Rivers: Jümme, Leda, Ems;
City border: Leer; Fehnjter Tief; Sanwater; Bagbander Tief, community
border: Hesel; neighbouring cultural landscsapes: Lengerland,
Emsmarsch and Geest,
rural district Leer, Ostfriesland, Lower Saxony, Germany
Origin of name:
Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:
Characteristic elements and
settlements, Fehnsettlements (settlements along a canal on cultavate
former moorland), rural houseforms, peat-cutting, dikes
2. Geology and geography
In the east of Ostfriesland and between Emden and Leer lies the region
Moormerland. In its expansion it corresponds with the modern community
Moormerland of the county Leer. In the past Moormerland has been much larger
and covered also parts of the adjoining joint community of Hesel in the east
and in the south the area down to the lowlands of the Leda and Jümme. The
area of the city of Leer belonged to the former Moormerland also.
The glaciers of the Saale Iceage brought the sandy soils east of the river
Ems in the county Leer, which lay on flags of boulder clay. The clay is
local and comes near the surface, which is the reason for a lasting wetness.
During the Holocene the bogs could grow intensively. Before the land was
covered with a dense flora, sand drifts build layers of shifting sand and
dunes. The valleys of creeks and brooks were filled by fluvial sand and clay
during the Holocene. Because of the rapid rise of the sea level from the end
of the ice age water was dammed up and created the marshes of the Ems and
the Leda-Jümme low land. Therefore the only places to settle had been
between creeks and rivers with their sometimes impassable low land areas and
bogs. The rivers drained the waters of the surface and helped to dry some
areas for proper settlements.
2.2 Present landscape
The Moormerland covered formerly the great flag of high and dry land (Geest)
from Neermoor, Hesel, Holtland, Nortmoor and Leer. Today the cultural
landscape covers only the area of the community of Moormerland. This
cultural landscape is divided into different natural areas: a small, three
kilometres in maximum wide border of river marsh along the Ems, lower bogs
at the edge of the high and dry land – which enter deep into the high and
dry land especially in the north – and the high and dry land which is
sometimes widely covered with raised bogs. The bogs are mostly drained today
and the peat has been cut, so they look almost like the marshes with their
straight canals, the so called “Wieken”.
The main drainages of the Moormerland are the Bagbander and the Rorichumer
Tief as well as the Sauteler Tief, which are all flowing into the Ems.
3. Landscape and settlement history
3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times
The high and dry land was visited by hunter and gatherer groups already
9.000 years ago in the Middle Stone Age period. In the Neolithic period (ca.
4.000 BC) first farmers settled there. The few known megalithic burials in
this region (Leer, Brinkum) are now almost all destroyed. In Westerhammrich
(close to Leer) some cremation burials of the Trichterbecherkultur (Funnel
Beaker Culture 2.900 – 2.700 BC) were discovered. These graves are the
oldest reference for cremations in north-west Germany. Settlements of the
Funnel Beakers are known from Nortmoor. The spreading of the finds show,
that there had been settlers in Moormerland and Overledingerland in this
early period, even though nothing can be said about the density of the early
settlements. Already in this period the bogs were crossed over by plank ways,
which were built with a high effort. At the same time the many water ways
were also used for the local traffic. The using of the same tool inventory
as well as occupying the same burial places and settlement locations by the
Funnel Beaker and the Single Burial Culture (Einzelgrabkultur) show that
there has been an adaptation of the local people to the cultural change of
other regions. Indications of an immigration of foreign settlers were not
found yet. For the period of the Single Burial Culture the many finds prove
a high density of settlement, starting from the nuclear settlements of the
Funnel Beaker people.
At the end of the Neolithic period the Bell Beaker Culture immigrated from
the west into Moormerland. They introduce the knowledge of manufacturing
metal to the northern parts of Europe. Two Bell Beakers could be excavated
in Logabirum as grave goods. Mostly stone artefacts are known from the older
and Middle Bronze Age, even though it is not sure yet if that means a lack
in metal in general. Single bronze artefacts could be found in bogs from the
older and Middle Bronze Age. That proves that there must have been at least
some metal to produce bronze tools.
