Middle Ages

In the Middle Ages, mankind is responsible for the creation of the cultural landscape.

The Roman Empire deteriorated and forests replaced the Roman cultural landscape. The inhabitable areas decrease until only a few suitable places in the creek valleys are left. When the population increased again, villages are arising on the higher Geests ( e.g. ‘Kinrooi (B)’ )

During the Middle Ages, agriculture mostly consists of a system of meadows and fallow grounds.

Increasing agriculture

The late Middle Ages initiate an explosive growth in agriculture to foresee in the needs of the growing population. Fields expand.  Wet layers of soil are drained and the fields take over the creek valleys. Evidence of this can be found by some in the older villages like Tongerlo (B), Stramproy (Nl) and Molenbeersel (B).

Also the higher, more isolated grounds are cultivated, often large farmhouses were built near the new fields. These farmhouses were surrounded by hedges and hedgerows.

The cultivation of higher areas determined our current network of roads. These roads were needed to reach the fields and grasslands. Often the people tried to create new pathways through the difficult to access creek valleys.

Starting in the Middle Ages, humans tried to influence the natural waterways. On the one hand to power watermills, on the other hand to drain wet areas. Specific drainage-canals were constructed, for example the ‘Geisterse Zijp’.

Wet ground usage

Extensive effort was taken to transform the wet grounds into meadows and grasslands. The grounds were split into smaller lots (lowland pastures), bordered by trenches and a network of hedges, belts of alder or willow and oaks. These natural fences kept the cattle from roaming free and provided the farmers with wood.

By creating grasslands in the creek valleys, the farmers ensured they had hay (food) for their cattle. The more cattle that survived, the more manure they had to fertilize their fields. Dykes around the creeks were heightened in order to transform the wet swampland into drier hayfields.

Untamed land

Large parts of the land were still unsuitable for use as fields or as grasslands. These “wild” areas consisted of woodland, heathland, swampland and peat land. They played an important role in the daily life of the farmers and were shared by the surrounding villages under the supervision of a field-guard. The grounds were a source for wood for utensils, cattle could graze there extensively and they were turfed for fertilizer. The wet swamplands also offered perfect hiding places. Entrenchments were built for the community to shelter. Several of these entrenchments have been discovered in ‘Kempen~Broek’.