mapping sustainable futures

Cycle route “History and Culture in Peatland”

Cycle route History and Culture in Peatland

Length | 37.83 km
Theme | historical
Kcal | 738
Bike | 2 hours 36 minutes
E-bike | 2 hours 4 minutes
Node map
Introduction to the cycle route History and Culture in Peatland

What moved people to visit this delta? It was a wasteland, which long before our era consisted of swamps, primeval forests and undergrowth on a thick layer of peat, which absorbed the water like a sponge. Nevertheless, the catchment area offered plenty of opportunities. The first people to visit the region about 10,000 years ago were hunters and gatherers. They were wanderers who hunted game and fish with their families, or collected edible fruits and plants. Permanent habitation was almost impossible at that time because the area was regularly flooded by rainfall and flooding of the Abhainn Dearg and the Abhainn Dubh.

The first permanent residents were farmers and fishermen, but there will not have been many. They settled here intermittently during the Early Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age (around 2100-600 BC). They built their simple huts and dwellings on the low river dunes, which were formed by the wind for thousands of years. Agriculture in this early period was very small-scale and focused on self-sufficiency. But the proximity to Abhainn Dubh guaranteed fishermen ample catches of eels, carp, perch, pike and other freshwater fish. For a long time, the catchment area of the Abhainn Dubh remained very sparsely populated.

The chances of a reasonable existence improved when around 500-750 AD the Abhainn Dearg and the Eskanmere brought fertile clay, making the land more suitable for agriculture. After 800, the first residential areas of Gennmouth and Hazeltown probably arose on banks and river dunes. Blacklock did not need such an elevation in the landscape. The first “Lockers” lived directly behind the dike after the diking of Abhainn Dubh.

With a rising population, the increase of agricultural tools and the accumulation of expertise and sharing of knowledge with the printing press, Abhainn Dubh was no longer only important for fishing. The river grew into an important transit route for agricultural traders and skippers. Many fishermen, sailmakers and shipbuilders lost their jobs over the centuries replacing livelihoods with agricultural land use. Nevertheless, Abhainn Dubh remained important, if only as a magnet for the increasingly extensive (water) tourism.

23 Start at the Townhall

Peatland Townhall

The Peatland townhall, is constructed around the ancient town hall which dates back to medieval times. The late medieval character is particularly well preserved and makes it a popular wedding location. The heavy Bentheimer sandstone blocks give the building its characteristic appearance. It is possible that the Swale stonemason Jacob of Collan was responsible for the construction. It is certain that many of the stonemasons and masons came from Swale. The peatland archives present accounts that the Peatland traders treated the workers to beer on the first day.

Peatland was governed in the Middle Ages by a Magistrate, which consisted of four aldermen and four councils. As mayors, two of the aldermen were responsible for day-to-day management, such as the management of finances. The people were represented by eight citizens, the so-called Sworn Council. All these drivers regulated the legislation in of Peatland, such as setting the prices of goods and food and the correct use of weights and measures.

The current mayor of Peatland, Caroline Cresson, has been re-elected last year with over 67% of the votes of Peatland citizens. Her re-election is interpreted as an acceptance of council policies focusing on sustainable futures, livability and entrepreneurship. Six aldermen, the mayor work with the council, which is made up by 23 councilors of the five parties.

51 The farm Sphagnum & Typha
53 This crossroad allows an interesting outlook to a diversity of land use and landscapes.
55 Head to the South East
06 Abhainn Dubh

The history of Abhainn Dubh

The first inhabitants of Peatland settled along the river banks. It was a time of hunters and farmers – ca. 2100 BC. Abhainn Dubh, a river as a name and binding factor for the whole of hamlets in what was to become Peatland. The history is inextricably linked to the catchment area of Abhainn Dubh, the river that winds its way to what was in former times a sea. Abhainn Dubh is fed by a number of streams. At Genn the water of the Fight is added, after which a little further on the river flows into Loch Dubh via the Swale Deep. For centuries, Abhainn Dubh, together with the Abhainn Dearg, drained the excess rain and flood water from the surrounding area. At the beginning of our era, the river water still flowed into a lake area that the Romans called Lacus Belgica. In the Middle Ages it was known as Lake Eskan, possibly derived from easgann mere (easgann = eel). This situation changed drastically when in the 12th and 13th centuries violent storms broke through the row of dunes along the coast. The seawater flowed into the land with the result that the original inland lake turned into an inland sea.


