view of the grote laan in rijs

If the trees in the village of Rijs could talk, they would have quite a story to tell!

In the Middle Ages, the primeval forest of the relatively elevated Gaasterland disappeared, after which the area became a virtually treeless heath. In the 17th century, trees were reintroduced, when the area became popular among wealthy families, who had country houses built there, with forested parks and tree-bordered lanes, as you can see here.

View of the grote laan in Rijs, Frederik Weissenbruch after a drawing by Willem Hekking II, 1861

View of the grote laan in Rijs, Frederik Weissenbruch after a drawing by Willem Hekking II, 1861

In the 19th century, large parts of these 17th-century forests were cut down again for timber production, and the land was sold to farmers. What is left of the forests now is largely due to the efforts of alert local authorities and conservationists who acquired the last plots of forested land, which now have the status of protected natural areas.