Experience and discover
Nature at its finest
The ‘Wijers' is an area of outstanding beauty, even on a European scale. In fact, it is so important that large parts of it have been included in the Natura 2000 network, which means that it is given additional protection by the European Union. The water landscape is home to many rare animals and plants, including the bittern - a mysterious heron-like bird - and the tiny tree frog.
Fish farming in the ‘Wijers’
The Kempen plateau consists of a cone of debris, formed by river deposits of the Meuse. On the south-western slope, a system of streams was created due to water flowing from the plateau. These streams and a perfectly-angled slope are at the origin of the construction of the ponds in the 'Wijers'.
The land of 1001 ponds is a cultural landscape in the true sense of the word. There are indications that fish was reared in this region back in the Middle Ages. The ponds were either formed after the mining of peat and iron or were built for fish farming by the Cistercian nuns of the Herkenrode Abbey, among others.
To make ponds, brooks were pushed up to create larger ponds. In the valleys where the streams were, a sequence of ponds was created with a complex inlet and outlet system. The ponds were called ‘wijers’: the old term for fish-farming pond. In fact, you can still find references to ‘wijers’ in many street names (Wijerstraat) and even surnames (Vandeweyer, for example).
The ponds in the 'Wijers' have a rather small surface area of water. The ecological value of small ponds is much greater than that of large lakes. After all, there is proportionally more shore and that, in particular, is valuable for many animals and plants. The reed belts on the banks serve as breeding and feeding sites for many bird species.
In addition to the ponds, the 'Wijers' is also of European importance when it comes to heather species. For example, heathland areas ‘De Teut’ and ‘Ten Haagdoorn’ offer a home to species, such as the grayling.
Some heather and pond species only occur in the 'Wijers'. That fact that so many endangered species are concentrated in one area is unique in Flanders. The ‘Wijers' is, therefore, an important area to ensure the survival of these species.
Typical animal species
Several rare animal species use the 'Wijers' pond area to survive. Check out which ones here.
Discover the various hiking areas in the ‘Wijers’ or learn more about the different nature areas on the websites of these nature organisations: