or garden. Somewhat later on that trip I passed the house of Wegdam, but couldn’t piece the two together.

Photos by HvdE (click images to see larger version). Maps from watwaswaar.nl, with adaptations by HvdE. The layout of Wegdam was right on the edge of many older maps, that is the reason why some of the maps above show only part of that layout.

My recent visit taught me why: a visual relation between hill and house is only possible when the trees have no leaves. Trees were just budding in the beginning of April, and I could now spot Wegdam‘s front door from the top of the hill (see my badly focussed photo).

The difficult part in linking both was that the landscape garden at Wegdam has a visual axis that slightly bends to the right. I took a photo from in front of the house and completely mistook the visual axis for the central axis, although I tried to compensate. The elevation is hidden in the woods to the left of this visual axis. But it appears to be exactly at the end of the central axis starting from the front door. This view is supported by careful examination of the maps, although they have not shown this feature until very recently. 1)The (1 : 25.000) topographical map of 1989 is the first map I have seen on which the small elevation is indicated.
Having established that Wegdam and the elavation belong to each other, the questions “what was it for?” and “how old is it?” immediately popped up. Without exhaustive research the answer to both questions must be: not certain, but I’ll give it a shot.

Use.
The elevation must have been visible from the main house, but would certainly have been more noticeable with an eye-catcher placed on it. Far from the house, seen from the Oude Needseweg, the hill (and anything adorning it) is reflected in the still water surface of a rectangular ditch or pond. 2)If common practise is followed here, the elevation was made with the soil dug out to create the pond. The hill must have had some kind of pavilion on it from which the surrounding landscape could be seen. It could have served as a resting place as well: halfway a walk over the winding paths in the park a short climb opened a vista towards the house where the walk had begun. A belvedere is the most logical use this feature could have had.

Age.
If we take the maps at face value, the hill must have been created between 1846 and 1889, together with the layout of the winding paths on what in 1832 was heathland alongside the Oude Needseweg. The ditch / pond between that road and the hill probably dates from the same period, although it was initially drawn as a road. During this period the small circular pond in the central axis near the house was also created. 3)These ‘waterworks’ were probably necessary to improve the soil of the heathland, and make a garden layout possible.
A change in ownership -albeit by marriage of the last heiress- might have inspired a new layout. Wegdam had been in hands of the Van Coeverden family for centuries, but was owned by members of the Amsterdam family Meyjes between 1849 and 1897. It is possible they decided to make a more elaborate layout around what up till then seems to have been a luxury farm.

This small hill and pond seem to be the only relics of the layout in the woods. The paths have disappeared under a thick layer of leaves. But it would be great to find out more about this place. If only because creating such a belvedere and mirror pond seems rather old fashioned for the period…
To be continued, I am sure.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. The (1 : 25.000) topographical map of 1989 is the first map I have seen on which the small elevation is indicated.
2. If common practise is followed here, the elevation was made with the soil dug out to create the pond.
3. These ‘waterworks’ were probably necessary to improve the soil of the heathland, and make a garden layout possible.
Summary

A small hill I ‘discovered’ on a bicycle ride near Goor in 2008 can now finally be identified as part of the garden layout of Wegdam.