Experience Nature - De Wieden
On 12 June 2023, PostNL will publish the Experience nature – De Wieden issue: a sheet of ten stamps in ten different designs. The denomination on these stamps is ‘1’, the denomination for items weighing up to 20g destined for the Netherlands. A sheet of ten stamps costs €10.10.
The stamp sheet about De Wieden is part of the multi-annual Experience nature 2021-2023 series. In the series, four stamp sheets are issued every year, each comprising ten different stamps. The stamps feature images of plants and animals in unique Dutch nature reserves across the country. In 2023, it is the turn of the provinces of Flevoland, Friesland, Overijssel and Noord-Brabant.
The Experience nature – De Wieden issue of 12 June 2023 focuses on the peat bog of nature reserve De Wieden, located in the province of Overijssel. The stamp sheets issued earlier this year (2 January 2023) featured Marker Wadden in Flevoland and Strok en Skrins in Friesland (13 February 2023). On 24 August 2023, the last stamp sheet in the series will be issued, which will be about the Oisterwijkse Bossen en Vennen in North Brabant.
Peat bog De Wieden is an area that covers over 6,000 hectares in the Kop van Overijssel. The nature reserve is part of the Weerribben-Wieden National Park. De Wieden is owned by Natuurmonumenten. Within the National Park, Natuurmonumenten works closely together with Staatsbosbeheer (the Forestry Commission), which owns the Weerribben. De Wieden owes its name to its distinctive broad lakes (wieden or wijden), including the Belterwijde and the Beulakerwijde. The wetland character of De Wieden is the result of peat excavations, storms, and the flooding of the Zuiderzee in the 18th and 19th centuries. The nature reserve can be visited by open tour boat from the visitor centre in Sint Jansklooster and other locations. There are also paths for walkers and cyclists through the greenery and along the water. In the middle of De Wieden, the water tower of Sint Jansklooster offers spectacular views. The landscape gets its unique character from the combination of the large open waters of De Wieden with small pools and winding ditches and canals. As is the case in all peat bogs, open water, moorlands, floating mats, reed beds, fenlands, shrublands and swamp forests alternate. They are home to many rare plant species, including the meadow thistle, tawny sedge, devil’s bit, and slender cottongrass. The abundance of water makes De Wieden popular with large fish-eaters such as the cormorant, osprey, bittern and purple heron. Other unusual birds include the black tern, marsh harrier, barn owl and short-eared owl.
Rosalie Martens is an ecologist who is co-responsible for managing the De Wieden nature reserve at Natuurmonumenten. She grew up in nearby Havelte and has known De Wieden since childhood. There, she learned to sail in summer and skate in winter. ‘Water is the dominant factor in De Wieden. Everything is done by boat around here. There is one farmer who still has small numbers of cattle grazing in De Wieden. So he ferries his animals across by boat. The nature reserve was man-made through the excavation of peat until 1940. The area requires intensive management, otherwise trees will take hold and the area will become forest again. Recently, for instance, we had many overgrown petgaten (ponds created by peat extraction) opened up. You can typify De Wieden as a marshy area around the big lakes, with the addition of 1,000 hectares of hayfields. It is a beautiful natural area with enormous variety – all year round. At the end of winter, when the reeds are cut, the views are astonishing. And in spring, when the hayfields bloom, it is beyond beautiful around here. This is when you can see flowers like the pink ragged robin, the red-rattle and the greater yellow-rattle. In summer, you are surrounded by vast reed beds with waving culms and many butterflies, including the super rare small pearl-bordered fritillary. And there is always something going on, there is always work being done. But on a very small scale, just as it was done until the 1950s. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful nature reserve in the Netherlands, where man and nature are in perfect harmony.’
The ten residents of this nature reserve featured on the Experience nature – De Wieden stamps are the marsh harrier, small pearl-bordered fritillary, common hawthorn, fringed water-lily, English oak, water rail, blackthorn, barn owl, purple heron and oblong-leaved sundew. Each has its own stamp. The stamp sheet also features many more images of flora and fauna typical for this area. The following are shown as monochrome images in a separate graphic layer: oblong-leaved sundew (top right), barn owl (top left), western marsh harrier (just above centre), leaf of the black elder (left of centre and centre), leaf of the English oak (bottom left), small pearl-bordered fritillary (bottom centre) and blackberry (bottom right).
