From: Groningen, the Netherlands
I am from the North (Groningen), and this is the South, but I think I can read this landscape, because it is a lot like situations in my neighbourhood.
The whole area must have been sand ground, covered with moor, from 1000 BC until Mediaeval Times (and much later), except the highest parts of the low sand hills, that would emerge from the moor. Even a few metres height would make all the difference.
Drunen looks like such a sand hill, that formed the basis for the settlement, probably from the Iron Age. The sand hill would form the old fields of the village, and they would be above the water level, so they wouldn't need all those gullies.
When the population increased, the started to colonise the moors, by digging water gullies. Each farmer digging from his piece of field, into the moor. That created those areas with very long narrow fields. It was kind of a race, because when one used the peat land for agriculture, the peat would oxidise and the ground would sink, getting wet, and then they moved onwards.
In the end the land would sink below the water level, and they would need to put a dike around the land to prevent water from the surrounding moors to flow into the lands, that could now only be used as pastures.
'Voorste Vennen' means 'front moors' and 'Achterste Vennen' means 'back moors', seen from the village of course.
They are just local geographic names that are put on the map because those names would be used locally.
Another possibility for the location of Drunen would be land reclamation from another place, in the characteristic way of narrow parallel fields separated by water gullies, when, during the sinking of the land they would discover a sand ridge that would stop the sinking locally and that would become the location of the settlement. But looking at the local pattern of the gullies, Drunen seems to be the origin of the reclamation, but the village of Elshout for example seems to have landed on an invisible small sand ridge.
So, to conclude: the 'empty' land North of Drunen is formed by high and dry fields that don't need gullies, the other parts are wet reclaimed moor.
The high fields would probably still be used for rye or wheat one year, potatoes or barley in another year, and no harvest the third year in a field rotation system during WWII. Today it will probably mostly be maize.
< Message edited by springel -- 5/23/2011 6:27:11 PM >