From Nr. Snede to Givskud there is a beautiful conservation area through which the Hærvej passes. You can see the great watershed, where the longest river in Denmark, the Gudenå and the largest in water volume, Skjernå, both have their sources, only a few hundred meters apart.
The journey will also bring you past Denmark’s largest oak forest, an Iron Age fortification and a Middle Ages pilgrim church. You should also take a diversion to the beautiful area near Rørbæk Lake, west of the Hærvej.
A few kilometers west of the route is the magnificent scenery around Rørbæk Lake, where you can find hilly terrain with steep slopes, heath lands, juniper bushes and plantations. There are many excellent hiking paths, which offer a wonderful view over the lake, where you can also find campfire and grill facilities, a landscape exhibition and a small cafeteria. South of the lake is the public building Ballesbækgård. You can also take a relaxing canoe trip on Skjernå River.
On the stretch between Koutrup and Tinnet Krat, around 4 km of the Hærvej is nature conservation area, and the route winds through a quiet landscape with woods, heath and meadows. At Koutrupgård, which used to be one of the old wayside inns, a nature centre has been opened, with a nature school and campsite. The area has a large network of hiking trails.
The sources of the Gudenå and Skjernå
A kilometer west of the Hærvej lie the sources of the Gudenå and Skjernå rivers, which are only a few hundred meters apart. The Skjernå River starts in a small lake and runs westward, becoming Denmark’s largest river before finishing in Ringkøbing Fjord. The Gudenå River has its start in an impressive spring site, running first towards the east and then later northwards, when it empties 160 km later in Randers Fjord, making it the longest river in the country.
The woodlands west of the Hærvej on this stage, are the largest single connected oak forest in the country. Oak has been part of Denmark’s natural flora, long before beech trees were found. Oaks are often found with several trunks, which is the result of the growth of new shoots, after having been cut down many years ago. Today, the forest is composed mostly of 40 - 60 year old tree trunks, while their roots may be several hundred years old. Part of the forest is maintained as nature conservation woodland.
Immediately south of Tinnet is the “Margrethediget”, a 150 meter long defensive dike constructed perpendicular to the Hærvej. It is not known when the dike was built, or which Margrethe was responsible for it. Remains of weapons and stone fireplaces have been found, and in the dike itself, even an iron cannonball. King Frederik VII erected the conservation stone in 1861.
St. Peter Spring
Lying 127 meters above sea level, Øster Nykirke is one of Denmark’s highest situated churches and is an easily identified landmark on the route. The church was built as a pilgrims church in 1150-1200 next to the holy St. Peter spring, where many sought healing. In the spring itself, which today is surrounded by a copy of a Middle Ages well top, pottery fragments have been found, presumably from sacrifices. The water is now still and not very inviting.
South of Øster Nykirke, the road passes a granite way marker from 1856. The town Kollemorten, just like the Danish feast “Morten’s Eve” is named after “Cold Bishop Martin” - St. Martin of Tours.
On the road towards Givskud, the Hærvej crosses open farmland with small woodland thickets. Some of the Hærvej trails south of Givskud are not accessible for either walkers or bicyclists, as they are in fact in Givskud Zoo, and access is restricted - for obvious reasons - to those in motor vehicles.
TO THE NEXT STAGE: GIVSKUD - BINDEBALLE