Cultural Entities 


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1. Overview




Mainland marshes encompassed by the Pleistocene Geest around Leck in the east, the marshland area of the Wiedingharde, north of Niebüll and Alter-Christian-Albrechtskoog, in the north, the Nordergosharde with the rivers of Lecker and Soholmer Au in the south, the Wadden Sea with the Hallig islands in the west.


Ca. 13 km from south to north, ca. 16 km from east to west

Location - map:

Marsh land area south-west of Niebüll, North Frisia, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Origin of name:

The name originates in the traditional appellation for the smallest Danish administration units.

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Former slat marsh islands with dwelling mounds and fieldscape like Hallig islands, early modern dikes, modern, geometric polder like Bökingharde, Nordergosharde, Süderdithmarschen, nature reserve polder like Wiedingharde, Nordergosharde, Südergosharde, Nordstrand, Dithmarschen, Farm buildings like other entities of North Frisia, Haubarg style farmhouses like Eiderstedt

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

Detached farm mounds and village mounds with surrounding fieldscape and ring dikes, row of mounds and villages lined up along edge of Risummoor, dike village of Holländerdeich, dikes built up in Early Modern Times, churches with detached belfry, large Uthlande style farmhouses of that time, ponds and other water bodies and vestiges from dike breeches

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The marshland area has developed by repeated erosion of Ice Age moraines and sandar in the area and subsequent sedimentation by the advancing sea during the Holocene, since the end of the last Ice Age. This has created bog and marsh areas, repeatedly flooded and intersected by tidal inlets. In the north-east, close to the Saale Ice Age moraines of the Geest around Leck, bogs have developed south of Niebüll, on top of an island of remaining moraine debris called Risummoor. The southern and western parts were covered by marshland and bogs. A sand barrier in the west of the Wadden Sea area of North Frisia has kept maritime influence at bay till the high Middle Ages, when the North Sea broke down the natural sea walls and advanced far inland. The old marshes came increasingly under maritime influence, tidal inlets formed and the land was eventually washed away during the devastating floods of medieval and Early Modern Timess, notably the one in 1362. Marsh land in the western half of the entity only remained as Hallig islands afterwards, pieces of elevated salt marshes, frequently inundated and dispersed across the mud flats of the Bökingharde area.  

2.2 Present landscape
The Bökingharde consist of low marshland of hardly above high tide level and the slightly more elevated former bog area of Risummoor. The latter is marked by a ring of settlements along its edge and the more urban area of Nibeüll in the north, while the centre remains almost free of habitations. The fieldscape here is of small, rectangular enclosures, often lined by hedges or trees. Villages on Risummoor and at Holländerdeich are lined up along a central road, whereas in the south small villages and detached farmsteads are located on dwelling mounds, surrounded by roads and dikes, which indicate the former shape of the Hallig islands. Fields are small and irregular enclosures, arranged around the mound villages or along former tidal inlets. Polders in the north-west are more spacious with rectilinear and large-scale fields and detached farms on low mounds along a central, perpendicular network of roads, whereas the field system in the eastern marshes consists of patches of rectilinear, co-axial fields, irregularly oriented towards sinuous ditches. Trees have been planted around farms and within villages as windbreak and more frequently in Risummoor. Tall constructions are some churches, granaries as well as few wind power generators in the east and around Dagebüll. The marshland in the south is mostly used for grazing, while in the north-west farming dominates the land use. The marshes are delimited by the embanked rivers of Lecker and Soholmer Au in the south with the adjacent lake of Bottschlotter See. A national road and a railway line as well as a power line traverse the entity in the east. Modern residential areas have spread notably into the surrounding around Niebüll and, to a smaller extend, in the villages around Risummoor and in Dagebüll. Houses are usually one to two storeys high and often built in traditional style, while buildings in Niebüll can be slightly higher. The large, detached farmsteads are often historic.

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

Artefacts around Lindholm-Klockries indicate early, at least part-time settlements in Neolithic and Iron Age times. The area has permanently been occupied by settlers from the 12th century on, if not earlier, probably by Frisians from the region or from the modern Netherlands and Danes. Salt was probably extracted from peat in the area around Dagebüll, where a temporary intrusion of the sea must have caused the development of salt turf along a line leading from Hooge into the Bökingharde.

