After Denmark lost the second war of Schleswig a very large part of the most fertile Danish country were lost. To try to make up for the loss of 40 percent of the landmass and even more of the best agricultural land a large modernization project were undertaken starting in the 1870s. Large part of former wasteland was reclaimed as agricultural land.
All over Denmark they started to cultivate the moor which used to take up large parts of Jutland. Many bogs were drained and some areas with shallow waters were dammed and drained to be reclaimed from the sea. These project along with the modernization of the Danish agricultural industry meant Denmark suddenly became one of the most important agricultural centers in Europe and started a large export business of butter and bacon to the UK.
The work on reclaiming wasteland continued up until the 20th century. One of the last major projects was the straightening of Skjern Å and the draining of the large meadow which used to be around the river. This gave a lot of new land to farm but it had some significant adverse effects. The new straight river meant a lot of surplus fertilizer went into Ringkøbing Fjord – which significantly damaged the life under the water of the fjord.
Only about 20 years after the project of reclaiming land around Skjern Å was finally finished it was clear it had been a disaster for the environment and something had to be done. It took another decade to start the work on restoring the river and the meadow around the river.
The restoration has been a great success and the area around Skjern Å is now a great recreational area where people can come and enjoy the nature around the area. There are many birds living along the river and we saw many geese eating grass on the meadow during the spring. Apparently the fish has also returned to the river and it is an attractive area for people enjoying catching the dinner of the day themselves.
There are many small attractions along the river which make it a good place to explore on bike or by car depending on your preference. Bike is probably nicer but by car you have the chance to get around the whole area in a day which probably can’t be done on a bike unless you are ready for a very long day in the saddle. Some of the interesting places to visit is the pull ferry where you can cross the river on a boat – usually but not when we visited. Another couple of interesting places is the two largest wooden bridges in Denmark which were built just after the restoration of the river.