Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
M41
Wijchen
800

Wijchen – The Kleine Elst

Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst

Wijchen
The Kleine Elst is a drainage channel which was probably first dug in prehistoric times. This makes it one of the oldest examples of water management in the Netherlands. The channel is still operational today, but now flows partly underground. The Kleine Elst feeds water into the moats of Wijchen Castle and Hernen Castle to this very day.

Pre-historic times
In the Iron Age (800-50 BC), Wijchen and its surrounding area was relatively densely populated. Its inhabitants needed fields and meadows, but the land was marshy due to impermeable layers of soil stopping the rainwater from draining away. So they decided to dig out an existing drainage channel which ran into a tributary of the Maas River called the Wijchens Maasje. The drainage channel was extended at a later point in time towards what is now Bergharen, and also flowed into the Wijchens Maasje. This tributary is now a lake called Wijchens Meer. 

Moats
The Romans were way ahead of their time when it came to water management and in the first centuries AD, left a substantial mark on the landscape here. They undoubtedly improved the Kleine Elst’s drainage capabilities and adapted it to feed the moats of subsequent castles in the area.

Around the year 1000, a number of fortifications started to appear along the Kleine Elst. These were early predecessors of the medieval castles that followed. On the site of Wychen Castle, for example, there used to be a keep. In Leur, a motte-and-bailey castle was built and remains of the motte were discovered recently near De Templet Farm in Hernen. These fortifications each had moats that were fed by the Kleine Elst.

Underground
The first reference to this drainage channel dates from 1402 when a certain Johan van Holthuse leased his house and estate on the Kleine Elst to the Duke of Guelders. In the 20th century, the Kleine Elst partly disappeared beneath a number of new housing developments in Wijchen. However, water still flows through the channel, which functions as an important part in the town’s drainage system. To the north-west of Wijchen it is now called the Leurse Leigraaf.

Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
Wijchen – The Kleine Elst
3 Wijchen De kleine Elst
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