Cultural Entities 


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1. Overview




Marsh land peninsular in the south of the county of North Frisia, bordering entities of Südergosharde in the north-east, Norderdithmarschen in the south and Pellworm, Nordstrand and Halligen in the north, the mainland moraines between Rantrum and Schwabstedt and the rivers of Treene and Eider delimit the entity in the east


about 30x15 km

Location - map:

Marsh land peninsular in the south of the county of North Frisia, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Origin of name:

Eiderstedt was the name of the easternmost of the three administration units in medieval time.

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Rows of mounds with adjacent strips of fields like in Haseldorfer Marsch and Dithmarschen, medieval fieldscape like in Hattstedtermarsch, small scale medieval and early modern polders and dikes like on Pellworm, dispersed mound settlements like in Wiedingharde, Bökingharde, Dithmarschen, Pellworm

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

High medieval ring dikes with block-like enclosures and irregularly dispersed farm mounds or village mounds, small scale medieval and early modern polders and dikes, rows of mounds or farms with adjacent strips of fields, Haubarge style farmhouses with gardens, artificial canals for transportation, watercourses as remains of tidal inlets

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The transgression of the North Sea after the end of the Ice Age formed a system of east-west and north-south oriented sand banks and dunes in the area of Eiderstedt which served as southern barrier for the Wadden Sea area of North Frisia against the sea water. Thus protected, marshes and bogs formed north of the sand banks and became inundated again as the sand barriers were gradually eroded by the first centuries AD. A landscape of patches of island-like salt mashes intersected by tidal inlets formed behind the sand banks. The influence of the North Sea grew even more when protective sand banks west of the modern islands of North Frisia yielded to the waves from the 11th century on. During the Middle Ages, the area of today’s Eiderstedt consisted of several salt marsh islands bordered by the winding course of the Eider River in the south and the large tidal inlet of Hever in the north, which were gradually reclaimed and connected with dikes during the ensuing centuries. 

2.2 Present landscape
The low marshland of the Eiderstedt peninsular lies below high tide level in the eastern polders, adjacent to the mainland, and is only up to 2m above sea level in the highest parts along the river banks of the Eider. The central dunes are not perceptible anymore and hardly exceed this height. Only the dunes in front of St. Peter-Ording reach over 10m. Dwelling mounds as basis of almost all settlements pile up to a height of up to 4m. The area is intersected by an irregular system of old dikes and roads running along the course of former embankments being most small-scale in the easternmost and westernmost parts. Some large canals and an abundance of small watercourses, as sinuous as the embankments, intersect the marshland further into small enclosures of usually pasture and rarer fields. Pastures commonly display an internal system of alternating low parallel ridges and ditches. Along the southern coast and in the west, fieldscape consists of irregular block-like enclosures around dispersed single farmsteads, hamlets or villages, while in a ribbon from the centre south of Garding to the east, pastures are divided into long strips adjacent to lines of farmsteads. Especially in the centre-north enclosures are larger and single farms which are more regularly arranged. Trees are set along roads and farms, but are only clustered as forest on the dunes of St. Peter-Ording. Buildings are usually low with one or two storeies and only few are higher in larger villages and in the towns Tönning, Garding and St. Peter-Ording. Apartment blocks or multi-storey constructions can be almost exclusively found in St. Peter-Ording. Groups of wind farms are situated in the area south of Husum. A central road and railway tracks runs the length of the peninsular from east to west. A major regional road runs north-south in the east at Tönning. Large sandbanks are situated in front of the western polders while sometimes extensive areas of salt marshes can be found predominantly in the Tümlauer Bucht, south of St. Peter-Ording and along the northern coast. 

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

Few traces of Stone and Bronze Age occupation were found on the sandy ridge between Garding and Tating. Actual settlements can be verified for the 1st and 2nd century AD, when sufficiently high salt marshes had built up along the banks of the Eider River. Here people, who lived on stock breeding on the fertile, lower salt marshes around, erected their houses on low mounds. These single farm mounds were combined to large village mounds in the following decades and raised in order to protect against the increasing flood level. Settlements were, however, eventually abandoned in the 5th century AD. Some of these dwelling mounds, like Tofting, Pernör or Tönning, are still extant alongside enclosures that till today clearly draw the loop of the Eider River at the time. The more central areas of Eiderstedt were largely covered by bogs and traces of only a few, short-lived settlements on higher spots could be found.