The Experience nature – De Wieden stamp sheet was designed by graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. On the sheet, the ten plants and animals are depicted in their natural environment, each on their own stamp. In some cases, the image or background colour continues onto the adjacent stamp and onto the sheet edge. All photos are incorporated in a graphic layer of different-sized overlapping circles, which break through the boundaries of the perforations. The circle pattern returns as small droplets on the sheet edge and the tabs. There is another graphic layer on top of the circles featuring monochrome images of animals and plants from this area. These images are almost abstract and extend across the perforations to link the stamps together.
For the typography, Janse used his own font, which he designed especially for the Experience nature series. The font, which consists of tiny circles, was given the name Fdot. The explanatory texts on the sheet edge are set in the TT Milks Light and Demibold in capitals (2017, Ivan Gladkikh for Typetype). In the captions, the designer creatively expresses his associations with the names, features and appearance of the plants and animals depicted, adding a touch of humour.
The Experience nature series was designed by graphic designer Frank Janse from Gouda. While the focus was on various animal and plant species in the period from 2018 to 2020, in 2021-2023 the focus will be on unique Dutch nature reserves and their flora and fauna. The 12 June 2023 issue highlights residents and visitors of the lake and marsh landscape of De Wieden in the Kop van Overijssel.
The nature reserves were chosen in consultation with experts from the nature conservation organisation Natuurmonumenten. A number of considerations played a role in the selection of these diverse landscapes. Each area had to have plenty of interesting flora and fauna, for example. There had to be enough diversity, so every species could be represented: from plants, trees and mammals to insects, reptiles and amphibians. Janse: ‘I also wanted to have a decent choice of beautiful images and it had to have a captivating story attached to it. The common factor of this issue about De Wieden is the wet, marshy nature of this nature reserve. It is excavated peat bog, very similar to the area around Gouda where I live. The most interesting part, when it comes to plants and animals, happens at the edges of the lakes. In the ditches, reed beds and hayfields, where you find nervous birds, rare plants and butterflies. I know the area, I even spent a year and a half nearby when I was in the military. But we mostly did exercises on the heath.’
List of candidates
For the Experience nature – De Wieden stamp sheet, Janse drew up a list of plant and animal candidates, of which ten eventually remained. ‘I did this for all of the landscapes in the Experience nature series at the same time. That way we could show a nice range. After all, many plants and animals occur in multiple nature reserves in the Netherlands. This way, we avoided repetitions. The Wieden is an attractive place for many birds because of the fish they can find there. You can also find unusual plants that depend heavily on water, such as the fringed water-lily. And you will find our country’s most renowned carnivorous plant: the oblong-leaved sundew.’
Balanced overall image
When distributing the plants and animals over the Experience nature – De Wieden stamp sheet, Janse’s aim was to create an overall image that was as beautiful and balanced as possible. Initially, he creates a substantive distribution so the same species do not end up in one place. Janse: ‘But I sometimes change that again in practice. The composition is always a guide, with a balanced distribution of colours and shots from close-up and far away. When selecting the photos, I also factored in that this stamp sheet was to be published in summer. The solid colours are predominantly red, blue and green. This suits the season well and it really differs from the lighter colours of spring and the more brownish-grey shades of autumn. All pictures were actually taken in summer. When people see acorns and berries, they often think of autumn. But the fruits that are featured already appear in the summer. When selecting the colours, Janse looked at previous issues in the Experience Nature series, both from this year and from previous years. Each stamp sheet in this series should be unique, and that also extends to the colour composition.
From the flora and fauna in De Wieden Janse selected ten representatives to be featured as main characters on the stamps. The white images play an important part in the design, he explains. ‘On the stamp sheet about De Wieden, the large white barn owl at the top left is a real eye-catcher. The centre features a white image of the marsh harrier. I selected a picture on which the harrier’s wings are almost in the same position as those of the water rail below. An additional layer of colour was added to the transparent images at the bottom of the stamp sheet. For example, below left, the purple of the sloes continues on the leaves of the sessile oak. The same applies to the red of the sundew leaves in the transparent blackberries.’