The brick-built Hallig church of Dagebüll with Baroque interior church. © ALSH

The extension of settlement in the old salt marshes is unknown, as this landscape was destroyed by storm surges especially in the 14th century, but the rising water level probably forced the settlements to recede to the higher situated bogs on the Ice Age remnants of Risummoor, which were then cultivated and turned into agricultural land. Risummoor and some patches of salt marshes, like Fahretoft, remained as islands surrounded by mud flats and tidal inlets. In order to use adjacent marshland areas for grazing villages and farmsteads were arranged along the edge of Risummoor. Its delimitation is therefore still mirrored by villages like Maasbüll, Risum-Lindholm and Klockries, a pattern that is typical for all medieval settlements along the edge of the Geest in the area, going hand in hand with the erection of dwelling mounds in this case, owed to the comparatively low situation and the increasing water level. The connection of Risummoor to the mainland nearby was achieved again only in the late 15th century with the polders of Klixbüller Koog and Großer Kohldammer Koog. Earlier ring dikes, protecting parts of the island, were combined to a surrounding embankment in the 16th century. The island became the Kornkoog polder after the Gotteskoog dike connected the Horsbüllsharde in the north-west to the mainland. The influence of the sea on the island, which was now impeded to stream freely, increased substantially as Risummoor was partially incorporated in the dike. In contrary, a number of larger Hallig islands like Dagebüll, Fahretoft and Waygaard existed in the west, between the former island of Horsbüllsharde and the Hallig of Oland, which remained unprotected till the 18th century. Comparable to modern Hallig islands like Hooge and Gröde, people erected their farms and villages on protective mounds encompassed by stretches of salt marshes. Other such Hallig islands, situated more eastward, can only be derived from names like Hasenhallig or Schäferhallig and from old maps, which reconstructed the area not as open as the modern Wadden Sea with their Hallig islands but rather as salt marshes frequently intersected by tidal inlets, of which the lake Bottschlotter See is a remnant.

The Bottschlotter See lake is a remnant of a former tidal stream. © ALSH

The early modern field structure of irregular shaped fields surrounding mounds, oriented along the course of tidal inlets, is still especially well preserved around Fahretoft and Süderwaygaard
The earliest, still existing buildings are churches from the 13th century, like the originally Romanesque building of Deezbüll, extended and refurbished in later times.

Romanesque church of Deezbüll. © ALSH

A Gallows mound can still be seen in Risum-Lindholm. New polders south of Risummoor and the Lecker Au were embanked in the 15th and 16th century, like the Störtewerker Koog, shifting the line of the outer sea walls further west. The neighbouring island of Waygaard was the first of the Hallig islands to be surrounded by a dike.

3.2 Early Modern Times
The beginning of the end of the open Hallig landscape of the Bökingharde came in the 17th century, when a Dutch investor tried to close the dike line between Waygaard and the Wiedingharde with the Holländerdeich, cutting the Hallig island of Fahretoft in two and thereby damming up the deep tidal inlet of the Bottschlotter Tief. The attempt failed and the severe flood of 1634 broke down most of the dikes but parts of the Holländerdeich survived. A new embankment project, connecting Fahretoft and Maasbüll on Risummoor with the so-called Moordeich, was finally managed to dam up the tidal inlet, parts of which have remained within the polder as Bottschlotter See. Fahretoft was secured by dikes only some years later and in the 18th century Dagebüll could eventually be connected to the mainland.

The former Hallig island of Fahretoft and the line of houses on the former sea wall of Holländerdeich. © ALSH

It was in the decades before, when also new land was reclaimed from the polders of Kornkoog, Gotteskoog and Wiedingharder Alter Koog in the north-west, which were also in need of further protection by an additional dike line. These new polders, like the Kleiseer Koog and Alter Christian-Albrechts-Koog, were systematically planned, as land reclamation was now financed by private investors or the nobility (Oktroi). The internal fieldscape consists therefore of more rectilinear, elongated fields oriented towards farmsteads on low mounds, lined up along central roads. Especially the Alte-Christian-Albrechts-Koog, as the oldest of these polders, still retains most of this early modern pattern with less rectilinear field boundaries and many old farmsteads, typically surrounded by ditches for clay extraction (Graften). The fertile new marshland brought wealth to the farmers, which is represented in abundance by large farmsteads of the Uthlande type, usually extended into four-sided or five- and seven-shaped structures, like the Hof Gottesberg situated in the Kleiseer Koog.

Hof Gottesberg, a large farmsteads of the Uthlande type. © ALSH

Nahnshof. © ALSH

The Nahnshof in the Christian-Albrechts-Koog hosts a wellness hotel today. About the time, new settlers from the Netherlands, whose expertise was needed for dike construction, introduced large farm building types as Haubarg, Gulfhaus and Bargscheune built around massive central posts, like the Königsteiner Haubarg, as well as their technically advanced windmills. New, simple, brick-built churches with Baroque interior substituted the former, small Hallig churches, like in Dagebüll or Faretoft. The still unprotected island of Galmsbüll had to be eventually abandoned and a new church was only raised at the end of the 19th century, further inland, as a representative, neo-gothic building. The reclamation of the Marienkoog in 1798 finished the historic development of the coast line of the Bökingharde, which had turned an open area of mixed and ever changing mud flats, marsh islands and tidal inlets into a part of the mainland marshes.   