In the middle of the first millennium BC it seems that the occupation had
come to an end on the high and dry land. A reason for this might have been
the erosion of the soil resulting from an intensive agriculture, which could
be archaeologically proved by layers of drifting sand. In this time the
settlements were displaced into the marshes of the rivers along their
borders, like Ems, Leda and Jümme. From there they could cultivate the
fertile sandy soils of the marshes. From the periods of the Iron Age and the
Early Roman Time the sources are mostly settlements and graves. A graveyard
of the younger roman period was discovered at Nortmoor while digging for
sand. The urns which could be saved date into the 3rd century AD.
Since the migration period (Völkerwanderungszeit/Dark Age), in the 5th
century, the settlement activity in this region fell low. Only in the
Karolinger period the occupation was growing again and even the high and dry
land was settled again. This could be proved by finds from Hollen, Hesel,
Loga and the area of Nortmoorer Hammrich. The finds of ceramic of Nortmoorer
Hammerich indicate settlement activities since the late 8th or the 9th
century. During the 12th century the settlement was abandoned again because
of the high frequency of floods. The lower Sietland was cultivated not
earlier then the 10th/11th century.
Around 1100 AD the building of dikes began along the coast of the North Sea
and the mouths of the main rivers and streams, which was completed around
1300 AD. Since this time the natural draining-ditches (Tiefs) were used for
the drainage. While flowing into the Ems their mouths were secured from high
tides and storm tides by sluices.
Oldersum was presumably founded between 700 and 800 BC in the marshes of the
river Ems on a long dwelling mound, only its foundation is documented 1381.
It corresponds to the classical type of a long dwelling mound, with a church
on one and a fortification on the opposite side of the mound. The location
of the second, documented fortification is yet unknown. After the erection
of the dikes, lower land could be occupied as well, so east of the dwelling
mound a new village (Neustadt) was founded. In the 14th century Oldersum
belonged to the chiefs “tom Brock”, since 1427 it belonged to the chiefs of
Neermoor (Focko Ukena). Both fortifications of Oldersum were destroyed by
the campaigns of Hamburg against the pirates of Ostfriesland in 1433. Only
one was re-erected. 1438 Wiard Haiken became the new chief of Oldersum,
while his descendants ruled the “Herrlichkeit Oldersum” (the Grandness
Oldersum) until 1631.
Around 1000 AD the dwelling mound Rorichum is mentioned in the “Güter- und
Heberegister” (a register for trading goods and toll) of the cloister
Werden, situated on the right border of the river Ems. The church of
Rorichum, which is a rectangular church of only one room and without an apse,
was build at the beginning of the 14th century.
Already around 1000 AD Gandersum is mentioned in the “Heberegister” of the
abbey of Werden. Hatshausen is documented 1439 and is mentioned around 1500
in the register of the rectory of Münster. Hatshausen might have only a
little chapel, which were cared for by the monks of the Bockzelter cloister.
After the consolidation of the two villages with an own church, Hatshusen
and Ayenwolde, a, for this early time, wide parish was founded. The
beginning of the village Veenhusen reaches back as far as into the 12th
century, it was mentioned 1435 in the register of the rectory of Münster.
The centre of trading were situated during the middle ages almost completely
in the marshes, while in the high and dry land there was mainly agriculture.
By the introduction of the sod cutting economy (Plaggenwirtschaft or
“Eschwirtschaft”) in connection with the cultivation of winter rye, living
conditions improved because of the possibility of manuring. Now not only
natural fertile soils could be used for agriculture and now settlements
could stay continuously. Heather sods were cut and brought into the stables
were it was mixed with animal dung and later on brought up to the fields as
3.2 Early Modern Times
In the 17th century the beginning of the lack of fire wood in the bare
costal regions and at the same time a raising population lead to a new form
of using the bog land. The new type of settlement, the Fehncolonies of the
northern Netherlands, was adopted. They were mainly founded to gain fuel.
