The village of Stolwijk was founded some 750 years ago. Since it's founding until now it has been a predominantly agricultural village and the population consists mainly of farmers. It consisted mainly of marshland with some clay. Settlements were always founded upon these streaks of clay and so was Stolwijk. Most of this part of the Netherlands lies about 2 meters below sea level. For that reason it has often been flooded by both, the sea as well as the waters coming down from Germany and Belgium via the rivers Rhine and Meuse. The whole area was coverd with trees, mostly oak, alder, elder, birch and willow. In the early 1400's the people began building dykes along the rivers Lek (part of the river Rhine) in the South and the river IJssel in the North. Parallel to these dykes canals were dug to drain the entire area.
The image gives you a general impression of this system
The first farmers started with their work. They built their Farmhouses(look at picture)and stables for their cattle (cows and pigs).
The soil of our so-called "polders" (areas below sea level with are kept dry by using big watermills)consists for about 80% out of peat with a thickness of about 10 meters. Below this peat there is clay and sand. On top of the peat there is another layer of about 0.5 meter of good humus. The soil is very good for growing grass for the cows but in the past they also grew hemp which was used for manufacturing rope and canvas for sails. ( Picture of a traditional farmhous build 1900) Growing hemp has been abandoned for more than 80 years now (though smaller quantities are being cultivated elsewhere with a different purpose.....!) Nowadays, practically all of the region is used for pasturing; the quality of the grass is so good that many farmers - or rather their wives - are still making the famous Gouda cheese at home " the old-fashioned way". Most of the homemade Gouda cheese is in fact "Stolwijk Cheese"! Our area covers about 10,000 Hectars (= 24,700 acres). Stolwijk is situated East of Rotterdam and South of Gouda (Please refer to the little map in my Fly fishing page).
A good example for the connection of the people of Stolwijk with the dairy produce is our coat of arms of the village. It shows three cheese with on top a pound of butter and a crown. As far I know it is the only coat of arms with dairy products on it.
last update Jan. 30. 1999.