The Danish Wadden Sea
Islands of Rømø, Mandø, Fanø.
Wadden Sea, neighbouring
entities North and South Danish mainland and Sylt
Rømø: 85 km2 (680
Mandø: 8 km2 (50 inhabitants)
Fanø: 56 km2 (3200 inhabitants)
Located at the Danish end
of the Wadden Sea.
Origin of name:
The ending “Ø” means “island”.
Rømø: 1190 Rimma. The root rimme means “long rigde” = the
island with the long sand dunes.
Mandø: From the pronoun “mand” (man) = the island of the men.
1)The root Fani is similar to fenne (fen), meaning soft
bog or mud.
2) Fani is the original name of the water/fairway = the island at the
3) relates to the old Nordic word Fønn, which means snowdrift = the
island with the white dunes.
Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:
Low-lying inshore island,
similar to the island entities of Sylt, Amrum etc.
Characteristic elements and
Polders, dunes, summer
cottages, salt marsh, ‘captain’s houses’, ‘T’- and ‘L’- shaped houses,
garden dikes, duck decoys on Fanø.
2. Geology and geography
The formation of the Danish Wadden Sea is primarily determined by two
localities: 1) to the north is the reef of Horns Rev, a moraine deposit
which stretches approximately 40 kilometres into the North sea west of
Blåvandshuk and 2) to the south is Rote Kliff on the German island of Sylt,
which like the geest-core of the island as a whole, is formed by tertiary
and quaternary successions of strata. Between these two points wind, tide
and storm surges have during the latest 3–4000 years created the Danish
Wadden Sea land and seascape, a formation process that is still ongoing. The
islands of Rømø and Fanø are at one stage in this formation as sand barriers
(high sand banks) built up above sea level. Mandø, however, has emerged in
the shelter of the high sand bank (Koresand) to the west of the island.
The Danish Wadden Sea islands, together with the other islands in North
Frisia, traditionally have been regarded as remainders of the land submerged
in the post-glacial period. However, study of sand movement within the
Danish Wadden Sea has shown that the sand is filling-in the area between
Jutland’s mainland and the “equilibrium line”. The yearly sand feed of
Danish Wadden Sea is several hundred thousands m3. The west coast of
Skallingen and the large high sand bank Koresand south west of Mandø have
almost reached the “equilibrium line”.
are still located far to the east. As a consequence the west coast beaches
are still growing with the formation of new sand dunes.
2.2 Present landscape
The island can be sub-divided into zones running north-south, respectively
salt marshes, embanked marshland, moors and bogs, sandy marshes, dunes and
To the north and east the area is a flat, open marshland whilst to the west
there are sand- and dune areas. The area is used for extensive agriculture,
with many old, well-preserved farms and houses gathered along the
north-south going road. The
from the 1920s embanks the marshland (reinforced in 1964-65), which south of
the Rømø Dam
is edged by salt marshes towards the Wadden Sea. The fields are primarily
laid out for grazing and several larger areas are outside rotation and
The central dune landscapes
The central dune landscapes include the two oldest ranges of dunes with
large, open dune heath, three large conifer plantations and six
summer-cottage areas. To the south there are well-preserved farmyards. By
Kromose in the south the oldest range of dunes stretches almost all the way
to the Wadden Sea, delimited by a small strip of salt marsh.
Havneby differs from the rest of the area with a densely built-up structure
and harbour. To the south of Havneby there is a small embanked marshland
area. In the recent years there has been extensive development in the form
of holiday apartments to the west of Havneby.
The sandy marshes
This area comprises long, flat and open marshland with three different types
of marsh and land use: 1) The southern part consists of polder marshland
with intensive and extensive agriculture and a newly established golf course.
2) The area in the middle is a freshwater reed swamp. 3) To the north salt
marshes with well developed marsh gullies. The entire area is almost without
buildings and other structures. The northernmost part is a military shooting
The North Sea beaches and dunes
The beach landscape comprises the “world’s widest sandy beach”, which to the
north and south is 3 km wide. A new dune row has emerged to the west, to the
east the beach is delimited by a 10 metres high row of dunes. The summer
cottage area, the camping site and the shopping centre at Lakolk are sited
in the middle of the dunes, but the level of disturbance is only local in
effect in this otherwise large and undisturbed area. There are no technical
installations. To the north of
is a small group of small, red-painted summerhouses and some low water lakes,
formed by water from the hinterland, which has broken through the dune row.