Therefore the bogs were drained by new build canals, which were used as
transport system as well. From the main canal side-canals (Wieken) were dug
into the bog. Subsequently peat was gained by workers which were soon
followed by farmers who lived partly from the gaining of peat and partly
from agriculture. Because the raised bogs not very fertile, the farmers used
mud deposits from the Ems and organic waste, delivered by the peat boats, as
manure for their fields and meadows. The colonists settled at both sides of
the canals. The single row settlements are still characterizing the
topography of the Fehnsettlements.
Since 1561 the family of Iherings is proved for Ostfriesland. Their members
try to reclaim new land in the coastal areas by erecting dikes around the
foreland. In 1772 Iheringsfehn was mentioned for the first time.
In 1726 the family of Warsing bought the manor Siewe in Rorichmoorer
Meedlanden. At the edge of the raised bog, people were settled who suffered
from the great flood on Christmas 1717. In 1736 the Fehn was founded, which
name was then Warsingfehn. Because of the cultivation of the bogs and the
dense form of settlements developed a not very typical way of closeness
within this village. That is the reason why Warsingsfehn became a kind of a
centre for the surrounding settlements.
1744 Ostfriesland, including Moormerland, became Prussian.
3.3 Modern Times
Closely connected with the economical usage of the high and dry land is the
“ever lasting cultivation of rye”. Since the 10th century the undemanding
rye was cultivated on the poor soils of the high and dry land. The ground
was fertilized by adding sods. First grass- or heather sods were cut and
brought into the stables. Later on they were spread on the fields. The
results were the characteristic soils called “Eschauftragsböden”.
This was the way of agriculture was practised until the 19th century. Then,
by the import of Guano-manure from South America, it was alternated. Sod
cutting meant a lasting destruction of the soils of the surface. The cutting
was followed by drifting sands as a meaning of the destruction of the
Because the storm tides were entering into the Ems coming from the sea, the
dikes along the rivers had to be elevated. After the heavy storm tide in
March 1906 the dikes on both sides of the Ems had been elevated in the years
between 1906 and 1913. Like the dikes along the coastline they had not just
been elevated but also the slope was build more shallow. The low land in the
Leda-Jümme area was often flooded by storm tides or swelling rivers through
heavy rainfalls. Therefore in 1950 and 1954 a Leda barrier was erected to
stop the entering of storm tides.
Until the middle of the 20th century in Oldersum the houses and shops lay
densely along the church street, while some great farmhouses could be found
along the side streets. Since the beginning of the 20th century further
settlement activities started here like in the rest of Moormerland by
building new houses. After the Second World War the grown topography of the
villages changed massively by the immigration of refugees and expellees and
therefore an extending of the settlement areas. In Rorichum the brick stone
church of the 14th century, with its free standing belfry, the former
rectory and the former school house are a valuable ensemble on the highest
top of the dwelling mound. Even after the structural changes after the
Second World War, the typical rural character of Rorichum is still preserved.
After the reform from the 1st of January 1973 the former independent
communities Boekzetelerfehn, Gandersum, Hatshausen, Iheringsfehn, Neermoor,
Oldersum, Rorichum, Terborg, Tergast, Veenhusen and Warsingsfehn were joint
to the community Moormerland. Today approximately 23.000 inhabitants live in
Moormerland. Residence of the administration is Warsingsfehn. Today the
landscape is dominated by the drainage and the cutting of the bogs. Because
of the spreading of trade and industry and therefore the extension of the
living quarters, Moormerland had lost its characteristic topography in many
places. The preserved hedge-landscape (Wallheckenlanschaft) in the south
gives an impression of the historical landscape.