3.3 Modern Times
Large parts of the early, low lying polders, like Störtewerker Koog, Herrenkoog and Klixbüller Koog were regularly inundated by inland water, although separated from the seasonal influence of the sea. Frequent storm floods during the cold seasons and the silting of the canals outside the dikes prevented a proper drainage of the sweet water from the Geest into the North Sea. The course of Soholmer Au River was consequently straightened and embanked with the construction of the Bongsieler Kanal in the 19th century, leaving the meanderings of its old bed as still existing ditches.

Straightened, embanked course of Soholmer Au River. © ALSH

Bongsieler Kanal. © ALSH

A large number of polder mills had to drain the adjacent land. The Lecker Au was also eventually embanked and led through a straight canal across the Störtewerker Koog. The drainage situation however remained rather poor. Even the usage of the Bottschlotter See as water reservoir at a later stage could not substantially improve the situation until after World War Two.
The village of Niebüll, along the rim of the former island of Risummoor, which already had a central function for the area, developed into a more and more urban centre since its connection to the railway system in the end of the 19th century and even more since the railway dam to island of Sylt was built in 1927. Only few buildings of earlier times have remained in Niebüll, like the austere, 18th century Baroque brick church, two portals to the cemetery of around the same time and the vicarage of mid 19th century origin, together with an ensemble of dwelling houses in Deezbüll, a village that is now incorporated into Niebüll.

18th century cemetery portal near Baroque brick church in Niebüll. © ALSH

According to a doctrine during the national socialist regime, new land had to be gained. Two small polders were therefore reclaimed for the first time after over a hundred years. The Galmsbüller Koog and the Osewoldter Koog display a geometric field system arranged, together with farmsteads in a pseudo traditional style, along a central road. The Hauke-Haien-Koog was mostly embanked for coastal protection reasons as last polder in 1959, and is divided in two parts. The easternmost half is used for agriculture by a few new farms, while the seaward part is a nature sanctuary and reservoir for the inland water. The new harbour of Schlüttsiel on the sea dike of the polder, were the Bongsiel canal flows into the Wadden Sea, serves today as a connection to the Hallig islands and for fishing vessels. The often inundated, low lying inland polders have been drained with increasing success from the 1930ies on, especially since the Hauke-Haien-Koog was reclaimed. New farmsteads have been built systematically afterwards, like in the Störtewerker Koog, and land could be used for agriculture, which led to a very modern appearance of these old polders. Likewise, the Programm Nord and modern industrialised agriculture have chanced the appearance of the traditionally small scale fields and pastures in many parts of the area considerably since the 1960ies into larger, more uniform structures. Ditches were either straightened or filled up as modern, intensive cultivation required larger and more rectilinear fields. Many farms, which now had to cater for their larger estates, were in further need for additional farm buildings, leading to ensembles of modern barns and stalls, dwarfing and hiding the older buildings. Other farms were abandoned or turned into apartments for tourists. This development is still in progress.
Industrial estates and new housing areas have spread the town area of Niebüll into its vicinity in recent decades, like into the Gotteskoog. Many new houses have also been built in Dagebüll, the major port to the islands. Together with the international looking ferry port, this has increasingly obscured its origin as Hallig Island. 

Risum Church. © ALSH

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use

The Programm Nord and modern, industrialised agriculture have chanced the appearance of the traditionally small-scale fields in many parts of the area considerably into larger, uniform looking structures and fewer, straightened ditches since the 1960ies. Some farms have been in further need for buildings in order to cater for their larger estates, leading to ensembles of modern barns and stalls, dwarfing and hiding older buildings, while others were abandoned or turned into apartments for tourists. The western part of Hauke-Haien-Koog is a nature sanctuary and reservoir for the inland water.

4.2 Settlement development

The industrial estates and new housing areas have spread the town area of Niebüll extensively into its vicinity in recent decades, like into the Gotteskoog. New residential areas have also been built in Dagebüll, which is now focus area for tourism. The whole of the entity of Bökingharde is rated as tourist and recreational area. The actualisation of the regional plan therefore restricts further planning for tourism related buildings and infrastructure. Developing areas around Niebüll as centre of regional development are likely to further increase in the near future. However, population in the area is expected to decrease in the long term. 

