Thagaard's Plantation – Thisted, Denmark - Atlas Obscura
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Thisted, Denmark

Thagaard's Plantation

A failed attempt to control drifting sands yielded a gnarled sylvan wonderland. 

In the 18th and the 19th centuries, the northwestern Jutland district of Thy was experiencing desertification, with driving North Sea winds blowing migrating dunes ever further inland, covering once-fertile agricultural land. The Danish government devised a strategy of planting forests on the shifting sands to halt their progress — a strategy which eventually worked, after some (ultimately picturesque) trial and error.

One of the earliest such plantations was undertaken in 1816 and was named after Lauritz Thagaard, Denmark’s official “sand drift commissioner.” The project saw the introduction of Commons spruce, birch, Scotch pine, alder, European aspen, and willow trees to the area. However, the relentless winds, damp salt air, frosts, and local sheep eager to munch tender saplings made for tough going for the nascent forest.

A plantation keeper was introduced in 1817 to look after the young trees, and dykes and ditches were constructed to protect them from the unforgiving climate, but it was all in vain; the project was abandoned in 1842. Though a failure, the lessons learned led to the more successful Tvorup dune plantations of the 1850s, which saw a hardier mountain pines take root and carpet the inhospitable dunes in a stable evergreen forest.

It wasn’t only the land conservation project that was eventually a success, however. Many birch and spruce trees from Thagaard’s Plantation managed to survive and eventually thrive, growing slowly but surely and becoming gnarly and crooked from the prevailing winds. Now, the nearly 200-year-old birch and fir trees form a unique, unexpected, and uncanny forest on the dune-filled Danish coast. Remnants of the keeper’s cottage can also still be seen, as well as a restaurant that served visitors in the last 19th century. There are easily accessible 450m and 2km walking routes.

Know Before You Go

Access from the the rest area just north of the crossing Tvorupvej/Bøgsted Rendevej and Kystvejen.