In contrast to Rømø and Fanø, Mandø today is almost circular and primarily
composed of embanked marshlands edged by narrow dune ranges to the west (12
metres). Outside the dikes and dunes Mandø is encircled by salt marshes (these
are widest to the east).
Mandø has, over the period of several centuries, been created by the gradual
merging of various islands and islets. “Old Mandø” to the north and “New
Mandø” to the south are the largest, and are divided by a wide tidal gully.
The merging process was completed by the construction of a large embankment
around the entire island in 1937.
In connection with the village of Mandø there are some scattered summer
cottages in the dunes. Apart from the establishment of the state
smallholding along the
(Bydiget) in the first half of the 1950s and newer farm installations below
the village, the area is largely devoid of buildings and there are no
plantations. The area is used extensively for cattle grazing. The dikes,
with flocks of sheep, and the many ditches underlining the creation and use
of the landscape.
Similar in nature to Rømø, the island of Fanø consists of several
north-south parallel ranges of dunes with intermediate hollows. The oldest
systems are located to the east and are edged by variously sized, newer
marshlands, some of which are embanked.
Grønningen was formed in 1730-70, and is a dune landscape with salt marshes
on the northernmost part of the island covering approximately 200 hectares.
To the north the landscape is open and flat (sandy marshes), whilst the
southern part comprises a hilly landscape with four parallel north-south
dune rows separated by lower areas. Apart from a couple of farms and three
wind turbines, the area has no buildings or technical installations. There
is only one plantation and some small stands of trees. The entire area has a
varied aspect, of salt marshes, heath, plantation and agriculture. There is
however one common denominator in the form of the large grassed areas, which
contribute to the specific character of the area.
The North Sea beach
The beach area consists of a beach in the north (Søren Jessens Sand), up to
1.5km wide, with an intense natural dynamic. As late as the 1960s Søren
Jessens Sand was separated from Fanø by a deep tidal gully. Today it is
possible, even during high tide, to cross the sands by foot. To the east the
area is delimited by a dune range.
The town of Nordby and Rindby
The entire area is built-up. The town of
Nordby is located in
north east with the ferry connection to the mainland, it is old and desely
built-up. Rindby to the south is dominated by a large holiday and
summer-cottage area located in an open and hilly dune landscape (22 metres
high) with intersecting hollows. In the eastern part of this area several
smaller camping sites are located and by Fanø Vesterhavsbad (the North Sea)
there are hotels, shops, coffee shops, a pool centre and the oldest golf
courses (1902) in Denmark. The landscape has both visually closed areas in
the hollows and wide views from the dunes. The summer cottages dominate the
landscape as they are located both high and low within the dune area and are
therefore very visible.
The plain of Rindby
The area is a distinct cultural landscape with open, grassed fields and salt
marshes. The agricultural areas in the dune landscape are slightly elevated
in the area. Large areas contain no buildings or technical installations,
and provide a view of the overall flat area. The scattered small farms,
comprising small plots separated by ditches, located so as to use the grass
in the meadows and the salt marshes to the east, underline the fact that the
cultural landscape has a long history.
The central dune and marsh landscapes
This area constitutes a large coherent nature area consisting of open,
hilly dune heaths, plantations with strains of moor, reed swamps, lakes,
meadows and a strip of salt marsh along the east coast. The forestry
plantation area primary consists of mountain pine and birch which, because
of the wind, have a peculiarly wild character. The area is almost without
buildings and technical installations and apart from the nearby north-south
road there are only a few smaller dirt roads. In the western and southern
part there are several rows of dunes (21 metres high) while the eastern part
of the area is less hilly.
|The Vindgab Bjerge and Havside Bjerge in the south of
n contrast to the linear west coast the east coast is characterized by an
irregularity in outline, where the peninsula “Halen” stretches into the
Wadden Sea. This might be a remainder of the oldest part of Fanø, whilst the
western side is more recent due to marine deposition and dune development,
which formed the island as it appears today. Alternatively “Halen” could be
the result of the particularly strong eastern migration of large drifting
dune systems. In the east there are several large parabolic dunes. ”Halen”
also differs from the rest of the area, with only a few of the smaller
summer cottages scattered over the area and some tree plantations. The
“Halen” has one of the few larger technical installations of Fanø, the high
voltage connection to the mainland.
