Cultural Entities 

Seestermüher / Haseldorfer Marsch

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1. Overview


Seestermüher und Haseldorfer Marsch or solely Haseldorfer Marsch for the whole area


River marshes of county of Pinneberg, separated by Krückau River from neighbouring entity Krempermarsch and Wilster Marsch in the north, southern border is marked by Pleistocene cliff at Wedel, divided by Pinnau River into Seestermüher Marsch and Haseldorfer Marsch


7.5 km²

Location - map:

Elbe River marshes of county of Pinneberg, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Origin of name:

Derived from former name of river of Krückau (Seester) and village Haseldorf in the marshland area

Relationship/similarities with other cultural entities:

Structures of wetland colonisation like Dithmarschen, Wilster Marsch and Krempermarsch

Characteristic elements and ensembles:

Rows of medieval dwelling mounds with adjacent elongated strips of land intersected by parallel drainage ditches, irregular, medieval dike lines and canals, block fields cut by river inlets in polders close to the Elbe River, drainage facilities like sluices and pumping stations, German bay hall houses

2. Geology and geography

2.1 General
The geological basis of the area is formed by the high moraines of the Geest of Saale ice age origin, levelled and cut by the valley of the Elbe River during the last glaciation. A dune ridge formed in post glacial times parallel to the moraines, probably stretching from Wedel till Kollmar in the north. This barrier and higher marshland along river banks kept river and North Sea water largely at bay, fostering the emergence of bogs in the hinterland between dunes and moraines till it was eventually eroded during medieval times when the Elbe River shifted its course eastwards. Only few remains of the dunes, as at Bishorst or Hetlingen, have survived. Marshland formed on top of the bogs but stayed low and wet, when high river banks and also man-made embankments formed a new barrier to flooding and sedimentation. At this time the river marshes in this area were already mostly under the influence of the Elbe River in contrast to the downstream entity of Krempermarsch and Wilster Marsch, which has remained more under marine conditions.  

2.2 Present landscape
The small area of the Seestermüher Marsch between Krückau River and Pinnau River and Haseldorfer Marsch between Pinnau River and the high moraines at Wedel are hardly above sea level (NN), have very little relief and are structured by winding lines of medieval and early modern dikes, roads along the courses of former dikes and irregular drainage canals. The fields are mostly divided by long and parallel ditches, orienting towards lines of farmsteads built on top of medieval dikes. Villages in the western part towards the river are more clustered with few small development areas. Land especially in the western polders is divided into more irregular but large scale blocks while the polders south of Haseldorf consist of small scale blocks of pastures. Especially the polders next to the Elbe River are still largely intersected by former tidal inlets, continuing into the marshland in front of the dikes, which is formed by river inlets, marshes and sand banks, partially grown with trees. Many fields are structured by low, parallel drainage ditches. Trees as vertical elements are planted along roads and around settlements. The only taller constructions are churches, some taller buildings like manors and power lines. 

3. Landscape and settlement history 

3.1 Prehistoric and Medieval Times

First traces of settlement are few Stone Age finds as well as some relics of Roman Time on the remaining dunes like Bishorst and Hetlinger Schanze. The situation of human occupation of the area during late Roman Time, the Migration Period and the early Middle Ages is actually unknown, but it is considered that settlement has continued at least on the higher dunes and river banks and even on some early dwelling mounds in early medieval times. Only from the 12th century on, we have again knowledge of some places like the castle of Haseldorf. Early embankments, probably ring dikes around villages close to the river, are also recorded from this time. Ample traces of dikes north-east of Haseldorf or the Sonnendeich in the Seestermüher Marsch may well belong to this stage and indicate the embankment of the wetland between high river banks and Geest. The Saxon settlers started to raise dwelling mounds for their farms and villages. The early settlements with their irregular fields, which were mostly situated on the elevated grounds towards the Elbe River, became severely threatened by the shift of the river’s course in direction to the Haseldorfer Marsch, gradually eroding the dune barrier and the high river banks. The village of Ichhorst, probably close to modern Eckhorst, was thus already lost by 1200. Other villages like the predecessor of Seestermühe and Bishorst followed by the end of the 15th century.
The mostly unprotected marshes towards the Pleistocene Geest were low and often inundated, spotted with some permanent lakes. The rather irregular courses of actual canals stem from watercourses and river inlets which intersected the wetland. Also the courses of the rivers Krückau and Pinnau differed and it has to be assumed that they ran more southward, which still can be traced in canals leading from Klostersand towards the mouth of the Pinnau.