Moormerland was connected in terms of the traffic mostly by the water ways,
because the road net was in a bad condition. Around 1863 the city Leer, and
therefore Moormerland as well, was connected by a road from Aurich to
Oldenburg. 1890 the road between Leer and Terborg was build. Since 1893 few
roads were crossing Moormerland, including a road running directly to Emden.
Since 1975 the motorways A 28 and A 31 were build which meant a national
connection. In 1856 the city Leer was connected to the German railway system
which includes also Moormerland. Since 1998 Gandersum is getting famous for
the erection of the Ems-Flood Barrage, which is discussed controversially on
behalf of the natural preservation. It is meant to save the Ems of storm
4. Modern development and planning
4.1 Land use
In the past decades there had been a great change in the structures of the
community of Moormerland, which is mostly dominated by agriculture. By the
disbandment of smaller farms and new settlements of commuter, particular in
Neermoor, Veenhusen or Warsingsfehn, there had been a change in the usage of
the cultural landscape.
The ecological production of agriculture is not very important in
Moormerland yet. Because of the development of the consumers behaviour with
its tendency for high quality agricultural products, there is a wide
potential for development on this sector.
In the area of Veenhusen a company is planning to dig for quartz sand in a
huge style. High quality quartz sand can be used for gaining silicon, which
is the main element for the production of photovoltaic plants. As areas of
high priority for gaining the resources quartz sand in Moormerland are the
industrial area Neermoor (north of the L 2 and west of the railroad tracks),
an area at Neermoor/Veenhusen (east of the railroad tracks between the
Suteler canal and the K 8), as well as an area at Veenhusen/Altschwoog (east
of the B 75 and between the K 8 and the A 31). Because of these and two
other areas county Leer can fulfil his supplying function within the region
of Ostfriesland including the neighbouring counties like Friesland,
Ammerland, Cloppenburg, Emsland as well as the eastern part of the province
Groningen in the Netherlands.
Within Moormerland there had been a digging for quartz sand in different
regions. In the area of Neermoor/Veenhusen, south of the Sauteler canal the
former deposits of quartz sand are already completely finished. The cuts and
pits will be refilled with mud deposits from the maintenance of the Ems. The
digging for quartz sand north of the Sauteler canal was given up because of
the quality went smaller. One pit is now re-used as an artificial pool for
swimming while another is already refilled with mud deposits from the Ems.
In the area of Veenhusen, east of the B 70 and south of the K 8, the quartz
sand deposit is finished and refilled as well. The southern part is an area
with a high priority for digging quartz sand within the Regional Program for
Spatial Planning (Regionale Raumordnung) and will be dug up in the coming
Beside the river dikes along the waters of a first class standard (Ems, Leda
Jümme), there is the Ems-Flood-Barrage at the lower Ems near Gandersum,
which meant to protect the water system of the Ems from storm tides. It also
is needed to backwater the Ems for transporting ships with a deep draught.
The discussion about a possible offence of the Ems- Flood-Barrage against
the European bird protection directive has now come to an agreement between
the Federal State of Lower Saxony and the environmental associations.
The low lands, for example the Leda-Jümme low land, will be registered in
the Regional Program for Spatial Planning of the county Leer, as a huge area
for pasturage and its protection and development. Most of the waters of
Moormerland are artificial or at least very much changed. Only the Bagbander
Tief fulfils the characteristics of a “natural water” in the meaning of the
European Water Framework Directive (WFD).
4.2 Settlement development
For settling the commuter, new houses had to be build, in particular
single-family houses, which lead to a drastic change of the grown topography
of the villages. A place of high priority for the commuter is the city Leer.
After Hamburg, Leer is the second biggest city for shipping companies in
Germany and is home for many trading companies and industrial enterprises.
