Sustainable Cities™

Ikast: Past and present bring the lakeside to life

Between Silkeborg, Ikast and Herning on the Jutland Peninsular, Bølling Sø (sø = lake) is a focal point for the villages of Kragelund, Funder and Engesvang. For many years, the inhabitants were separated by a large area of marshland, but thanks to the re-establishment of Denmark’s only lake on the watershed, they have now been reunited. This was celebrated with the culture project ”Watershed – traces, fuss and play”, which focuses on cultural heritage, ancient monuments and natural resources.

Bølling Sø set fra oven, venligst udlånt af Torsten Sand Christensen fra Aiolos Luftfoto.

Bølling Sø originated from a kettle hole which formed in the last ice age. Well-known figures like the Tollund man and the Elling girl lived by its shores, where the remains of many settlements have been found. The lake which has been restored is a good deal larger than the 140 hectares Bølling Sø occupied from the Neolithic period until 1870, when exploitation of the peat around the lake began and with it the excavation of drainage canals. Peat production and the need for agricultural land eventually drained the lake, transforming the landscape into a marsh.

What makes Bølling Sø unique is that it is one of Denmark's highest lakes and the only one in the country to be situated directly on a watershed. That is to say that water from the lake flows both east and west. No water courses flow into the lake, which is supplied from subterranean springs, from rainwater and the surrounding fields. Today, Bølling Sø covers an area of around 360 hectares and has a circumference of 12 kilometres.

With the lake as a local rallying ground for shared local history and natural resources, the "Watershed" culture project has been launched. It runs until the end of 2010 and involves numerous events on and around Bølling Sø, including walks and workshops that include storytelling, information about the countryside, mud baths and making snaps seasoned with local herbs. School students and volunteers got together to make a replica of a Stone Age log boat and passers-by have been encouraged to lay a rock on the popular work of art, the Bølling Cairn, a constantly growing pile of stones marks the place where the three village boundaries meet.


The idea of restoring the lake goes back to 1970 when Liberal county councillor Thomas Poulsen of Ikast committed himself to re-establishing Bølling Sø. In 1973, Ringkøbing County Council presented a proposal for the re-establishment of the lake, which was not popular among local landowners, who used the marsh for recreation and hunting. In 1994, the first conservation proposal was presented by the Danish Forest and Nature Agency together with a restoration model. It was not until after a long approval process, citizens meetings and environmental impact assessment report that the project was finally launched. In 2004 the wetlands were dammed up at Kragelundsvej, after which the lake quickly began to form.

Bølling Sø is now a favourite haunt of water birds, and the rare black-necked grebe has been observed in the area. The lake is surrounded by meadows where grazing cattle keep the vegetation short, and on the northern shore remnants of an old raised bog, rarely seen in Denmark. Fish are considered likely to arrive of their own accord from Skygge Å, a small river which the lake runs into. A set of rules for use of the area has been drawn up - for example fishing and sailing are only permitted on the western side of the lake.

"The idea has always been for nature conservancy and enjoyment of the countryside to go hand-in-hand. For the birds it is extremely important to have a border of unbroken reed beds, grazing meadows and a "blue strip" and so on in which the soil is very wet at the edge of the lake. For people who want to enjoy the countryside it is a nuisance to have houses right down at the water's edge, for which reason a preservation zone has been established around the lake." - Torben Bøgeskov, nature guide with the Danish Forest and Nature Agency in Feldborg State Forest District.  

Negative consequences of the restoration project

However, there have been a number of negative consequences of the restoration of Bølling Sø. The environmental impact report of May 2000 points out, for example, that the rare marsh fleawort (Tephroseris palustris), which grew in the middle of the marsh could not be transferred to the edge of the future lake and might well die out. Filling the lake has also flooded traces of 10 Stone Age settlements and 130 ha of agricultural land.

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014