The Sønderho dune landscape
The entire area is built-up. To the east is the old and densely
built-up town of Sønderho. West of this are summer cottages scattered evenly
over the area. The landscape is a very hilly dune landscape alternating with
flat wind-blown plains. In the northern part there are several old summer
cottages sheltered by some old conifer plantations. Along the east-west road
through the area there are a number of new summer cottages, all adapted to
the old building style in Sønderho.
Sønderho on Fanø
South of the
these there are several old summer cottages. In the northern part of the
area the well-preserved
is located on a dune top.
point of Fanø (“Hønen”) has, after a period in the early 1900s with
accretion of dunes and marshland, experienced a comprehensive disintegration
of its landscape, particularly following the storm surges of the last few
3. Landscape and settlement history
3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
Contrary to the mainland and the German geest islands (Sylt, Amrum and Föhr)
there was probably no permanent settlement on the Danish Wadden Sea islands
before the Middle Ages. The first information concerning the three Danish
Wadden Sea islands is from 1231 (“The Court Roll of King Valdemar Sejr”).
The oldest trace of settlement is the castle mound ”Borrebjerg” in the salt
marshes to the north of Havneby. This five meter high castle mound is
believed to date from the Middle Ages and is constructed of clay from the
adjacent marshland. Around the mound there are faint traces of at least two
tombs. Excavations in 1874-75 revealed more remains from the castle.
Apart from Havneby there are no urban structures on Rømø. The original
settlements comprise a string of small open villages along the east coast
(on the oldest dune chain). The first mention of these small communities was
in 1290-91, where the Ribe bishopric properties on Rømø were settled,
together with other places in the northern part of
and probably also in Kongsmark to the south. Excavations in Juvre have
located the first settlement on a natural sand-ridge, which in the 1500s was
made higher with clay. Similar settlements are found between Juvre and
The economy of these early settlements was dominated by fishing by fishery,
with the Rømø fishermen eagerly participating in the “herring adventure” by
the island of Heligoland in 1400s–1500s. In addition Rømø had close
connections to Ribe, whose heyday was in the Middle Ages, resulting in a
development of a mercantile trade partnership in the 1500s. The navigation
to Ribe at that time was not the current route between Mandø and Fanø, but
between Sylt and Rømø and Mandø, close by the shores of Rømø.
The original settlement on Mandø was located on the northern island (“Old
Mandø”). Powerful storm surges in the 1500s are believed to be the reason
why the original inhabitants relocated to the southern island (“New Mandø”),
which was higher and sandier. There are no traces of these former
During the Middle Ages fishing was the primary occupation of the inhabitants.
At the end of this period, however, the income from this trade was
decreasing, and agriculture became the main trade.
In the Middle Ages Fanø was believed, like Mandø, to be separated into two
main islands by a wide tidal gully, approximately six kilometres north of
the town Sønderho, which at that time was also the name of the southern
island. Fanø was merely the name of the northern part .
It is presumed that Fanø was populated in the Viking Age, as the first
church (St. Anna) is believed to have been erected in the area where the
tidal gully had its course: today known as “Anne’s Dal”; but previously by
the heathen name of “Gudehovs Dal”.
The main livelihood on Fanø in the Middle Ages was fishing and agriculture.
Sønderho and Nordby were two of the biggest fishing hamlets in the
1500-1600s. While no trace remains of the fishery, the agricultural
structures can still be seen in the landscape around Nordby. Examples of
these include the pastures north of Nordby and the roads to them, the old
fields on the outskirts of Nordby, and the fields, salt meadows and heath
south of Nordby.
3.2 Early Modern Times
The landscape and the building developments of this period were largely
determined by the requirements of agriculture in combination with fishery,
coupled with changes in the natural environment. These included increasing
sand drift in the 1600s with changes in the navigation routes to Ribe and
the vicious storm surge of 1634. In addition changes within trade practises
and land ownership also had a role: the shipmasters outside Ribe gained the
right to independent trade (1680s); the people of Mandø and Fanø purchased
their islands from the Crown (1741). In Rømø in particular, the division
into two juridical units in 1580 (the northern part belonging to the Duchy
of Schleswig and the southern part to the Kingdom of Denmark) and the Thirty
Years' War had an impact.