Marsh harrier and small pearl-bordered fritillary
For the top stamps, Janse chose images of the western marsh harrier against a blue sky and the small pearl-bordered fritillary against a green background. ‘The harrier is a large bird of prey, with long narrow wings. The photographer did an excellent job capturing these. You can tell from the black wing tips that it is a male. Birds in flight are difficult to incorporate into a stamp, but here it worked well by angling the wings so they run from corner to corner. As a result, you see a lot of sky. Which means a spot at the top of the sheet is a logical choice. The zoomed-in image of the small pearl-bordered fritillary provides a lovely contrast to the harrier photo from afar. The rare butterfly sits on a devil’s bit, another typical marsh plant found in De Wieden.’
Common hawthorn and fringed water-lily
On the next row of stamps, the colours of the background are swapped, with the green on the left and blue on the right. Janse: ‘The common hawthorn is a well-known shrub found in many more places in the Netherlands. It is often used as a hedge to hold back cattle. You regularly see hawthorn together with black alders. That is why the stamp sheet also features transparent images of the leaves of the black alder. I find the berries of the hawthorn more interesting than the shrub itself, which is why they feature so prominently on the stamps. They continue across the sheet border, because they go really well with the circles of the design. The photo next to it of the fringed water-lily is more mysterious. This is mainly due to the photographer's low vantage point, the short depth of field and the deep, dark blue water. Most of the images on this stamp sheet have a clear subject. Which means that, for variety’s sake, it is better that you use the occasional image that does not draw your gaze in one direction.’
English oak and water rail
For the English oak, Janse repeated what he did with the blackthorn design: zooming in on the fruit, in this case the green acorn. ‘Trees are difficult to depict on a horizontal postage stamp. Especially solitary trees like the English oak,’ Janse explains. ‘The image of the acorn has a small gallnut on the left. Gallnuts contain gall wasp larvae, and you can only find them on oaks. As with the berries, its round shape perfectly matches the circle pattern on the sheet border. The water rail on the stamp next to it is a shy bird, but I have actually seen it in real life. It is hiding among the reeds in De Wieden, where it was photographed standing in a few inches of water. ‘It’ll eat anything. Insects, fish, frogs, small snakes – you name it, it eats it. Even chicks. So you could say it is a rather vicious beast, but that’s nature for you.’
Blackthorn and barn owl
The blue blackthorn sloes play the same part on their stamp as the hawthorn berries do on their stamp. Janse: ‘The blackthorn itself is a rather messy shrub that doesn't look too good on a postage stamp. It is very photogenic when it blooms in spring, but these stamps will be issued in summer. The blue of the sloes matches the other colours on the stamp sheet, and I have allowed the colour to continue on the sheet border, in the leaf of the sessile oak. And, when you look closely, also on the leaf of the black alder at the top right of the stamp. The barn owl next to it looks quite pompous. These beautiful birds were almost extinct in the 1960s as the result of agricultural poisons combined with the harsh winters of the time. The picture is zoomed in on the heart-shaped head with its downy feathers. The barn owl’s compact head is quite distinctive. And also fits well with the circle pattern by not having any protruding parts.’
Purple heron and oblong-leaved sundew
On the last row of stamps, Janse positioned the descending purple heron opposite the upright flowers of the oblong-leaved sundew. ‘The purple heron is smaller, more slender and darker than the grey heron,’ Janse explains. ‘De Wieden has a large colony of purple herons, so I was keen to feature this bird. The heron’s wings fill the picture from edge to edge. The curve of the right wing follows the circle in the background and the curve of the left wing follows the wings of the transparent small pearl-bordered fritillary. Everything joins together nicely. And finally, the stamp on the bottom right features the oblong-leaved sundew, a carnivorous plant. It is a warm-toned picture with the yellow of the flowers at the top and the red of the oblong leaves at the bottom. The leaves have hairs with a sticky liquid. The plant uses these to catch insects. You can buy them in pots to keep mosquitoes out of your home. But, of course, it’s a natural plant, so it belongs in places like De Wieden.’
