In olden times the diluvial sands of the southern Netherlands around the village nucleus formed widespread heaths, fens and bogs. On them the farmers had rights of grazing, and of digging peat and turf. In Saxon areas in the eastern Netherlands these lands became common property (marches or commons, Du. marken), while in the south, under the influence of French law, the land became municipal property.
Over the centuries they were reclaimed on a small scale; new settlements and villages grew up.