After the Middle Ages the partnership of trade with merchants from Ribe
developed into the new commercial sector of shipping. From around 1630,
shipping combined with oyster fishing in the wintertime, dominated the
commercial industry of Rømø. The Swedish occupation of Rømø in 1644, however,
marked a sudden end of the zenith in Rømø’s own shipping economy.
In the period 1650-1800 the main income of the inhabitants was whaling and
seal hunting in the North Atlantic, supported by a combination of
agriculture and small-scale fishing. From March until November almost all
men of working age signed up for voyages on whalers from Hamburg (Altona)
and Bremen, but also from Amsterdam and Harlingen. Many Rømø-sailors became
captains on board the whalers. At the peak, in 1770s, there were more than
30 whaler captains from Rømø.
Many houses and farmyards on Rømø originate during this period of whaling. A
distinct feature of these houses is the “T”- or “L”-shape, with the main
house located east-west and the living quarters in the eastern (sheltered)
end. Today several of these farms, together with their interiors, reflect
the development and prosperity of the island between 1650 and 1800. The ”Captain’s
House” in Toftum (owned by the National Museum) is the most impressive
example, the ground plan is similar to a “tuning fork” and as such unusual
within the North Frisian and Danish Wadden Sea Area.
The location of many of the houses is a result of the repeated parcelling
out of larger farms through the generations. Although the houses were owned
by sailors, it was usually the wives who undertook the agricultural work
whilst their husbands were away at sea. One of the best-preserved sites of
this kind is found at Vråby (between Havneby and the church of Rømø), where
the characteristic garden dikes surround small plots as shelter from the
drifting sand. The plantations on Rømø, as a large-scale prevention against
sand drifting, did not take place before the 1900s.
The period is also represented by the distinctive church, which is
consecrated to St. Clemens, the saint of the seafarers. It originated in the
1500s but several rebuilds in 1600-1700s have made this church into today’s
five-nave church. The interior, with four votive ships, underlines the
importance of shipping for Rømø. In the churchyard a unique collection of
seamen’s tombstones can be seen, which the great captains prior to their
death ordered to be carved by German and Dutch monumental masons. The sixty
metres long whalebone fence in Toftum is also a unique feature of this
The war in Europe in the early 1800s and the Danish national bankruptcy in
1813 resulted in a collapse of the Rømø economy. After the end of the war in
1814 the whaling industry never reached the same levels, and Rømø was forced
to find alternative sources of income. The inhabitants shipped as seamen
aboard Danish and foreign merchant vessels and as owners of smaller cargo
vessels. One of these persons was Peter Maersk Møller, the founder of the
worldwide “Maersk shipping company”. He was born on Rømø in 1836.
Mandø was never characterised by the prosperity found on the two
neighbouring islands. This was partly due to its isolated location, without
direct access to the waterways and larger vessels (see section 4.2). In the
1600-1700s the inhabitants of Mandø were engaged in agriculture, hunting and
fishing and some trade. The houses were gathered together in the village, as
today, in the southwest by the sheltering dunes and on high ground so that
the smaller storm surges were not a direct threat to their survival. The
church in the southern part of the village was erected in this period
Located to the east of the village was a row of narrow cultivated fields.
Low summer dikes protected them, constructed of turf and eelgrass. The
earthen dike was not erected around this area before the beginning of the
1800s. This dike has gone today but the “embanked” location can still be
recognized by the east-west field structures to the east of Mandø village.
Outside the cultivated land the unprotected salt meadows were used for
grazing and haymaking.
At the end of the 1700s the income from shipping became more and more
dominant and the women were (like on Rømø and Fanø) now the primary workers
within agriculture. The small farms and the fact that agriculture partly was
a subsidiary occupation meant that agricultural reform in the 1800s did not
have the same impact here as elsewhere. From the 1870s onwards a number of
changes were undertaken on the island, including the registration of the
land and the establishment of the first actual sea dike (Bydiget, 1887).