In general Moormerland has a high potential for recreation and tourism
because of its natural landscape. In the outline of the Regional Program for
Spatial Planning of the county Leer, tourism should be developed especially
in the village Warsingsfehn of the community Moormerland. This is
emphasizing the village even though the whole community Moormerland is
significance for tourism and recreation. Most important for the development
of Tourism is the nearness to the city of Leer, which has a special function
as a touristic centre of southern Ostfriesland. In Leer there are the
headquarters of the Touristic ltd Southern Ostfriesland (Touristik GmbH
Südliches Ostfriesland). One of twelve municipal partners is the county
Places of interest in Moormerland are the typical Fehnlandscape with its
“Wieken” (canals) and flap-bridges, the sluices and the lake Boekzeteler
Meer as well as the remarkable buildings like the windmill (Dutch gallery
mill) in Wasingsfehn, few historical churches, like on the dwelling mound
Rorichum, the graveyard of the former cloister Boekzetelerfehn and the
harbour of Oldersum. In Warsingsfehn exists a little museum of local history.
Rorichum has a “Paddle and Pedal Station” which is the starting-point for
boat- and bike-trips.
Some points of touristic interest close to Moormerland have be mentioned the
“German Fehn Route” (Deutsche Fehnroute), the town of Emden (Harbourtrip,
art museums “Kunsthalle”, State Museum Ostfriesland), the historical town
centre of Leer, the bog museum in Moordorf, an open air museums in
Cloppenburg, as well as the water park in Hasselt. Since the Ems-Flood
Barrage had been finished in 2002 the building attracts more and more
tourists every year.
4.3 Industry and energy
Approximately 400 companies settled in Moormerland. The enterprises are
spread mostly on two different areas – one in Neermoor and the other in
Oldersum. The business areas Nermoor I and II are close to the exit of the
motorway A 31. The area in Oldersum lies directly by the L 1.
Because of the strength of the wind parts of the Moormerland are
economically interesting for gaining wind energy. Many companies are
profiting from an extension of wind energy plants as well as from the
production of the company ENERCON, which is a world wide leading producer of
wind energy plants. In this region some wind energy plants had been erected,
too, like in Neermoor-Memgaste. But until today there is no wind energy
plant working, which is higher then 100 m.
TThe region of Moormerland offers all kind of shopping facilities, service
offers, equipments for medical supply, as well as kindergarten and schools.
In the Lower Saxonian Land Use Regulation there is no High Order Centre
(Oberzentrum) for the county Leer assigned. The nearest High Order Centres
are in Oldenburg, Wilhelmshaven and Groningen. The city of Leer is fixed as
a Middle Order Centre, so even the inhabitants of Moormerland use its
locations of equipments and offers of the higher standard. The communities
of the county Leer have one basic centre each, to ensure the basic supply.
Because of the nearness to the city of Leer, Moormerland in connected in
terms of the traffic quite well. The A 28, which crosses the southern part
of Moormerland from west to east, means a quick connection to Leer, as well
as the A 31, a north-south connection, to Emden. Another north-south
connection is the federal road B 70, which crosses Moormerland. This endures
a direct connection to Aurich. Every single village of Moormerland is
connected with regional road network by country roads L 1, L 2, L 14 and L
24, as well as by district roads.
Some improvement needs the railway connection in Moormerland. The railway
line between Leer and Oldenburg in the very south-western part and the
existing north-south- connection between Leer and Emden in the western
region, offer at least the basic supply. A concrete improvement would be the
re-activating of the railway station in Neermoor. The public transport works
with busses. Moormerland is connected with the regional public transport
service system “CallBus”. Because of its nearness to the railway station in
Leer, the region is connected to the railway network, for example to the
Emsland line from Münster via Rheine to Emden or to the line from Leer to
Nieuweschans (Netherlands). The public transport system should be developed
by the traffic association Ems-Jade.
From a tourist point of view, the possibilities for riding a bicycle are
most important, because of the plain natural landscape.
In Leer the harbour gives access to the federal water ways Ems and North Sea,
the harbour in Oldersum is mainly used for trading goods. Oldersum is one of
the four places in the county Leer for loading goods from trucks to ships
and reverse. The many water ways can be counted to the regional important
sports grounds. Water sports are of a special importance because of the good
conditions for sailing. There are three marinas in this region.
