Gråsten Cove

Take a walk in the past


It is located on the southern side of Ærø. Together with the meadows Skovsøen and Nørreholm it constitutes the largest stretch of meadow land in the Fyn area.

Gråsten Nor was originally a large shallow area of sea that divided Ærø into two parts with a frail connection along the sea on the south side and with ferries running between Kragnæs and Grønnæs. In 1856, the dike from Kragnæs to Grønnæs was constructed and the large meadow area was drained.

Today, Gråsten Nor lies one to two metres below sea level. When the dike was constructed, the water was directed into a dug out channel with dikes along the northern edge of the cove. Today, the water is mainly channelled from Skovsøen and the cove along trenches and ditches to the landpriel, which runs centrally north-south in the cove.

Pumping ensures that there is no standing water under normal circumstances in Gråsten Nor. It means that the entire area may be used for cropping and hay making.

Habitat description

The dominant type of nature is permanent grass on freshwater and salt meadow. In the middle of the cove lies a well grown broadleaved forest, Norskoven. A broad belt called Drejskoven has been planted along the main road to the south. The interchange between cropping in the summer and flooding during winter and spring creates good growth conditions for many rare plants. By way of example 20–25,000 protected broad-leaved marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. Majalis) bloom there in early summer. You will also find a small population of the endangered dune gentian (Gentianella uliginosa). Additionally, you have ragged-robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi), lesser hawkbit (Leontodon saxatilis), red bartsia (Odontites vulgaris), and eyebright (Euphrasia sp.).

On the salt meadows you can find seaside arrowgrass (Triglochin maritima), sea rush (Juncus maritimus), salt sandspurry (Spergularia salina), and common saltmarsh-grass (Puccinellia maritima). Overall, the growth conditions and the selection of plants make the area a very unique location especially for botanists.

Sometimes you can hear the very rare Corn Crake (Crex crex). The Breeding birds include Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) and the quite rare European Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola). During the migration period, several geese and Common Curlew (Numenius arquata) as well as Eurasian Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus) rest here.


Gråsten Nor has a very high value, particularly due to it being a habitat for rare plants, including the very large population of broad-leaved marsh orchids (Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. Majalis) and the presence of the extremely rare dune gentian (Gentianella uliginosa).

Protection and legislation

Gråsten Nor is nationally protected by the Nature protection legislation §3, which has the purpose of protecting the salt and freshwater meadows. The presence of broad-leaved marshorchid (Dactylorhiza majalis ssp. majalis) is also protected.

The area is also part of Natura 2000 area 127, habitat area H111, South Fyn Archipelago and Bird Sanctuary F71. 

Public access

The paths in Gråsten Nor are a part of the project Sport in the Landscape. The route is 8 km long and takes the visitors through most of the cove. The path can be accessed from the parking lot by Drejet and by Ærø Flyveplads (Airfield). Brochures containing info on the area flora and fauna have been placed at the parking lot by Drejet. On the dikes on either side of the cove, you also have ample opportunity to get a view of the water, and from the northern part of the dike you can also look out across the cove.

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