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Nature and cultural heritage

Kristianstads Vattenrike is indeed a very rich area with its wetlands, streaming rivers, dry grasslands and forests. No less than 35 different species of fish have been caught in the River Helgeå and 225 species of birds have been observed in the area. More than 100 of these species, several of them in the national redlist of endangered species, nest within or adjacent to the wetlands.

Djur och växter i Vattenriket
Photo: Some of the plants and animals associated with the wetland area of Kristianstads Vattenrike. Fen Ragwort  (Senecio paludosus)  / Blacktailed Godwit  (Limosa limosa) / Sheatfish  (Silurus glanis) All photos Patrik Olofsson/N. 


White tailed Eagle
The white-tailed eagle is a common
sight in winter even in the towncenter
of Kristianstad.
Photo Patrik Olofsson/N

Many endangered, rare and sensitive species of birds can be found in the region. These include the majority of Skåne's Black-tailed Godwits (Limosa limosa), the Ruffs (Philomachus pugnax) and the Southern Dunlin (Calidris alpina schinzii), which places great demands on its breeding environment, and the Garganey (Anas querquedula) which is a sensitive duck dependent on cultivation. 

Among the birds which can be found in the lakes and reeds are several endangered species such as the Montagu's harrier (Circus pygargus) and Black tern (Chlidonias niger). In certain years almost half of Sweden's breeding Black terns can be found in the region. On their spring and autumn flights, hundreds of Whooper swans (Cygnus cygnus), thousands of ducks and cranes and between 15 and 20 thousand geese rest here.  At this time, the white-tailed eagle (Haliaetus albicilla) can regularly be seen flying over Kristianstad.

vA complete list of the birds in the Ramsar-convention site along the lower reaches of Helgeån, Kristianstads Vattenrike is avaliable here as a pdf-file.  Compiled by Hans Cronert.



Silurus glanis
, the Sheatfish,
disappeared from the River
Helge å in 1960s, but has been
re-introduced 1999.

Photo Patrik Olofsson/N


The fish fauna has not yet been studied in detail but a preliminary inventory, performed in cooperation with the County Administrative Board's Fishery Department in the spring of 1992, shows that the area is very rich in fish. 

It has been established that there are at least 35 different species of fish in the area. Gudgeon (Gobio gobio), loach (Noemacheilus barbatulus), sheatfish (Siluris glanis) and others have been caught here. These species are included in a survey of the five rarest species of fish in Sweden, called Artedi.

Both seatrout (Salmo trutta) and salmon (Salmo salar) migrate up through the Helgeån to Torsebro. Ide (Leuciscus idus) has been caught for many years just downstream from the power station at Torsebro. Even the very rare fresh and brackish water fish, Pelecus cultratus (a kind of carp), has been caught recently in Lake Hammarsjön. Linné's notes show that plenty of Pelecus cultratus were caught in the Helgeån during the 18th century. 


Other fauna

Bufo calamita
The Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita).
Photo: Sven-Erik Magnusson

On sandy ground close to water you can still hear the rare Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita). 

Another really old resident of the Helgeån's catchment area is the River pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera). The mussels in the area are the subject of an on-going international research project.


Fen Ragwort
The Fen Ragwort
(Senecio paludosus) by the fringe
of the  River Helge å.

Photo: Patrik Olofsson/N

Since Linnés time, the flora of the region has been the subject of much attention. Of the fen ragwort  (Senecio paludosus) or bird's tongue, which is richer in number here than anywhere else in the Nordic countries, he writes on his visit to Kristianstad: 

"Never before have I seen this herb in Sweden..."

Even the rare Lesser Marshwort (Apium inundatum) and Pillwort (Pilularia globulifera), which Linné also found here, are still in evidence. The combination of good natural conditions and cultivated meadows gives the area considerable botanical qualities. Species which can be named in this context are the green Musk Orchid (Herminium monorchis), the Fen Orchid (Liparis loeselii) and the Marsh Helleborine (Epipactis palustris) and two species which need special cultivation, the Dune Gentian (Gentianella ulignosa) and the Adder's tongue (Ophioglossum vulgatum).



