3.2 Cross section Misthusum-Wiedingharde


1. Map of


This North-South cross-section lies across the Danish-German border. The Danish part goes from the Ballum marsh to the border at Rudbøl. This example shows the part of Misthusum in the Ballum Marsh.

The North-South cross-section was chosen for the following reasons:

  • The life in and on the edge of the marsh is challenging. In Misthusum just south of the Rømø dam, there are remains of the most northern settlement on dwelling mounds that had to be given up, in the Wadden Sea area. There are eight dwelling mounds, one of them with a small cottage, Markmandshuset, where the shepherd lived. The dwelling mounds were given up due to flooding in 1814. These dwelling mounds are together with the Ballum inn, the Ballum sluice, the watering mill and the marsh area one cultural environment, an entity appointed by Sønderjyllands County.

  • The dike from Rømø and down through the marsh provides protection from nature catastrophes. The settlements along this dike are lying close to the Wadden Sea, sometimes protected directly by the dike, sometimes lifted up by dwelling mounds. This can be seen from a long distance, since the flat marsh provides a beautiful view over the landscape.

  • The municipalities in Sønderjylland are to become one municipality after 2007. Their task is to join their forces and administer the cultural environments of the marsh in Sønderjylland as a unified whole.

  • The cross section lies next to the Danish-German border. A border is a political and historical decision, but borders seldom take the nature into consideration. Therefore the Danish and German nature has much in common, and there might be common issues, which the politicians and landscape planners can solve in co-operation in the future.

2. Description

Misthusum in the Ballum Marsh is appointed cultural environment by the county of Sønderjylland.


Ballum Sluse (sluice) is along with the inn, the mill and Markmandshuset strong, visible marks in a flat, waste area, which otherwise is without any buildings. Ballum Sluse was built along with the inn and the dike by Russian prisoners of war. The project  protect s the Ballum marsh from flooding.


You can see Markmandshuset from a long distance. The walking path “Æ Markmandssti” leads to the last remaining cottage on the eight dwelling mounds in Misthusum. This cottage was built for the sheep shepherd in the marsh. 


The mill was built in 1836 in order to retrieve drinking water to the cattle and sheep. Inside is a small museum, and the Archimedes snails, which retrieved the water, still exist.

3. SWOT-analysis

For Misthusum a SWOT-analysis will have to consider the following aspects:


  • The dike, the inn, the sluice, the dwelling mounds and the Markmandshuset are strong, visible marks of partly deserted buildings and settlements in the marsh.

  • The area has a rich bird life, which attracts ornithologists.

  • The history of Misthusum is gently promoted to inhabitants and tourists through the walking path.

  • The flat marsh provides a genuine wide view over the marsh.

  • The dike protects the present cultural heritage.


  • Maintenance of the dike and the area is demanded. It is very vulnerable to pollution, since you will see everything in this open area.

  • The area is financially vulnerable, so the planners could be tempted by investors with large (building) plans.

  • Nature is vulnerable to ecological changes and too many tourists.


  • For the promotion of this area it is important to stress that the area creates a unified whole, a cultural environment.

  • Misthusum is historically and culturally important as the most northern settlement on dwelling mounds in the Wadden Sea area, where you had to leave the area.

  • Notice the importance as ecological and natural habitat for birds and other animals.

  • Maintaining the dike and the sluices is preserving nature.

  • Attract tourists to the surroundings, which will benefit from this cultural pearl in the marsh.


  • Natural catastrophes like flooding, hurricanes and rising sea level threatens the whole Wadden Sea area.

  • The rising sea level threats the farmers and the marsh.

  • New buildings will regardless of their size, outlook or placement destroy the overall view of the marsh around Misthusum and Ballum Sluse

4. Conclusion

The flat, waste landscape of Misthusum is one of the few larger, coherent areas in the Danish Wadden Sea areas, which creates such an impression. Protected by the dike, drained and cultivated by man, Misthusum is home for a varied bird life and only a few people. The regional authorities recognises this and has protected the area through legislation. Nature, which is a threat to the people, has been tamed via the dike and the sluice. The sluice, the inn, the mill and the cottage are the only buildings in a wide range, all built in red bricks, and therefore they create a unified whole in the landscape.

The settlement here had to be abandoned, and the inhabitants of the marsh moved into the geest. Further to the south, settlements have succeeded in the marsh, placed on dwelling mounds and protected behind the dikes.

The influence from the neighbours has always been present, and in the marsh you will see buildings inspired by the German and Dutch style. The Frisian influence is rather big in the Danish Wadden Sea area.

The future development is challenging for the Wadden Sea area, but we can learn from one another and thus protect the common cultural heritage for all of us.




5. Characterization


The Alte Wiedingharder Koog stretches to the south of the Danish border with its remaining dikes like at Rodenäs and dwelling mounds, which still indicate the size of the marshy island in medieval times and the old Hallig structure of former times. These remains exist alongside younger villages and roads which were built on embankments which had been out of use. The Gotteskoog in the east, used to be a large boggy area that had to be extensively drained in the 20th century to allow for the straight field and road structure as well as the scarce settlements along the roads.

The Emil-Nolde-Museum, Seebüll

Earlier settlements could only exist on mounds which are still scattered around. The Emil-Nolde-Museum at Seebüll for example, was built on an old dwelling mound. Nowadays, there are some afforested areas, where the former central lake used to be, close to the modern Bundesgaarder See. The geest core of Risummoor stands out of its marshy environment like an island. The city of Niebüll dominates the place, now hosting the Frisian museum and the natural history museum. Here is the train station and starting point of the Hindenburgdamm track which connects Sylt to the main land and which virtually cuts the area in half.
The marshland, south and west, consists of single former Halligen like Fahretoft, Galmsbüll and the modern harbor of Dagebüll which had not been connected to the main land far into the 18th century and hence have retained much of their original character. The settlements along roads and former embankments also represent later stages. The harbor of Dagebüll is the only one in the southern part of this cross-section and also the main connection of the islands of Amrum and Föhr to the mainland. Its largely modernized appearance veils the original Hallig structure. Throughout the area, wheels are still frequently visible as traces of dike breeches and “Späthinge” as indications to their building.

