Geology en landscape …
In the Voer-region the same undulating landscape can be found as in the Dutch ”Mergelland” or Limestone country of southern Limburg. Some 100 million years ago water of a shallow tropical sea inundated this area. Thus the Voer region overlies a limestone bedrock. In the sea, rich in nutrition, there was an abundance of so-called ”foraminiferes”, tiny creatures with an outward skeleton of lime or chalk. It was these lime skeletons that formed the metres and metres of limestone which are now to be found in the soil of both southern Limburg “Limestone country” and the Voer region.
During the Pleistocene epoch – the ”glaciations” of which the last one ended some 10 000 years ago – the area was raised by the formation of the Alps. The river Meuse and other small streams such as Voer and Gulp could gradually embed themselves in the slowly rising plain.
The various terraces, valleys, terrace edges and dry dales are still easily discernible in the landscape. During these glaciations, periods with a much colder climate than we have nowadays, much more water flowed through these rivers. This explains the enormously wide valleys as compared to the relatively narrow waterbeds, or even dry dales where no water flows any more.
A historical look back …
The Meuse and Voer valleys were to a certain extent cultivated from the Roman fortress of Maastricht and surrounding villas (agricultural farms) in the first centuries A.D.. The area was subsequently conquered by Franconian tribes from the Rhineland and a mighty kingdom flourished under Charlemagne.
Around 1100 the extensive wild woodland on the plain to the east of the Meuse valley was exploited and cultivated from small but rich territories in the Meuse valley which belonged to this Carolingian empire with first ‘s-Gravenvoeren and later Dalhem as its centre.
The landscape so typical of both southern Limburg and the Voer area acquired its present shape in a period of hardly 200 years, after only a few generations of hard labour. After 1300 not much has fundamentally changed from a landscape point of view.
The deep so-called dry valleys formed the natural access routes along which the plains were reached. Small settlements, which at first had strong ties with the founding villages, formed the centres which grew into the present villages and farm hamlets on the plateau.
A rich nature …
Due to climatic differences with the rest of Flanders and the Netherlands we find plants and animals in the Voer region which do not occur more northernly.
Moreover, in many places the soil is very rich in lime. Yet the soil on the slopes is acid and not very fertile. These factors all contribute to the very specific fauna and flora in the Voer region. On the steep, southern slopes we find rich and varied natural beauty. In some places the oak and birch woods which had developed spontaneously, were replaced by beech, larch and spruce which has stimulated the presence of bracken and honeysuckle.
Typical of this type of continental wood are the common medlar and the elderberry which we find in abundance. Lower down on the slopes it is especially oak and hornbeam that we see with a lot of common ash and wild cherry in which old man’s beard and ivy are rampant. In summer marjory and danewort grow in sunny places, typical ”southerners” which are the ideal environment for the famous ‘escargot de Bourgogne’ or burgundy snail.
Keen animal lovers point at a lonely buzzard in the sky or admire a kestrel hovering motionless above its prey.
They may be spotted more easily than the shy deer, foxes or badgers. Yet the attentive nature lover may undoubtedly spot traces and tracks of these animals in the woods.