A cultural landscape

Grazed wet grasslands at Pulken / Rotational farming on sandy grasslands between Åhus and Ripa / Juniper dotted grazing land at Kungsoran
  All photos: Sven-Erik Magnusson

The area around the lower reaches of the River Helgeån is a rich cultural landscape. Here, you will find ruins of majestic buildings and other structures. Most interesting however is the fact that a living agricultural landscape still exists, rich in the cultural landscape's flora and fauna. 

Buildings and other structures

Very early in history, humans made their way up along the lower, wide valley of the Helgeån. The region's vast number of ancient monuments tells its own story. High ground close to wetlands and the coast has always had a special attraction for humans. Such areas often offer a good combination of defence, communication and food. 

Aosehus CastleIn Åhus harbour, you can find the remains of Aosehus castle, which dates from the middle of the 12th century. From the castle on the hill, situated at the only mouth of the Helgeån at that time, Archbishop Eskil had the perfect opportunity to control trade and communications between the sea in the south and the forest in the north.



LilloAbout 20 km upstream lie the ruins of another castle complex, Lillö Castle. In its heyday, this five storey high castle was even bigger than Glimminge hus in the south of Sweden. Lillö Castle was built on a low hill of solid ground and surrounded by protective, far-reaching wetlands. 
Every year still, the flooded meadows around Lillö are amass with black-tailed godwits (Limosa limosa), shovelers (Anas clypeata), garganeys (Anas querquedula) and many other species of wetland bird. The medieval defence strategy of erecting castles in wetlands is still very much in evidence here. 

TorsebroTorsebro, situated in the far north of the area, has been a centre of energy production for many centuries. Previously, the fast-flowing Helgeån provided the energy for a large number of mills, both flour mills, sawmills, gunpowder stamping mills and bone meal stamping mills. There are no bone meal stamping mills left, but millstones, rolling-mills, storehouses, safety dikes etc. can still be found, spread out over the beautiful park where a gunpowder factory once stood and which borders on the old rapids of the river. 

Since 1909 most of the water has been channelled underground through a tunnel to a generator in order to create electricity. Nowadays the old river channel is however never quite completely dried up and at high tide you can still experience the magnitude of the old rapids. Just upstream from the old road bridge, one of the old flour mills has been restored in keeping with past traditions and has a small café. The old storehouse close to the river channel, which is also a relic from the region's former mill days, has been given a new lease of life with the help of the local village community. In Torsebro, the river's energy is constantly being used in new ways. 

An agricultural landscape

Just like in many other parts of the country, the farmers of the countryside around Kristianstad have, for many centuries, regarded the annually flooded meadows as a very important part of their farmland. More than a dozen villages border on the wetlands along the Helgeån, downstream from Torsebro. The villages are situated rather high up and on dry land but are still close to the wetlands.

Still the wetlands are used for haymaking.
Photo: Patrik Olofsson /N

Hay, harvested on the meadows (there was indeed very little hay otherwise due to the extreme dryness and high sand content of the soil) was transported up to the barns in the villages and was used as fodder for the animals during the winter. 
In the spring, manure was spread out on the sandy, rather infertile fields. Natural fertilisation of the lakeside meadows by the annual floods was utilised by transferring hay to the barns and then via the animal dung to the fields to enrich the soil, helping crops to grow. We usually say that the lakeside meadow is "the mother of the field". 

Some of the soil was so infertile that cultivation was only possible with several years in between. The soil lay fallow in the meantime and livestock was driven across it by farm lads and lasses. This so-called "rotational farming", where only a fraction of the land is cultivated every year, was described by among others Linné on his trip from Åhus to Kristianstad in the summer of 1749. 

Ripa sandar. Photo: Sven-Erik Magnusson

You can experience this special type of landscape, which was previously very common on parts of the Kristianstad plain, if you take the road which passes the Ripa sands, cross the Helgeån at Härnestad bridge and then continue on towards Lyngby.






With the cultivation of parts of the Kristianstad plain by farmers, a bond has been formed over the centuries between the wet and drylands. We have to understand this bond. Otherwise we will not be able to increase our knowledge of the development and hence not be able to care for this unique, modern-day coupling between marshy meadow land and sandy ground, which is a integral part of the area.