Through the Veenkoloniën
Cycle through a special piece of history
“ 'This part of Groningen tends to draw a particular type of visitor. But if you give the Veenkoloniën some time, you are sure to become fond of it.' ”
Not everyone immediately falls in love when they see the Veenkoloniën on their first visit to the region. This part of Groningen tends to draw a particular type of visitor. But if you give the Veenkoloniën some time, you are sure to become fond of it. For centuries, high moorland lay thick in this area. In the Middle Ages, people started cutting it for fuel: peat or turf. Later on, in the 19thcentury, the Veenkoloniën developed into the home of Groningen coastal trade and agribusiness. By then, turf huts had long become a thing of the past in this highly industrious area.
Be sure to visit the Veenkoloniaal Museum and immerse yourself in the history of peat extraction, the canals, inland shipping, the rich agricultural industry and shipbuilding; in short, everything that contributed to the area’s importance. The museum is established in the former Rijks Hoogere Burger School, designed in Dutch Classicism by government architect J.A. Vrijman. Take time to explore the environment on foot to see the beautiful villas in various architectural styles, from Amsterdam School to Jugendstil. The Julianapark is another (green) treasure, as is the Hertenkamp deerpark around the corner from the museum. They all demonstrate the particular style of Veendam.
In Borgercompagnie, you can follow the straight road for kilometres on end without a trace of boredom or monotony. The ribbon village’s canal is fringed with leafy trees and features impressive Oldambt farms. The history of this village takes you back to 1647, when Groningen city reinforced its grip on the Veenkoloniën. Nine citizens were granted permission to cut the peat. They decided to unite in a company, hence the name of the village: borger (citizen’s) compagnie (company). In 1655, one of these citizens had a country house built: the Welgelegen peat country estate. Need a rest from cycling? Visit the French country estate garden.
Pekel is a Dutch word for salt, and Pekela simply refers to the Pekel A: a brackish river in the bogland that for centuries was governed by the Dollard tides. In the 17th century, peat extraction boomed in this area and Groningen city purchased almost all of the land around the Pekel A. Two centuries later, after all of the peat had been cut, the area started to flourish. Shipping, trade and agrarian industry reigned supreme. The Pekela ribbon is testimony to this rich history, embodied by the raw Strokartonfabriek Free & Co strawboard factory and the mighty De Volharding farm shed. Villa Elsa, which was built in 1902, shows that some people made a fortune here. Wouldn’t you just love to live here? And we’d almost forget the captain’s house and Houtzagerij Nooitgedacht sawmill that are reminiscent of the once flourishing shipping and wood industry.