Church in Rodenäs

Rimberti church, Emmelsbüll

A small number of brick-built Gothic churches with separate wooden belfries is still to be found in Rodenäs, Horsbüll, Neukirchen or Klanxbüll while barock churches stand in Gammelsbüll, Dagebüll and Niebüll. The typical traditional buildings for the area can be found in the Frisian or Utland houses like the Charlottenhof. 

House near the Emil-Nolde-Museum, Seebüll

Andersen house

These farm houses with thatched roofs are often connected to stables and barns into a square, 4-sided structure like the Nahnhof. The oldest known example is the Axen house in Lindholm.


6. SWOT-analysis:



During the 20th century, several developments, movements and programs like the “Programm Nord” in the 50ies to 70ies have altered the traditional settlement structure and way of building considerably. Especially the more recent ones were oriented towards a more international style or picked up traditional elements which were then mixed with other influences to create a rather random and disharmonic impression. Even though the population has only slightly increased in recent years, the tendency is still strong to build new houses outside the traditional villages and settlement areas. The communities themselves develop the overall plans for larger regions into definite, local spatial plans. They also issue the regulations for new buildings and alterations of old houses and have to approve building applications.

Spatial planning could restrict the declaration of new housing estates and pay more attention to the integration of new buildings and estates into the traditional patterns. As there is enough interest in the classical way of building in the area, regulations and later building owners should seek a more harmonic way of combining modern interests and materials with the original style of the Frisian houses.

Settlements are developing further into clusters of newly built houses with no relationship to the surrounding landscape. Buildings themselves are either of an international, industrialized style without local aspects or cite local styles in inappropriate ways.



Modern industrialized agriculture and especially the new structure of the agricultural landscape through the “Programm Nord” has altered the appearance of the landscape like no other single development in recent decades. The arable land was combined to larger entities to allow for a sufficient yield for the single farm and effectiveness. Many farmers left the villages for new and larger spaces, for their farmsteads outside on their farmland. The drainage of wide areas especially the Gotteskoog was largely improved in order to avoid the seasonal flooding from inland water.

The quality of the soil is often exceptional. New developments in agriculture towards sustainable, ‘organic’ production or the possibilities of reusable energy from organic materials could influence the agricultural use of the land in order to provide good income and at the same time support traditional small-scale field structures and therefore help to preserve the cultural landscape.

Farmers feel forced to create ever larger units of fields and farms to optimize costs, a development which promotes a uniform appearance with no regard to historic developments. Globalization, nevertheless, raises  the pressure on farmers to optimize costs as long as they produce for the mass market. This could support the trend among many farmers to give up their profession.



Natural history museum, Niebüll

The Emil-Nolde museum in Seeland and the Richard-Haizmann museum as well as the natural history museum in Niebüll attract many visitors. The open-air museum in Niebüll is one of many examples of a traditional house turned into a museum. The tourist information centre in Klanxbüll combines an exhibition with actual information for tourists. An open-air Museum in Neukirchen displays the history of dike building.  Tourism is still mainly operating on a daily, short-term and small scale basis, which is neither able to support the local economy sufficiently in the long term and foster a sustainable development nor capable of fully taking advantage of the natural and cultural resources for recreation, wellness, sports and more.

Sustainable tourism does not interfere with the landscape in a negative sense but gains from an intact scenery. Especially historic buildings could be maintained by using them for  tourist purposes like hotels, apartments or museums.

Large scale tourism could alter and influence the landscape itself in a manner that is leading to a degradation of value of the cultural landscape. This hazard is especially connected with the building of new apartments or modernization of infrastructure like harbors.



The “Programm Nord” has also led to a considerable amount of new roads and the modernization of old gravel roads. The link to modern means of transport is still largely underdeveloped. The Hindenburgdamm, built in 1927, is the only train connection of the area. The closest highway is about 50 km away. The harbor of Dagebüll only serves as a ferry harbor.

A careful improvement without the construction of many new roads and tracks could contribute to the economic development, especially of modern business and tourism.

Road construction on a large scale or a motorway cut through the landscape with no regard to the traditional infrastructure is promoting the dissection of the landscape.



Wind power plants

Historically, the area had never seen any kind of industrial facilities. In recent times this has changed with the introduction of wind powered generators on an ever larger scale which have changed the horizontal appearance of the landscape considerably. Also single, small scale facilities like the one of the mussel desanding facility in Emmelsbüll have been built.

Small estates with buildings that integrate into the landscape could provide for a better employment situation without disturbing the cultural landscape.

Large industrial plants like the oil refinery outside the cross-section near Wesselburen in Dithmarschen do not only disturb the aspects of the landscape but threaten the area by potential accidents like the disaster of the Pallas near Amrum in ‘98. New and large scale wind turbine power plants could be built in areas which are undisturbed so far.



Dagebüll harbor

The harbor of Dagebüll has  continually been modernized and the opening of the new wharf in 2002 marked the most recent step of its transformation into a ferry harbor of the latest generation with expansive parking areas and up-to-date facilities and buildings.

Adaptations could give the harbor a more local appearance with typical harbor-like features which better fits in the area. The harbor could become a real gate into the Wadden Sea and Hallig area where tourists and also locals spend their time and which is part of the attractions of Dagebüll.

Additional extensions and constructions, not related to local traditions, will alienate the place further from its vicinity.