Fieldscape north of Tönning clearly drawing the loop of the old Eider River in the 5th century AD. © LVermA-SH

New settlements, from the 8th century on, are usually connected with the immigration of Frisians. Again people sought the elevated banks of the Eider River, this time more west, like the village mounds of Elisenhof, Olversum and Welt testify. The island-like salt marshes of Utholm, Westerhever, Osterhever and around Poppenbüll were only occupied in the 11th and 12th century with single farm mounds of clay, like Ehst and Medehop south and east of Tating, which soon merged into larger hamlets or villages, just like the deserted mound of Hundorf south of Poppenbüll. They were also placed alongside tidal inlets or on higher sandbanks, which renders this arrangement rather haphazardly today. First low ring dikes as around St. Johanniskoog, Westerhever and Utholm soon accompanied the occupation and incorporated earlier mounds but still left the salt marshes often inundated, a situation today only known from the Hallig islands. The earliest, still standing Romanesque churches are from the 12th century, like the simple churches partly made of tuff from the Rhineland on the mounds of Tating and Tönning.

12th century Romanesque churches partly made of tuff from the Rhineland on the mounds of Tating. © ALSH

Even as the embankments grew further in height, the low and wet parts of the marshes were only used for grazing, as it is still common today. The rich grass on more elevated marshland was mowed for winter storage. Irregular enclosure with an internal structure of parallel ditches originates from the time. Some farming activities took place on the sandy ridges. The oldest routes still extant were constructed as elevated paths, linking villages and farms. The Heerstraße, for instance, clearly overlays the earlier field division in Westerhever. Rows of low farm mounds in the east of Eiderstedt, as Witzwort or Oldenswort, were of a later stage, probably from late medieval times, when people were able to apply better drainage techniques to these low wetland marshes. The narrow and elongated strips of fields at right angles with the farms, divided by parallel ditches, are still typical for these areas (Marschhufen). This system overlays the older block-like fields around Die Wisch, south of Katharinenherd.

Alternating ditches and ridges for drainage (Grüppen) in the north-east of Eiderstedt. © ALSH

The several islands of Utholm and Everschop could be connected by reclamation of small scale polders and by damming up the intersecting tidal inlets during the late 14th and 15th century, owing to improved dike building techniques. At the time, the large tidal inlet of Nordereider between Eiderstedt and the moraine mainland at Rantrum in the east was blocked by a succession of small polders after a long dike around the Südermarsch, parallel to the mainland coast, had narrowed the gap. The low wetlands in the east remained uninhabited till Modern Times. The catastrophic storm tide of 1362 destroyed large areas of marsh land east of Poppenbüll, which could be reclaimed step by step already during the 15th century. This development led to a multitude of small-scale polders in-between the former islands as well as in the north of Everschop and in the west of Eiderstedt, which can still be perceived by the remains of medieval embankments and the still small-scale, but more rectangular system of drainage ditches. The remains of the former tidal inlets stayed as irregular ditches within low marsh areas in these polders, like east and west of St. Johanniskoog and in the northern part of Südermarsch and Eiderstedt.

3.2 Early Modern Times
The late 15th and 16th century saw fundamental chances in land reclamation policy and technique when new polders were initiated by the duke of Schleswig who also introduced settlers from Holland for this purpose and sold the land to private financers. The polders were hence increasingly planned from the beginning, reflected in their straight dike lines and more rectangular inner structure of large land parcels with evenly arranged single farmsteads, like in Altaugustenkoog.

Altaugustenkoog, planned imposed polder of early 17th century. © LVermA-SH

However, these new polders merely filled bays left by former tidal inlets, which separated the islands, like southeast of Utholm and between Eiderstedt and the mainland moraines. Others reclaimed land, which had been previously lost to storm tides, like Adolfskoog or Sieversfleetherkoog. These polders, however, never attained the perfection of systematic arrangement which is typical for the imposed polders in the Nordergosharde. The ducal influence can be seen best in the manor of Hoyersworth, built by the local representative in the 16th century. Of a ducal castle in Tönning, taken down already in the 18th century, only a park on the site has remained. The immigrating Dutch helped constructing a drainage system with straight ditches, low banks dividing different drainage areas, like south of Garding, and artificial canals for transport. The Süderbootsfahrt is one of these waterways and connects Garding to Katingsiel. The predecessor of a new type of farm building, the Haubarg, which is now seen as typical for Eiderstedt, came also over from Holland. These central post constructions with huge internal barns and cattle stalls were ideally suited for animal breeding, the predominant means of subsistence in Eiderstedt, but also proved useful for farming. The earliest examples are known from the beginning of the 17th century. Most representative are the ducal Rote Haubarg in the Adolfskoog, built some decades later, and the Rosenhof on Westerhever of 18th century origin, including with a park and an artificial ruin.