Alternating ditches and ridges for drainage (Grüppen) near the Krückau River. © ALSH

Vestiges of the early field systems may be seen in the irregular block patterns of the marshes east of Hetlingen. During the 12th century, the counts of Schauenburg started to introduce settlers from the area of the modern Netherlands in order to drain and cultivate the low wetlands. At this time the latest, a closed line of dikes must have protected the marshland from the river water. Unlike the situation in Dithmarschen, settlements were erected on lines of mounds following existing watercourses and older dikes as probably Schadendorf, Seester, Neuendeich and Kamperrege. Ditches were dug to separate and drain long strips of land. Their water flew into canals based on former watercourses which continued into the rivers. This structure has remained until today. New embankments protected against the water from the bogs adjacent to the Geest, like the road west of Kurzenmoor still indicates.
The oldest existing buildings are the late Romanesque church of Haseldorf, and the Gothic churches of Haselau, Seester and Seestermühe, the latter erected on a mound in the 15th century more inland after the old village of Seestermühe perished in the waves. The moat encircled sites of the manors of Seestermühe, Haselau and Haseldorf also date back to medieval times.

The Gothic church of Haselau. © ALSH

3.2 Early Modern Times
The Elbe River changed its course again during the 1500s, this time moving away from the shores of Seestermüher Marsch and Haseldorfer Marsch. Yet, in Seestermüher Marsch it had been attempted to regain marshland lost to the river already in the century before. The Altenfeldsdeich at Seestermühe was thus already finished by 1420, surely a prerequisite for the village to be rebuilt successfully. The Neunfeldsdeich followed at the end of the century and with the projecting polder of Esch a second line of dikes had been re-established before the high medieval embankments, nine decades later. A comparable development has not taken place in Haseldorfer Marsch. Drainage of the remaining bogs between the former wetlands and the Geest from the end of the 16th century on, like probably at Kurzenmoor, completed the cultivation of the area. Newly introduced windmills further improved the drainage situation. This was important as the narrowing of the Elbe River through embankments from both riversides and the rising of the high tide level led to further flood pressure on dikes and hinterland. Thus, the embankments yielded repeatedly, especially in 1634 and in 1717/20, when the whole of the marshland area became inundated. The dikes resisted the waters well into the 19th century, then heightened and enforced by stones and berms and additionally protected by the growing marshland in front. 
The Thirty Years‘ War brought considerable devastation to the place and left many buildings destroyed and dikes and ditches in bad repair. Consequently, most of the still extant farmhouses originate in the time following the war. The construction as North German bay hall house with wooden frame and thatched roof had been predominant in the area till the 19th century as examples like Hof Detjens, Am Altenfeldsdeich, and several others around Seestermühe relate. Smaller cottages for landless workers also survived, like the Bandreißerkate in Haseldorf. They were preferably built at the foot of a dike, as this land often belonged to the squires. A special development in farmhouse construction were extensions crossways to the main building, sometimes at both ends, from the 18th well into the 19th century, which were reserved for the use by parents. Far more representative is the manor of Seestermühe of 18th century origin.
In front of the polders, islands like Julssand and Pagensand had developed in the Elbe River and changed size and position constantly. Both islands mentioned were allegedly inhabited till the 19th century and mainly used for mowing reed. A fortification stood on the island of Hetlinger Schanze, which was named accordingly.

3.3 Modern Times
The flood of 1825 did relatively little harm to the embankments. Yet, they were raised again and more protection was gained by rows of willows in front of the dikes. This was important as larger ships required deepening of the navigation channel of the Elbe River resulting in an increasing water level. Dredged material was dumped on the foreland and the Sandberg on Pagensand. The classicistic Manor of Haseldorf was erected at the beginning of the century. Industrialization also led to structural changes in agriculture especially with new and larger brick-built farmsteads. The construction of the drawbridge at Neuendeich dates back to the end of the century. The northern part of the island of Pagensand was inhabited by a farmstead on a mound at the time. Parts of a dam to the southern part and embankments are still visible. Electric pumping stations and brick built sluices, like the Mühlendeichschleuse at Seesteraudeich, were introduced and deepening and widening of canals further improved the drainage situation.
The manor of Seestermühe embanked the large foreland in front of the dike in the early 20th century with a low dike, protecting against most floods during the year. Irregular ditches drained the water into parallel canals into the Elbe River. The Schallenhaus still tells of the extensive use by reed cutting of the wetland in front of the new polder, the Eschschallen, which had already developed during the 19th century. Further drainage measures after the Second World War deepened the canals again and fitted many fields with pipes.

The Eschschallen polder is embanked former foreland in front of the dike near Seestermühe.                  © VermA-SH

The Lohkuhle, maybe an old dike breech, collects the water for further transport via a new canal to a modern pumping station at Seesteraudeich. Other canals, like the one from Lauenrothsweg till Im Felde, were filled up. 

4. Modern development and planning

4.1 Land use
The catastrophic floods of 1953 and 1962 promoted further enforcement of the outer dikes and eventually the dike line was considerably straightened and shortened, totally cutting off the marshland in front of Seestermühe from the influence of the river. Large areas of foreland, sandbanks and even inlets of the Elbe River were likewise incorporated into a new large polder in front of the old dikes of the Haseldorfer Marsch by the end of the 1970ies. Also, river barriers blocked the rivers of Krückau and Pinnau.

