Hennie van Heerden's Wildlife Diary

March 13, 2010

Start of the project “Groot Breembroek”

Filed under: March — Hennie van Heerden @ 10:03 pm

Today we started the work on the re-development of the land behind our house that we were able to buy last year.
We intend to turn the nowadays agricultural land back into nature by digging a large pond and planting trees and shrubs in patches randomly. We won’t turn it into forest as we want it to be a haven for as many animals as possible, so also the birds that love to nest in open fields like lapwings, partridges and godwits. With planting shrubs we hope for the return of Sky larks and Stonechats. The area is surrounded by forest so for those animals that love the forest like roe deer and badger there is already sufficient space.

One of the plans is to dig the pond with a sloping bank on one side, fit for reptiles and amphibians, and a steep sandy bank on the other side, hoping for kingfishers to nest in and maybe even Sand Martins. Also, by digging it this way, it allows the pond to grow (winter) and shrink (summer) without overflowing.

So this morning the first big machine arrived to place a huge culvert in the little stream that seperated the area from our grounds. When that was done, we started planting willows on strategical points (future home for little owls?). Will keep you updated!


  1. Dear Hennie van Heerden,

    I were surprised to see my family name in your project.
    I wonder what is the reason for you to use “Groot Breembroek”?

    How is nature developing? Did you see nice results alraedy?

    Jan Breembroek

    Comment by Jan Breembroek — May 5, 2011 @ 8:01 am | Reply

    • Dear Jan,

      Your comment was a nice surprise.
      Breembroek is the name of the area that we live in, here in the tiny little village of Tonden. More specific, the (rather forgotten and unused) road that splits our premises in two is called the Breembroekroad (Breembroekweg).
      Some say that the actual Breembroek area is located a little bit further down that road, but this is Holland and we are talking 500 meters max.
      When we expanded our already existing estate with buying the land behind our house, we needed a new official name for the estate and decided for “Groot Breembroek”.

      Funny detail is that the name in itself is a contradiction.
      Breem means so much as ‘flammable shrubs’ and broek means “soggy grassland”.
      Well, the latter is more appropriate to this area as originally the name Tonden is a degeneration of the word “Tuinen”, which means gardens.
      The land is rich and furtile because of the river IJssel nearby and of high agricultural value.

      Development is coming along nicely, although one part of the land is still occupied by a tenant who groes corn on it. The other part we are slowly transforming back to nature. We’ve planted quite a few shrubs and trees already. We tried to plant only those trees that were authentical for the area, like willows, elders and oaks. Coming fall, in one corner we are going to plant fruit bearing trees and berry bearing shrubs, also with the purpose to provide food for the animals. There is already a small pond but in August we are going to expand that to a much bigger one (first wait for the tadpoles to hatch). We’ve sown in large areas with a mixture of flowers and seed-bearing plants and weeds. Last year, as we will be doing this year, we left the remains of that on the land in winter, providing food for lots of birds, hares and roe-deer. Worked like a charm as especially the wild cabbage we mixed in were very much appreciated by the mammals.

      We’ve put up lots of nest boxes everywhere from small to very big ones. The Owl boxes are momentarily hijacked by sparrows, but the Kestrel box already has inhabitants. A couple of Hawks have their nest behind our house and Buzzards in front of it.
      Already we see lots more birds around our house and we see species of mammals that weren’t there before like pine marter and badger.
      A small part we leave undisturbed just to see how the land developes by itself. It’s really interesting to see that this part is getting wetter and becomes kind of a wetland.

      Now don’t think that the estate is huge. By buying small pieces one at a time, it is now a total of 18 hectare (44 acres) but for Dutch understandings it’s kind of big.
      But to us it’s our own little paradise. While I’m typing this (it’s 8 o’clock in the morning) I see a roe deer stepping out of the forest in rays of sunshine. A sight like that can still make my day.

      Best regards,

      ps. you’re welcome to come and have a look for yourself!

      Comment by Hennie van Heerden — May 7, 2011 @ 6:18 am | Reply

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