The representative, ducal Rote Haubarg in the Adolfskoog, built in the middle of the 17th century. © ALSH

In the beginning of the 17th century, the mound villages of Tönning and Garding received German town law as they had developed significantly due to their central role in the trade of crops and the dairy products from the area. Especially the harbour of Tönning, built in 1612, has remained the only actual harbour in the area till today. The combination of improved drainage, increasing yield as well as adequate transport on the canals brought considerable wealth to the region, best reflected in the representative Haubarg buildings with their gardens. In the northeast of the Eiderstedt peninsula, a succession of storm tides destroyed the parish of Lundenbergharde in the 1600s, which had to be gradually reclaimed in the centuries afterwards. Impressive ponds as result of dike breeches are still visible at Porrendeich. Much was also destroyed by a succession of wars in the 17th and 18th century beginning with the Thirty Years War.  

3.3 Modern Times
Only few new polders added new land to Eiderstedt in the 19th century. The Wilhelminenkoog southeast of Utholm, for instance, further closed the bay stemming from the former tidal inlet of Süderhever. The system of perpendicular ditches and roads of the two earlier centuries was improved for the newly reclaimed land. The accessibility by land within and to Eiderstedt was enhanced after 1840, beginning with the amelioration of the road system. The first railway from Flensburg to Tönning followed in the middle of the century. Trees were planted to a large extent around farmsteads and along roads as windbreak. The opening of the Kiel Canal in Süderdithmarschen and a ban on the cattle trade to England at the end of the 19th century triggered the decline of Tönning as most important harbour of Eiderstedt. Cattle breeding had reached a climax in the preceding decades, as did farming. This fostered the construction of a multitude of new farm buildings with detached stables and slightly sloping tin roofs, which had been built till the 1960s, while more and more of the older Haubarge were taken down. Tourism set foot on Eiderstedt in the second half of the 19th century, when in St. Peter, due to its excellent situation behind a sandbank and dunes, a spa was set up. Few new buildings, like a hotel on the dunes, were erected in the beginning. The area between the dike and the dunes was still wetland while the offshore sandbank could only be reached by boat till the construction of a bridge in the 1920s. Post-supported buildings on the sandbank were built in the early 20th century. The village expanded especially after it was linked to the railway system in the 1930s. In the 20th century, new polders were notably reclaimed in the 1930s, according to a programme of the national socialist regime. New marshland areas in Norderheverkoog and Tümlauer Koog have a typical layout of large land parcels along a central road with single farmsteads.

View of Westerhever across the Tuemlauer Bucht. © ALSH

The Finkhaushalligkoog in the northeast incorporated two small, uninhabited Hallig islands. After the Second World War only little new land has been reclaimed. A coastal protection programme in the 1960s and 1970s enforced the outer dikes and blocked the Eider River by a large flood barrier.

Flood barrier across the mouth of the Eider River. © ALSH

The salt marshes behind it were surrounded by a dike soon after but have almost exclusively been used for nature protection, as it became popular at the time. St. Peter has meanwhile totally lost its village structure due to the spread of new housing areas and multi-storey buildings and has merged with surrounding villages like Ording in the north.  

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The area is economically underdeveloped and still relies to a high degree on agriculture. Most of the land used for agriculture is pasture with old fieldscapes and enclosures still intact to a large extend. However, farming as land use is increasing. Only few protection areas exist, also owing to the areas traditionally strong resistance against most nature protection measurements. Actual issues are about the requirement of an EU regulation to assign FFH and bird protection areas. Regional planning, however, acknowledges much of the landscape of Eiderstedt as environmentally important and recommends the set aside of much of the low and wet marshes around former tidal inlets and their turning into biotopes. Salt marshes and mud flats surrounding the peninsular belong to the national park Wadden Sea, which, in principle, aims at a natural landscape without man made elements.