4.3 Industry and energy

Wind turbines have been erected during the last decades, mostly in polders of early modern or modern origin. These areas are still designated as suitable for wind turbines, whereas the Hauke-Haien-Koog, Langenhorner Koog and Störtewerker Koog as well as the lowland along the Soholmer Au River has to be kept free from wind power systems.

4.4 Infrastructure

Roads are mostly based on historic routes and connections between settlements and often built on top of former sea walls. The harbour of Dagebüll is the major port to the moraine islands. A narrow gauge railway connects the Hallig islands of Langeness and Oland to Dagebüll, but can only be used during low tide.

5. Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects

The whole entity is a planning area with special interest for tourism and recreation. Parts of the landscape are recognized as characteristic and typical for the area, like the polders of Störtewerker and Langenhorner Koog as well as the flood plains along the Soholmer Au. The Hauke-Haien-Koog, marshes around Fahretoft, Langehorn and the Bottschlotter See fulfil requirements for nature protection areas. The area around Fahretoft, Langenhorn and Ockholm is suitable for landscape protection. The town of Niebüll is already focus area for monument protection. Several ponds caused by dike breeches are listed as geological important. However, no new protection areas are planned to be implemented in North Frisia. Nature protection rather aims at further integrating agriculture and promoting extensive stock breeding and contract based nature protection, as it is done in the Hauke-Haien-Koog. Furthermore, it is suggested to raise the number of so-called typical landscape elements and to integrate existing elements into the network of biotopes and protection areas, like the Bottschlotter Tief. The landscape plan supports the integration of historic settlement structures into planning. The tourism concept for North Frisia promotes a sustainable development in this sector. An improvement of landscape related tourism together with riding, cycling and hiking is suggested by landscape planning.

6. Vulnerabilities

Agriculture is economically still very strong, as is common for the area, with a focus on dairy products and cultivation for feeding stuff. The farms are of fairly large size with no specialisation advantageous for the historically small-scale field structure. Niebüll suffers, as train gateway to Sylt, from seasonal car traffic predominantly caused by short-term visitors. The harbour of Dagebüll has turned into a ferry port with expansive parking areas and up-to-date facilities and buildings with no relation to traditional harbour structures, veiling more and more, together with the modern residential areas, the origin as a Hallig island. Further plans for consolidation of farming, especially new agrarian roads and enlargement of fields, could affect the landscape character in a negative way. The creation of a nature-related habitat by TEN (Transnational Ecological Network) could alienate structures from their original, artificial character.  

7. Potentials

The original village structure is mostly intact, except for Niebüll. The area is especially suited for cycling. Long term recreational tourism and especially landscape related offers for tourists could be strengthened by integration of cultural landscape assets, taking into account the unique situation of numerous former Hallig islands being integrated into the mainland marshes. More traditional farmsteads, not used for their original purpose, could be implemented as tourist and recreational facilities. 

8. Sources

Author: Matthias Maluck

General literature:
Vollmer, et. al. (eds.) 2001. Landscape and Cultural Heritage in the Wadden Sea Region – Project Report. Wadden Sea Ecosystem No. 12. Common Wadden Sea Secretariat. Wilhelmshaven, Germany.
Innenministerium des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (eds.) 2004. Regionalplan für den Planungsraum V, Amendment File.
Ministerium für Umwelt, Natur und Forsten des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (eds.). Landschaftsrahmenplan für den Planungsraum V. Kiel 2002.
Kunz, H. & Panten, A. 1997. Die Köge Nordfrieslands. Bredstedt.
Bantelmann, Landschaft und Besiedlung Nordfrieslands in vorgeschichtlicher Zeit (Husum 1992)
Bantelmann, A. (ed.) 2000. Das große Nordfrieslandbuch. Bredstedt.
Gemeinsames Wattenmeer Sekretariat (ed.) 2005. Das Wattenmeer. Theiss Verlag Stuttgart.
Beseler, Kunst-Topographie Schleswig-Holstein (Neumünster 1969)
Braun, Strehl (eds.), Langhaus und Winkelbau. Uthlandfriesische Bauformen im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Bredstedt 1989)
Vogel, Der nordfriesische Geestrand, die Entwicklung seiner ländlichen Siedlungen und ihrer Flurformen (Bräist/Bredstedt 1996)
Fahrenkrug et. al. Regionales Entwicklungskonzept Nordfriesland (unpublished, 2003)

Archaeological monument record of Schleswig-Holstein and gis mapping
Lancewad data base and gis maps
Royal Prussian ordnance survey of 1879
Map of H. du Plat of 1804/05

The area has good potentials for tourism due to its singular former Hallig landscape.