This embankment increased the size of the protected areas from approximately
60 hectares to approximately 200 hectares. The population of 293 persons
around 1890 was the highest ever on the island. The dike has subsequently
been breached several times by storm floods, for example in 1911 and 1923
and most recently in 1981. The 1923 breach eroded a pond inside the dike at
the eastern section, which still can be seen, as can a bend in the dyke line
at this point. The road passage through the dike (stöpe) is one of few
locations in the Danish Wadden Sea Area where this can be seen today. When
there is a severe storm surge the passage can be closed up with planks and
sandbags. , The present sea dike was built in 1935-37 around the entire
island. Thus Mandø is the only place in Denmark, besides the Tønder Marsh,
with several embanked marsh polders.
As mentioned before, the dissolving in 1680s of Ribe’s monopoly of
marine trade in the Wadden Sea Area and the purchase of Fanø from the Crown
in 1741, were epoch-making events for the development of a shipping industry
of international dimensions in the late half of the 1700s and the 1800s.
The purchase in 1741 offered not only ownership of the land but also the
right to conduct maritime transport. This freedom, combined with the
traditional ‘Evert’ ship, the maritime experience of the people and the
location of the port of Nordby, which was one of only two sheltered ports on
the western coast of Denmark, resulted in a flourishing maritime industry.
Shipbuilding and a maritime college soon followed and by the beginning of
the 1800s, Fanø was at the centre of the maritime transport in the region,
with an astounding 180 vessels in 1806. They traded with Norway, Germany,
the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, France, the Baltic and the
The war against England (1807-14) halted for a time the glory days of
seafaring and around 200 Fanø vessels were lost. From 1840s, however, the
industry became global with large vessels trading on all continents. By 1896
Fanø was second only to Copenhagen in terms of shipping tonnage in Denmark
and Fanø played an integral part in the formation of Denmark as the major
global shipping nation.
The attractive shipping towns of Nordby and Sønderho show impressive
evidence for this development and the pre-eminence of Fanø in 1700-1800s.
Both towns have developed a special, densely populated maritime character
with a typical architectural style, narrow lanes and slipways, as well as
institutions linked to shipping. They are amongst the best preserved towns
in Denmark today representing this glory period of the Danish history.
|The town of Nordby
In contrast to
the houses on Rømø, the traditional “Fanø-house” is in single blocks. Like
on Rømø, with the animal stalls at one end and the living quarters at the
other, divided by a transverse hall with a “Frisian” hatch over the door.
The roof was thatched, but unlike on the mainland, the gables were entirely
boarded. Frisian and Dutch influence can be seen not just in the colours of
the woodwork and the painted lintels over the doors and windows, but also
the interiors, for which wall tiles were imported in huge quantities during
the first period of the growth of shipping from Fanø at the end of 1700s.
Until inland transport was developed with rail from around 1870, the sea was
not the divider but the link binding together not only the islands and the
mainland but also towns and villages along the same coast. When this
development reached Fanø, with the establishment of the railway to the
Danish west coast, together with the planned city of 'Esbjerg' complete with
a North Sea port (1874), Fanø lost its role in the local and regional chain
of transport. During the same period Fanø, favoured the tall sailing ships
during the long transition from wind to steam powered ships, and eventually
|From the 1860s the export of wild ducks became a
particular subsidiary occupation on Fanø. The wild ducks were captured
in decoys with the use of tame ducks until this was prohibited in
Denmark in 1931. A single decoy could capture as many as 5000-7000
were introduced in the Netherlands during the 1500s and from there
spread to the other North Sea countries. Today they are common in many
parts of the Wadden Sea in the Netherlands and Germany, but have
almost solely been used in Denmark on Fanø. The remainder of the
original four duck decoys can be seen on the east side of the island,
of which two are restored.
3.3 Modern Times
Development on the three Danish Wadden Sea islands in the 1900s was to a
large degree determined by the different degrees of access to the mainland
and the ability to use the developments in the overall regional
infrastructures (see section 4.2). This was especially significant in the
development of tourism, which become more and more important for the
economic situation of the islands and thereby also a decisive factor in the
utilization and the building especially after World War II. The first
initiatives to promote tourism date from the end of the 1800s.