4.2 Settlement development
Only some villages and towns have larger developing areas around their centre as in Tating and Garding. The former mound villages of St. Peter and Tönning have spread far beyond their earlier confines. Also road villages like Oldenswort and Witzwort are blurring the original structure increasingly beyond recognition and become more clustered. Garding and Tönning have central functions and can further assign new areas for development. St. Peter-Ording is focus area for tourism and, as centre for tourism in Eiderstedt, further adapts its tourist facilities to actual needs, but also envisages promoting public transport and especially cycle routes to the beach. Tourism in Eiderstedt is especially strong in St. Peter-Ording and its hinterland, where it supplies more than 50% of the income, as well as in Tönning, where the Multimar, a tourist information centre for the Wadden Sea, attracts a large number of visitors. Other local museums are situated in the Rote Haubarg and St. Peter-Ording.

4.3 Industry and energy
Eiderstedt is mostly free from wind turbines, except for the area between Uelvesbüll and Witzwort, where a certain enhancement is possible. Three larger industrial companies are located in Tönning. 

4.4 Infrastructure
The peninsular has a mesh of small roads but is cut by one major traffic route in the east, connecting Husum to Hamburg and an east-west road from Tönning to St. Peter-Ording. The north-south route is in the stage of planning for enlargement to 4 lanes. Bypasses for the central road are planned for Garding and especially Tating. A small airfield is located near St. Peter-Ording.

5. Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects

Regional spatial planning considers Eiderstedt as important cultural area with a large number of elements worth protecting. Especially Oldenswort is regarded as a historically important settlement. A nature experience area is suggested. The regional landscape plan gives a brief description of cultural landscape and a list of historic elements, but only mentions the Haubarge as important buildings as well as it only regards the northern part as a structurally rich landscape. It also demands listing, mapping and evaluation of historic landscape elements. Landscape models used for spatial planning consider cultural aspects only to a very small extend. All larger waterways are protected from new developments alongside. Few nature protection areas, also according to RAMSAR and Natura 2000, are mostly confined to Katinger Watt and parts of the Eider River and the dunes and the beach at St. Peter-Ording. Only some pools at St. Peter-Ording, originating from clay extraction, are considered suitable as protection areas. The development concept for the county of North Frisia recognizes the decline of agriculture and the large difficulties between the sectors of agriculture and nature conservation. It acknowledges a strong potential of cultural landscape for tourism and regards its utilisation as basis for further action. 


6. Vulnerabilities

Cultural aspects have not been sufficiently included in the current environmental impact assessment for the extension of the national road at Tönning yet. Renaturation of watercourses required by the water framework directive actually lacks the proper involvement of historic landscape issues, while archaeological aspects are under discussion to be integrated. Actual plans for bird protection areas in central Eiderstedt do not include cultural landscape aspects and will perhaps not meet EU requirements. The increasing use of industrial farming threatens old small-scale drainage systems and parallel ridge structures of pastures. Today, it becomes increasingly harder to identify the latter as an original system of parallel ditches, as missing maintenance due to an improved overall drainage situation results in them being filled up. Some historic landscape elements within the national park Wadden Sea could be threatened by extinction when trying to create a purely natural environment.  

7. Potentials

Historic landscape is exceptionally well preserved, especially structures like drainage systems, dike lines and settlement types. Alternative management strategies for landscape development have reasonable chances of being accepted by the broader population as long as they are not based on a regulation and protection regime, considering the difficulties especially with nature conservation. Actual regional development plans recognize the importance of cultural heritage and landscape for local development. However, this insight has yet to be realised and put into practical actions.

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.) 2002. Landschaftsrahmenplan für den Planungsraum V. Kiel.
Kunz, Panten. Die Köge Nordfrieslands (Bredstedt 1997)
Bantelmann, A, et. al. (ed.). Das große Nordfrieslandbuch (Bredstedt 2000)
Gemeinsames Wattenmeer Sekretariat (ed.) 2005. Das Wattenmeer. Theiss Verlag Stuttgart.
D. Meier, Landschaftsentwicklung und Siedlungsgeschichte des Eiderstedter und Dithmarscher Küstengebietes als Teilregionen des Nordseeküstenraumes (Bonn 2001)
Beseler, Kunst-Topographie Schleswig-Holstein (Neumünster 1969)
Braun, Strehl (eds.), Langhaus und Winkelbau. Uthlandfriesische Bauformen im 18. und 19. Jahrhundert (Bredstedt 1989)
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
Map of J. Mejer, 1648