The Frisian Peat Course
On the track of peat bosses, peat cutters and -skippers
The Frisian Peat Course is throughout the world a unique historical course. It’s an extensive system of canals with sluices and bridges in the southeast of the province of Friesland (Netherlands), excavated between 1630 and 1830 for the transport of peat. Peat, dried bog, represented until 1900, when coal was coming on, an important fuel in The Netherlands.
The so-called associates, the cooperating peat bosses, handled the extraction of peat in the vast Frisian low and high moor all around Heerenveen, Gorredijk and Appelscha. The most important – and also most widely known – waterway they excavated is the Opsterlandse Compagnonsvaart (Opsterlandse Associates Course): from Gorredijk up to Appelscha at the Drenthe border, 34 km. Also the partly canalised river Tjonger, flowing from Oosterwolde in westerly direction to Schoterzijl and Kuinre to the former Zuiderzee, constituted and constitutes a part of the Peat Couse. Subsequently smaller unlocking channels were developed, Dutch “wijken” (make ways), Frisian “wiken”.
Sailing and cycling
Thanks to the Foundation De Nije Kompanjons of Friesland, cruisers can follow the ancient track of the peat skippers on waterways, wijken and small rivers, all the way up to Drenthe and Overijssel. If you want to lose yourself in the turbulent and contrasty past, the world of moor and peat, you are welcome in the peat museums of Nij Beets, Gorredijk or Heerenveen. Golden hint: Take your bicycles on board or rent them in one of the villages along the course. Every meaningful place of interest is within cycling or walking distance from the course.