Battling the water

Island Stories #10: Visiting the wetlands on the south side of the island.

Between the 12th and the 17th century, we increasingly lost land and villages to the sea. The sea walls weren’t secure, so the inhabitants decided on a new approach; where dike breaches were feared, extra dikes were constructed some distance inland. In this picture, you see the area between two dikes, which is called an inlay.

I visited the unique nature in the inlays west of Zierikzee, a marshy area called Wevers Inlay. The water is brackish, a mix of fresh- and saltwater. The saltwater seeps through the dike and underground, from the Eastern Scheldt to the inlay, and mixes with fresh rainwater.

The salt concentration is ever-changing. At the lowest spots, where the salt concentration is very high, dozens of hectares are covered with glasswort. On higher ground, there are different types of salt marsh rush. Due to the carrying salinity, this area has hundreds of plant species. Most plants are not very fond of the salt, and some even spit out the excess salt, like lamb’s ear. You can even see the salt crystals on the leaves.

This site is a paradise for birds and a favorite for birdwatchers. At low tide, birds scavenge for food on the flats and shoals in the Eastern Scheldt. As the water rises, they fly inland and end up here. They ‘tide over,’ waiting for ebb behind the dike. It is known as the ‘high tide refuge’ At times, you might see a hundred thousand birds here, waiting side by side for low tide. The funny thing is that they are neatly ordered per species.


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