From 1864 to 1920 Rømø was part of Germany. In 1898, Pastor Jacobsen, an
entrepreneur from the mainland, opened the first spa for German tourists at
Lakolk. However, although there was a train connection from Hamburg to the
town of Skærbæk on the mainland, the last part of the journey was difficult,
comprising a long, and sometimes erratic, sail from the mainland (just to
the north of the present Rømø Dam) to Kongsmark on Rømø. A horse-drawn
carriage then brought the visitors across the island to Lakolk, where new
log cabins from Norway (and Harzen) and the restaurant ”Keiserhalle” awaited
for them. After three years pastor Jacobsen went bankrupt and several
attempts to revive the spa failed. Its memory is preserved through some of
the surviving log cabins at Lakolk. Also the rail road (without rails)
across the island can still be seen in the landscape. Unfortunately, the
original hotel (Römerhof) in Kongsmark was demolished a few years ago, in
order to give space for holiday apartments in “Rømø style”.
The establishment of Esbjerg Harbour with a regular ferry connection to Fanø
by steamship (1878), and the rail connection to Esbjerg (1874), enabled the
development of tourism on Fanø. As with Rømø a fashionable spa came into
existence at Fanø Bad in 1892 with German investors. Prior to 1905 hotels,
guesthouses, houses and Denmark’s first golf course were established. After
1920 summer cottages were established in the so-called Fanø style and around
1930 there was an extension with small summer cottages in allotment style by
Rindby Strand (the “huts”). The overall picture of this environment has gone
(the hotels were demolished 1968-1990), but the original urban plan and
certain elements from that time can still be seen: the golf course and 3-4
of the original cottages and the “huts”.
The isolated location of the island (see section 4.2) and a lack of an
attractive beach are primary reasons for the fact that Mandø, unlike the
neighbouring islands, did not take part in the first tourist “wave”. Mandø
has through the 1900s remained a farming society, assisted in 1937 by the
embankment of approximately 380 ha of salt marshes.
4. Modern development and planning
4.1 Land use
After World War II agriculture on Fanø and Rømø plays an ever decreasing
role in the landscape as large areas were laid out for tourist purposes. On
Mandø agriculture is still the dominant land use.
The number of fulltime holdings has through the years been constant at 7.
Apart from one holding, they are all located at the northern part of the
island (500 cattle and 1000 sheep). In addition there are also a few
part-time holdings (200 horses and 200 sheep). It is estimated that the
number of full-time holdings will further decline.
Today there are approximately 1,500 summer cottages and 550 holiday
apartments, many quite new. There are also three camp-sites, a large hotel
and several holiday and recreational facilities (golf course etc.). Rømø has
approximately 1.3 million overnight stays per year and approximately 1
million one-day tourists. The municipality authority has passed local plans
for several areas on the island, including Lakolk and Vesterhede.
The north-western part of the island has been a military shooting range
since 1954. The area covers approximately 22 km2 (approx. 25% of Rømø).
Together with large beach areas and the plantations, the State owns half of
There are only two full-time holdings left. Cattle graze two-thirds of the
embanked marshland. The majority of these are transported each year from the
mainland to the island. The non-embanked areas and the dikes are grazed by
The tourist feature consists of approximately 25 smaller summer cottages in
the dunes around the village. They have continuously been built, expanded
and renovated since World War II. Furthermore in the 1990s an area in the
village was laid out as a small camp site with seminar- and school camp
facilities in connection with the old school buildings. There are plans to
build additionally 17 summer cottages.
On Fanø agriculture is primary linked to the three, fulltime holdings (600
grazing cattle at Grønningen
and “Halen”). To this must be added a number of part-time holdings and a
couple of sheep-keepers (150 sheep).
On Fanø there are approximately 2,800 summer cottages, concentrated into two
areas: by “Fanø Bad-Rindby Strand” and by “Sønderho”. Moreover there are
seven camping sites and seven hotels/holiday apartments. There are
approximately 1.1 million overnight stays a year and 1 million one-day
4.2 Settlement development
Overall the urban and industrial development has, since World War II, been
limited on all three islands.
Here the most striking feature is the establishment of the new harbour in
Havenby in 1964 in Havneby for 40 vessels, which was first and foremost
intended as a strengthening of the fishery. Today the harbour has a fleet of
twelve vessels (mussel- and shrimp fishery) and other harbour related
industries. Today, Havneby is the centre of the largest transit-port in
Denmark for both German and Dutch shrimp trawlers. The ferry connection to
Sylt also provides a large amount of transit traffic of goods and tourists
between the two countries. Approximately half of the island population lives
in Havneby, where the only housing estate was build in the 1970s. The
freshwater supply comes from the mainland (except for Lakolk), as does the
Apart from the establishment of three state smallholdings in 1953 along
“bydiget” and the summer cottages, only a few houses have been established
in the town. However considerable change has taken place in the use of the
old buildings. Today they are let to tourists. Both water and electrical
supply comes from the mainland.