About the designer
Frank Janse (Vlissingen, 1967) graduated as a graphic designer from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam in 2001. Janse is a specialist in corporate identity, branding, infographics and communication campaigns. Until 2019, he worked for various advertising and design agencies, including Room for IDs, and he also worked for himself as Frank Grafisch Ontwerp in Gouda. In 2019, together with Leene Communicatie, he founded the new company Leene Visuele Communicatie, which designs communication tools focusing on content and information design. Leene Visual Communication works for clients including housing corporation Rochdale, PostNL, Randstad Group Netherlands, the Dutch central government, Vattenfall and the organisation for health research and care innovation ZonMw. Since late 2022, Frank has been the Design Director and Co-owner of VormVijf in The Hague. VormVijf works for governments, companies and organisations with the (mostly organised) citizen as its most important and largest target group. The agency connects strategy, design and content with the ambition to innovate, surprise and create impact. On the instructions of PostNL, Frank Janse has previously designed various luxury storage systems and personal stamps, including the 2017 themed collection on bird species of the Netherlands. He also produced the designs for the Experience nature series from 2018 to 2022.
Western marsh harrier
The western marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus) is a true marsh bird that prefers reedlands. Of the three species of harriers, the marsh harrier breeds and hunts in the wettest and highest vegetation. This bird is more slender than the buzzard and has longer and narrower wings and tail. Adult males have distinctive black wing tips, with grey wing sections and a grey tail. Females are larger, completely brown with a creamy white crest, throat and leading wing edge. The marsh harrier favours breeding in large, open reedbeds, although it may also choose ditches and is regularly found nesting in arable fields. Autumn migration is from August-September, extending into October. Spring migration is from late March into May, although young birds may migrate later. The bird usually winters in southern Europe and North Africa, but a small number also winters in the south-west of the Netherlands.
Small pearl-bordered fritillary
The small pearl-bordered fritillary (Boloria selene) is a rare butterfly found mainly in the kop van Overijssel, in Friesland and on Terschelling. The top of the wings are mainly orange with black spots and dots. The underside of the hindwing has contrasting marks and all spots on the median band are leather-yellow or silvery. Next to the yellow area on the abdominal margin of the wing is a large round black dot. The first butterflies appear at the end of April. The population density can be very high, with up to 150 butterflies per hectare. The butterflies are active throughout the day and feed on nectar from plants such as cuckoo flowers and marsh thistles. Second-generation butterflies have a more varied diet and get their nectar from, for example, purple loosestrifes, water mint and devil’s bits.
The common hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) shows off its beautiful white flowers from April to May. The leaves are deeply lobed and the shrubs bear plenty of sharp thorns. Humans have been using planted hawthorn hedges as a cattle fence for centuries. In such landscapes, you can sometimes find pruned hawthorns with thick trunks that can be hundreds of years old. The common hawthorn grows to an average height of 4.5 m, occasionally up to 10 m. The flowers are 0.8-1.5 cm in diameter and the cup-shaped petals partially overlap. After fertilisation, oval fruits of about 10 mm long develop. During ripening, these berries change from green to dark red.
The fringed water-lily (Nymphoides peltata) is found along the banks of old estuaries, ponds and larger bodies of water with a gradually shallowing bank that may dry up occasionally. In full summer, you often see a wide fringe of smaller floating leaves with many golden yellow flowers with frills on the petals amongst them. The circular floating leaves, about 10 cm across, have a heart-shaped node and are attached to the stems by long stolons. They have a somewhat fleshy appearance. The underwater creeping stolons occur in water up to 1 to 1.5 metres deep, but can survive in water between 0.3 and 3 metres deep. The peduncles hold an inflorescence of two to five flowers with fringed petal margins. Because the inflorescence holds many flowers, it is hardly noticeable that each flower only blooms above the water for one day.
