Cultural Entities 

Danish Wadden Sea Islands

Rømø - Mandø - Fanø

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1. Overview


The Danish Wadden Sea Islands of Rømø, Mandø, Fanø.


Wadden Sea, neighbouring entities North and South Danish mainland and Sylt


Rømø: 85 km2 (680 inhabitants)
Mandø: 8 km2 (50 inhabitants)
Fanø: 56 km2 (3200 inhabitants)

Location - map:

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 fairway or
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 ensembles:

Polders, dunes, summer cottages, salt marsh, ‘captain’s houses’, ‘T’- and ‘L’- shaped houses, garden dikes, duck decoys on Fanø.

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
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”. Fanø and especially Rømø 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 beaches.

Juvre-Kongsmark Polder
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 Juvre dike 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 production.

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 range.
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 Lakolk there 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 village dike (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 Fanø  

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.

Caottage in Sønderho on Fanø

South of the these there are several old summer cottages. In the northern part of the area the well-preserved Sønderho mill is located on a dune top.

Sønderho mill on Fanø

The southern 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 decades.

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 Juvre and in Toftum 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 Toftum.

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 settlements.

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 period.

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 (1727).

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 Mediterranean.

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 lost out.

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 birds annually.

Duck decoys 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 the island.

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 sheep.

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 tourists.

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 electricity supply.

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.

4.3 Infrastructure
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.

6.2 Settlement
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.

6.3 Agriculture
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 extensification.

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 processes.

6.5 Tourism
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 tourism sector.

7. Potentials

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.

7.2 Agriculture
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.

7.3 Tourism
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 cultural environments.

8. Sources

Author: John Frederiksen and Charlotte Lindhardt

Sources: Lancewad – Landscape and Cultural Heritage in the Wadden Sea Region, 2001
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