On Fanø urban development has primarily taken place around Nordby, with a
large housing estate area to the west. Currently there are decisions to
expand Nordby to the north into the embanked marshland.
Fanø has three wind turbines (Grønningen), which contribute 20% of the power
supply on the island. Surplus heat to Nordby and electricity supply for the
entire island comes from the power plant in Esbjerg. The water supply is
from borings on the island.
The three islands are connected to the mainland in three different ways.
Rømø with a 10 km long highway (1948) and a ferry connection to the German
island of Sylt; Mandø is connected with a 6 km long low-water dam (not
passable at high water) and Fanø with a permanent ferry connection to
Esbjerg (12 minutes). All three islands have one main road from which
smaller roads and paths “radiate”. In comparison to almost all the other
Wadden Sea islands, vehicles are allowed on the North Sea beaches on Rømø
and Fanø, which attracts many day-trippers. On Fanø, the beach is even laid
out for a public bus route between Nordby and Sønderho.
5. Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects
All the salt marshes and almost all the embanked marshlands are included in
the Trilateral Cooperation Area and are also part of Natura 2000. Moreover,
many (small) habitats like bogs, heathers and meadows are preserved under
the national Nature Preservation Act. Moreover several areas are today
recorded a preservation order.
Along the Jutland West coast, including the three Wadden Sea islands, the
dune areas are under a specific protection and maintenance programme, in
order to prevent sand drifting and coastal erosion.
In relation to spatial planning, Denmark is divided into three zones: the
urban zone, the rural zone and the summer cottage zone, in which there are
different regulations to achieve different objectives and preferences.
In order to protect the coastal zone of Denmark, in particular, a three
kilometre wide protection zone from the coastline (outside towns) has been
introduced with the aim to keep clear of buildings and constructions which
are not pending on the coastal position. Moreover, recreational facilities
can only be located inside this zone in combination with already existing
facilities or urban areas.
Also preservation regulations of buildings (churches) and ancient monuments
(burial mounds) and their surroundings are common features in the rural
areas. Preservation orders and (strict) regulations in the urban centres in
Nordby and Sønderho have been in force for decades.
From 2007 and onwards the main responsibility for the administration of
rules and regulations and for overall spatial planning will be located at
the three municipalities. Amongst other things, they will be obliged to map,
designate and preserve the main cultural heritage and be requested to take
similar actions regarding the landscape features. Apart from this the
municipalities have already the powers to issue a “preservative local plan”
to protect specific and local cultural features.
6.1 Spatial planning
Although there are several preserved houses on the island of Rømø, the
unique cultural environments are not subject to preservative local plans.
On Rømø the well-preserved farms and villages of the Juvre-Kongsmark Polder
form a striking unit and the villages are therefore vulnerable with regard
to the establishment of new technical installations and new buildings. On
Mandø, depopulation of the island is the biggest problem with regard to the
cultural history and landscape, especially of the polder areas. On Fanø, the
area of Grønningen is vulnerable to the expansion of Nordby and its
facilities to the north and the central dune and marsh landscapes need to be
kept clear of buildings in order to preserve the waste character.