It is easy to recognise an English oak (Quercus robur) by its broad crown that reaches low to the ground. The tree can live for centuries and is therefore traditionally planted to indicate the size of a piece of land belonging to a particular owner. In deciduous forests, the English oak plays an important role alongside the sessile oak and its family member the beech. The English oak is easily distinguished from the sessile oak by the two ‘earlobes’ at the base of the leaf where it joins the stalk. The tree has a broad crown and several large spreading branches at the base of the crown. It only flowers once every five years, starting at the end of April or in May. After pollination and fertilisation, the flowers grow into acorns that borne in a cup-shaped cupule.
The water rail (Rallus aquaticus) is a rather secretive, rare breeding bird in the Netherlands. It rarely shows itself, but you can hear it. You can sometimes hear its screams, reminiscent of those of a suckling pig, in marshy areas. Water rails are dark birds with a long, red bill. They rarely fly when disturbed, preferring to run and hide. The water rail will pretty much eat anything. This includes frogs, snails, insects, larvae, fish, shrimps, as well as shoots and roots, and even chicks and carrion. Most water rails stay in the Netherlands during winter. Birds from northern and central Europe migrate through here from September to December towards their wintering grounds, some of which are in Britain and Ireland. Dutch water rails that do migrate tend to overwinter in southern Europe, North Africa and even as far as the Black Sea.
The first shrub to bloom white in late winter in our countryside is the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). During that time, the shrub’s striking white blossoms are easy to spot in thickets, hedges, hedgerows and along the edges of woods. It has long, thornlike spur shoots. After flowering, the shrub produces leaves and from summer until the end of the winter it produces purple-blue sloes with a waxy bloom. These are edible only after the first frost has passed. The bright white petals are 5-8 mm long. The word ‘sloe’ comes from Old English ‘slāh’, which is related to Old High German slēha, slēwa, meaning plum. Blackthorn is probably one of the ancestors of the plum. It is a true pioneer that can easily expand from the thicket edge into adjacent grassland through its offshoots when grazing is reduced.
The barn owl (Tyto alba) is an inhabitant of (semi-)open landscapes, mostly farmland in our case. It likes to settle in buildings such as barns and church towers. There, it seeks out quiet, dark hidden corners for daytime roosting and nesting. Barn owls lead a reclusive life and become active after dark to hunt on open grounds for field mice in particular. They generally stay in one area and are sensitive to winters with prolonged frosts and snow. Barn owls are easy to recognise by their heart-shaped face, the colour of which varies from bright white to brownish white depending on the European subspecies. The subspecies found in southern Europe and parts of western Europe has a pure white to slightly mottled underside. In the Netherlands, the subspecies with a yellowish-brown, speckled underside is predominant.
The purple heron (Ardea purpurea) is a graceful, attractive-looking heron. It is darker and slightly smaller but also decidedly slenderer than the familiar grey heron. In flight, the protruding legs with their long toes are particularly striking. The purple heron is a marsh dweller and breeds in colonies in marshy, perennial reed beds and in thickets surrounded by old reeds. It mainly feeds on fish and amphibians, which are caught in shallow open water. The birds are migratory and they migrate to West Africa, south of the Sahara. Purple herons are a lot rarer than the common grey heron. The purple heron has a distinctive brownish-orange neck with black streaks. The male is very similar to the female, but tends to be slightly larger on average. Its elongated feathers have white tips. Juvenile birds are yellowish-brown and their plumage stays brown until the second year. The bird’s flight is somewhat more erratic than that of the grey heron, and its wing-beats are lighter.
Among our natural flora, there is a small number of plant species that grow in very mineral-poor soil, which means they rely on catching and digesting small insects to supplement their diet. The oblong-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) is one of these carnivorous plant species. It grows in very specific environments that are often dry in summer but flooded in winter. The small plants have distinct red-coloured leaves that are arranged in rosettes, with stalked glands covered in droplets. These droplets contain the enzymes that digest the captured prey. The flower stem is curved at the base and emerges laterally from the leaf rosette. The stem can be up to twice the length of the leaves. While the plant blooms in the summer it forms tall inflorescences that bear three to eight regular white flowers, which are hermaphroditic. After blooming, the plant forms egg-shaped dehiscent seed capsules.