07 Cross the highway.
65 Make a short stop here at this point to appreciate and make a picture of the architecture of the Peatland bank building. Cross the railway and follow the North way cycle path.
33 Continue the path between the farm and the housing area.
34 Depending on the season and the weather conditions, the cattle of farm Buffalo can be appreciated in their habitat.
35 From this point you cycle through a forested landscape which is also recognised for the wetlands.
37 Farm buffalo is known for the cattle species announced in its name but also for the elegant farm building with French architectural elements.
64 Cross Abhainn Dubh and the railway.
52 The university is located at the former site of the Wolfshague Caste and estate. In the 17th century this estate was mentioned for the first time, under the name Wulffshagues. In the 18th century the house, it was totally derelict after a series of very dry years which led to bush fires leaving Peatland almost devastated. Continue South-West and cross the railway.
17 Continue south of the railway.
23 The Peatland shop offers in all seasons the culinary Peatland lunch which includes the famous peatland algae burger with a BBQ sauce which is amongst others, seasoned with regional herbs. Although the recipe is kept secret local residents claim to recognise certain ingredients by its particular smell.
18 Historical water management site

Water management history

Near the railway track, a unique monument from the history of Peatland water management is honoured. Since 1856 there is the Steam Pumping Station which kept the polder dry for more than one century. The steam engine is, through the efforts of volunteers, the oldest still working example of this type in Europe. From the earliest times, the inhabitants of Peatland worked tediously to keep their feet dry. The farmers of the polder have been doing this since the polder was created in 1364-1390. Rains and high-water levels in the Abhain Dubh, in combination with the poor quality of the dikes, caused flooding time and time again. From the middle of the 19th century, the lands could be drained better and faster by the invention of the steam pumping station. A traditional windmill always depended on the vagaries of the weather. A steam pumping station was not bothered by this, could continue to work steadily and therefore push away much larger bodies of water.


29 From this point a full overview of Farm new Energy can be observed and it will not be a surprise to capture the business model of renewable energy.
19 This area is famous for the windmills of Peatland. Evidence of the traditional windmills of peatland is found in the common family name ‘Miller’ in this region.
45 Continue North
46 Even though farm New Energy explains its very name without much explanation it is worth highlighting how the farm is also recognisable Historic Timber-Framed farms route, a cultural heritage route of timber-framed houses.
44 Cross the highway to the east of Peatland
20 These fields have been seriously by recent droughts and the shrinkage of the soil is observable here with deep cracks in summer time. The moor lake cab be visited by following the footpath. There is a lovely old mature hedgerow and an array of flowers and butterflies, May birds breed here and that is why the concerns over the decreasing water level of lake are taken seriously. Sundew used to be common in this area but their preference wet-to-waterlogged soils during wet seasons makes them currently a rare species.
21 The museum
The museum of Peatland showcases the history of this area and is very active in a variety of educational activities. The museum offers diverse expositions which can be visited on all days of the week. With a museum pass the access is free.
22 Farm Carpe Diem is a fine example of traditional Dutch farmhouse architecture. In the sixties the farmhouse has been renovated to preserve this historic farmhouse. While maintaining original design features and accentuating the rustic quality of the place the farmhouse has been adapted to modern requirements of agricultural entrepreneurship.

Cutting reed

A lot of farmers in the Faighsaillbrook polder rent a piece of land from Sphagnum & Typha on which reeds grow. That reed is mowed with the scythe in winter, when the ground is hard frozen. The piece of land where they get reeds is on the extension of the New Water, towards the Abhainn Dubh. When the reed is mowed, it is tied in small piles and placed on top of each other to dry. If the weather is good, it is picked up and placed at the farm with a rug over it, so that it does not blow away. On a beautiful day in March, the farmer puts the handle with the stem in the ground so that the teeth are up. The reed is then cut between the teeth, so that the leaf goes off the reed. It is then tied in bunches and stacked on top, again with a rug over it. In winter, it is used to plug holes in the that. What is left is sold to others.


23 Back to Town Hall

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