The Trail

cabbage fields – region Westfriesland

This trail does things different. To start with, it goes from Z to A. From the sea inlet ‘t Zwin in Belgium to the River Å in Denmark. Total length of the trail is 2,150 kilometres, about 1,335 miles. When the trails crosses the border between Germany and the Netherlands, you are about halfway. The trail is modulated to an average walker, so each day generally is between 20 and 25 kilometres. Reckon if you are a thru-hiker about 100 days of walking. This long-distance trail follows the coastline of former Frisia. It explores the places that Frisians roamed and exploited according to the old sources.

Many current toponyms, from the west in the Netherlands to the northwest of Germany still remind of this: regio Westfriesland in province Noord Holland (NL), Provincie Fryslân (NL), Region Ostfriesland (DE), Landkreis Friesland (DE), and Kreis Nordfriesland (DE). With these toponyms almost the entire Frisia Coast Trail is covered.

Except for dunes, terps and dikes, the terrain is flat. So, no climbing or rock scrambling during the trail. That sounds easy, but actually it is not. Every hiker knows a flat surface for long is taxing on (certain) muscles. There is a Friezenberg part of a nature conservation area, which translates as ‘Frisians mountain’. However, this mountain is located off track in the region Twenthe in the Netherlands, and only still 40 meters high.

The coastline is essentially a delta. The Nile Delta but in a more humid climate. Yes, Frisia is a delta. And its inhabitants the Marsh Arabs of Europe. Of rivers, creeks, dunes, islands, inlets, bays, sandbanks, dunes, barrier beaches, (former) peat lands, (former) woods and tidal marshlands. The delta is so huge that it drains a large part of the European continent, and it therefore spans several countries. When you rotate the map of Europe 45 degrees clockwise -top pointing northwest- you will see Frisia is but a big pimple on the southern fringes of the North Sea.

This itinerary of the Frisia Coast Trail is, in fact, not the first. Credits for the first itineary goes to a Welshman of Flemish descent, Wizo Flandrenis. Wizo fitz Walter, son of Walter, was born in Wiston Castle, Pembrokeshire around the year 1135. He hiked through Frisia in 1157. The reason was to return the relics of Saint Odolphus to the monastery of Stavoren. In 830, Saint Odolphus had founded a church at Stavoren. The relics were sold on the market by a Viking in London in 1034. The Vikings, however, declared the relics were sold to them by the monks of Stavoren themselves. Anyway, Wizo reported his travels in the Itinerarium Fresiae.

More recently (2020), the concept of travel through the cultural landscape of historic Frisia is picked up by local politician Siegmar Wallat (Bredstedt, Nordfriesland) who wants to create an Europäische Straße der Friesen ‘European way of the Frisians’ and challegend his students of the Fachhochschule Heide to make a business case. With his book De Friezen. Een geschiedenis ‘The Frisians. A history’ writer Van Doorn (IJlst, Friesland) describes the history of Frisia in the form of eleven journeys he made through the landscape (2021).

The trail requires constant maintenance. Through time the landscape was exeptional volatile because of the interaction of sea, rivers and humans. A process of continuously finding a new or better balance. Even since we started developing this trail, adjustment had to be made at the Zwin Region where the International Dike was demolished and the sea was give more space. Furthermore, the tidal marshlands of Noarderleech have been reshaped after building a new pumping station at the village of Hallum. In Nordfriesland, terps on the Hallig-islands are being hightened, because of the rising sea level. Currently the Afsluitdijk ‘enclosure dam’ is under construction and a brand new river will be created. And, of course, we are awaiting the opening of the sea dike at the village of Holwerd. And so forth.

Lastly, when designing the trail, we made use of the trailblazers before us. Like the European Coastal Path (E9), Zuiderzeepad, Groot-Frieslandpad, Floris V-pad, Noord-Hollandpad, St. Odulphuspad, Waterliniepad, Pronkjewailpad, Kromme Rijnpad, Jabikspaad, Trekvogelpad, Romeinse Limespad, Klompepaden, and many more.

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