5. Legal and spatial planning aspects
For spatial planning all villages of Moormerland fall into the outline of
the Regional Program for Spatial Planning (Regionaler Raumordnungsprogramm)
of the county Leer (2005) and into the Lower Saxonian Program for Spatial
Planning. Concrete regional planning show some differences in both programs
for the region of Moormerland.
Moormerland belongs to the East-Frisian Association (Ostfriesische
Landschaft). This is the only higher municipal association in Lower Saxony.
Between 2005 and 2015 there will be an increase of the population of 4 %.
Because of its nearness to the city of Leer the highest increase will be in
Moormerland. This will endanger the grown topographic structures of the
cultural landscape by urban sprawl, as well as by a higher density of
traffic. Declaring new areas for settlements will endanger the grown
structures of the villages.
Because of the special landscape of Moormerland for erecting wind energy
plants – the plain, wide and open marsh land – the landscape is especially
endangered by destroying the historical viewing axis by building wind energy
plants. The dimension of the destruction is connected with the heights of
the wind energy plants. The higher the building the more negative is the
effect. Also the interests of bird protection (birds in the meadows,
migrants) have to be considered. The Regional Program for Spatial Planning
of the county Leer considers these problems. No wind energy plant should be
higher then 100 m for to preserve the landscape.
The planning of the huge digging for quartz sand in the area of Veenhusen,
with a total area of 150 ha and a volume of 25 million m³, could lead to a
serious destruction of the landscape, because the area of the community of
Moormerland is already considerable changed by the digging for quartz sand.
The quartz sand will be exported into the Netherlands, where digging for
quartz sand is very restricted. This intention will be a problem, because of
the increasing significance for protecting resources. Especially if
following generations should be guaranteed the supply of this region with
this resource. Another problem will be the filling of the pits with Ems mud
deposits. This can only be accepted if it is conformable to the interests of
renaturation of the landscape and the gaining of the resources. While the
pits are refilled with mud deposits there will be no more possibility to
re-open the pits for digs on a higher technical standard.
Moormerland has a varied landscape, with a high potential for recreation as
well as a good basic supply (shopping, schools, doctors). Also Moormerland
is well connected by roads (A 28 and A 31) and train (railway lines Leer –
Oldenburg and Leer – Emden). The conditions in Moormerland for the
development as a tourist region are quite well. Therefore the already
existing co-operations should be deepened and the interests with the
neighbouring districts, municipal communities and associations should be
bundled and developed together. The main tasks should be, beside the
development of the tourism and the public transport, the strengthening of
the economical structures. In the meaning of the outline of the Regional
Program for Spatial Planning of the county Leer, common strategies should be
developed and realized with the counties Aurich, Friesland and Wittmund as
well as with the cities of Emden and Wilhelmshaven. Some co-operations
already exist, for example in tourism, rescue organisations and shop
co-operations. That will bring positive effects into the region of
Moormerland. The whole county Leer is classified by the Regional Program for
Spatial Planning in the category “Rural Area” (Ländlicher Raum). That will
mean that this region will have a special function for agriculture, forestry,
the protection of the cultural landscape, natural environment (animals and
plants, soil, water, air) and the recreation in this landscape.
The limited resource quartz sand should be carefully and economically used.
There might be possibilities not only to gain the quartz sand but also to
manufacture it within the region. While renewable energies are getting more
important a production of silicon and photovoltaic plants in this region
For a further economical development of Moormerland it is important to find
a balanced way between protection and furtherance of places to live and to
work as well as offers for recreation. Basis for the activities in the
landscape are the varied natural conditions, which should be endurably
protected and developed. Agriculture as well as the aspects of natural
protection should be considered for the conservation of the typical cultural
Author: Wolfgang Scherf
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Full catalogue of historic maps used, survey evidence etc.
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Generalmajor Le Coq 1805, Sect. I. Nachdruck 1984.