Modern flood barrier across the mouth of the Krückau River. © ALSH

While the new polder at Seestermühe has since been used intensively by agriculture, the newly embanked area at Hetlingen was designated as nature protection area. The shift in perception concerning nature and environment protection within this short period of 10 years is best documented by the different uses. Most of the area of Haseldorfer Marsch with over 75% of the newly embanked parts in the south is pasture, while the predominant land use in Seestermüher Marsch is farming. Soil quality, which is superior in the northern part of the entity, strongly influences the agricultural land use.

4.2 Settlement development
The settled area has more or less remained in its historic confines along dikes and roads, with the exception of some modern development areas like in Mühlenwurth, Bei der Feldmühle, Haseldorf or in Hetlingen. But also modern installations like the waterworks of Hetlinger Schanze, sport fields or the golf course in Haselau have moved into previously uninhabited marshland. A building of the Manor of Haseldorf is now used as nature information centre. 

4.3 Industry and energy
No wind power generators exist or are planned in the area. The only larger industrial facilities are spacious waterworks on Hetlinger Schanze.

4.4 Infrastructure
No larger road construction project has cut the marshland besides already existing routes, even though roads have been modernized during the last decades. Small modern yacht harbours can be found near Hetlinger Schanze as well as behind the river barriers of the Krückau and Pinnau and along the Pinnau. A yacht harbour in front of the marshland of Wedel is exceptionally large in comparison to the others.

5. Legal and Spatial Planning Aspects

The whole entity is displayed as free space between strips of increased urban development radiating from the city of Hamburg. The area is also landscape protection area with most of it declared as especially suitable for recreation. All of the marshland in front of the outer dikes as well as most parts of the late polders in Haseldorfer Marsch are nature protection areas or designated as suitable for the purpose or have priority for connecting biotopes. The area of the entity is planned as water protection reservoir. The Krückau River is regarded as ecologically valuable and has to be kept free from building activities. Parts of the marshes south of this river are also recreational area. The landscape plan already gives a general model of the typical landscape of the entity, regarding the rivers with adjacent marshland as characteristic spaces and characterising the landscape of the entity as “nature-orientated”. The conservation of historical landscapes is seen as aim for nature protection and landscape conservation with many important landscape elements being listed. Only few monuments are on the monument list.


6. Vulnerabilities

Especially the Wedeler Elbmarsch, a small part of marshland adjacent to the Geest at Wedel in the south of the entity, is being stressed by an increasing amount of people from Hamburg seeking recreation. The development of cycling and walking paths is therefore important and needs to be co-ordinated with nature protection, sports, recreation and landscape conservation. The pressure exerted by the huge population of the city of Hamburg in order to display new development areas may lead to further areas that are not coherent within the traditional settlement structure. Yet, more modern houses on old embankments promote further levelling of these increasingly rare but important landscape elements. 

7. Potentials

In general, the historic structures and other landscape assets are already rather well protected by the entity’s status as landscape protection area in comparison to other places. Integration of landscape and cultural heritage development in recent county development planning could reduce and canalise the pressure of further urbanisation which is still present. The solution of a conflict between nature conservation and residents concerning the use of the unprotected foreland of the Seestermüher Marsch can help restore aspects of historical landscape and still give room for rare species of plants and animals. A new landscape trail around the village of Neuendeich emphasises historic landscape assets of the area and can increase the potential for recreation and information for visitors and residents likewise.

8. Sources

Author: Matthias Maluck

General literature:
Claus Ahrens. Vorgeschichte des Kreises Pinneberg und der Insel Helgoland. (Neumünster 1966)
Werner Prange, Die Bedeichungsgeschichte der Marschen in Schleswig-Holstein. In: Probleme der Küstenforschung im südlichen Nordseegebiet 16. (Hildesheim 1986) p.1-55
Otto Fischer. Landgewinnung und Landerhaltung in Schleswig-Holstein (Berlin 1957)
Angelin Isabell Piepke, Archäologisch-siedlungshistorische Landesaufnahme der Störmarsch im Kreis Steinburg, Schleswig-Holstein. Unpublished diploma thesis, Kiel 2004
Ministerium für Umwelt, Natur und Forsten des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (eds.). Landschaftsrahmenplan für den Planungsraum I. (Kiel 1998)
Innenministerium des Landes Schleswig-Holstein (eds.). Regionalplan für den Planungsraum V, Amendment File (Kiel 1998).
R. Tribbe, Neuendeich (Neuendeich 2000)
Danker-Carstensen, Dorfgeschichte Seestermühe (Seestermühe 2002)

Archaeological monument record of Schleswig-Holstein and gis mapping
Lancewad data base and gis maps
Royal Prussian ordnance survey of 1879
Topographisch Militärische Charte des Herzogtums Holstein (1789-1796)