On the sandy marshes of Rømø, any change in the use of the flat and open
terrain in th marshland would seem out-of-place and in order to maintain the
character it is important that the delimitation of the fields and salt
marshes is continued. In order to maintain the character in the embanked
marsh landscape on Mandø it is important that the landscape is kept open and
that the marshland is grassed. On Fanø an important function for the
preservation of the special character of the area is that the Grønningen is
grassed and that the marsh areas are kept clear. On the plain of Rindby, in
order to preserve the relation between the origin of the cultural history
and the natural foundation it is important that the area is maintained as an
open agricultural landscape with the old farm- and field structure and that
the salt marshes are grassed. The area is vulnerable towards further
6.4 Nature conservation
On the North Sea beaches and dune landscapes of Rømø it is important to
maintain the wide open views and therefore the Lakolk area is vulnerable to
more forestry plantations. On Fanø the open dune landsacpe around Nordby and
Rindby, is also vulnerabe to more forestry plantations and the open dune
heaths of the central dune and marsh landscapes and the possibility of a
clear view of the dune formation in the landscape are vulnerable to scrub
encroachment. The Sønderho dune landscape is vulnerable to both of these
On Rømø, from a cultural historical point of view, the island is very
threatened by pressure from the growth of tourism and the establishment of
related summer cottages and other installations such as golf courses. In the
island’s central dune landscapes it is important that overcrowding is
avoided in order to safeguard the open dune heaths and the marshland. The
large, open dune heath could loose its magnificence if more summer cottages
are established. The establishment of holiday apartments west of Havneby
appears as very “aggressive” and misplaced. Any change in the use of flat
and open terrain in the sandy marshes would seem out-of-place and the
cultural history of the area is vulnerable to any new establishments like
the present golf course. The dunes of the North sea beaches are vulnerable
with regard to attrition from the large scale movements of tourists. It is
also important to maintain the wide views and therefore the Lakolk area is
vulnerable to an extension of the shopping centre and the camping site.
Furthermore, additional renovations of the old summer cottages from the
1900s will blur the cultural historical value. On the polders of Mandø new
buildings (summer cottages) need to be established close to the existing so
that they do not appear dominating. On the North Sea beach of Fanø the
landscape character is sensitive towards further visual disturbance and
large scale movement on the beach and in the dunes. The open dune landscape
around the towns of Nordby and Rindby is also vulnerable from a further
concentration of development in the summer cottage area and the plain of
Rindby, which forms a functioning cultural environment of great value, is
vulnerable to the growth of tourism. The Sønderho dune landscape is also
vulnerable towards more buildings, and expansion in connection with the
7.1 Spatial planning
Among the potentials for the “survival” of the islands is the designation of
the Wadden Sea as a National Park. Experiences abroad have shown that this
designation will attract people to settle permanently in “remote” areas.
On Rømø in order to maintain the area of the Juvre-Kongsmark Polder as an
open, extensively used marsh and agricultural area, the grass areas and the
meadows continuously should be grassed. More grassed and wet meadow areas
support the character of the landscape in direction to the original cultural
history. In the sandy marshes of Rømø an extensification towards more wet
meadows will support the character of the area. The northern salt marshes
are being grassed and provide the landscape with an authentic character. I
the salt marshes in the east of the central dune and marsh landscape of
Mandø, use of grazing and reed harvesting contributes to the maintenance of
the open character of the area.
In the central dunes of Rømø the summer cottage areas are partly fitted in
to the landscape through tree plantations around the houses and appear as
well-defined units and the remainder of the landscape overall appears as one
coherent, varied and harmonic area – with well preserved cultural
environments e.g. Vråby. Within the Sønderho dune landscape of Mandø, the
number and appearance of new summer cottages is in harmony with the
surroundings. On the polders of Mandø the location of the village sheltered
from the west wind behind the row of dunes, the old farms and the dikes bare
witness to many years of the human struggle against the forces of nature and
has great cultural historical value and the potential to tell the story of
the area. Equally, on the plain of Rindby on the island of Fanø the
scattered small farms, grass in the meadows and the salt marsh to the east
and the small plots separated by ditches underline that the cultural
landscape has a long continuity.
7.4 Managing the cultural heritage
The residents of the islands and planners fully realize that the islands of
the Wadden Sea are unique in Denmark; that the architectural tradition, the
original structure of towns and the preservation of the old houses are
generally in good order. This helps create a constant awareness and
willingness to maintain these conditions throughout the islands. In this
context the residents of the islands have a strong awareness of and
responsibility for their cultural assets, which forms one of the greatest
potentials for the long term preservation of the islands landscapes and
Author: John Frederiksen and Charlotte Lindhardt
Sources: Lancewad – Landscape and Cultural Heritage in the Wadden Sea
Kulturarvsstyrelsen: Arbejdsrapport Karakteristik af hovedtræk, 2006.
Kulturarvsstyrelsen: Vadehavet Kulturatlas, Oversigt over kortlægningsemner
2. arbejdsrapport, august 2006.
Fanøs Historie, N.H. Kromann, 1933-34.
Rømø, et vesterhavspræget samfund, Bert Kelm, 1999.
Dansk Stednavne Leksikon, 1983