nst.dk uses cookies to make the site simpler.Find out more about cookies

History - Rold Skov


The geological history of Rold Skov forest

Rold Skov forest is on a high-lying moraine plateau, formed by the ice more than 18,000 years ago. The landscape is divided north to south by the large river valley of Lindenborg Å. West of the river valley the terrain is characterised by hills, while towards the east, there are numerous gullies, small hills, drainless holes, etc. The extreme difference in terrain between the bottom of the river valley (10 metres above sea level) and the top of the moraine (60-80 metres above sea level) has had great influence on the development of the landscape.

The false hills at Rebild

During and following the end of the Ice Age, multiple deep erosion valleys were carved in the border zone between the valley and the plateau, and these form Rebild Bakker. The ice left a wavy landscape with large quantities of melting ice. As the land was not yet covered in vegetation, the water easily dug new channels as it flowed towards the river valley already formed. Therefore, from the west, Rebild Bakker is merely hills with valleys such as Store and Lille Stendal, Hørgdalen, Pallisdal etc. cut into the high land. During the melt after the Ice Age, for a period a large lump of ice formed a cork in the Gravlevdalen valley with the effect that the material washed down material was deposited in the lake along the edge of the ice. As the ice melted, new layers were deposited and these are now seen as horizontal terraces in several levels at the foot of Rebild Bakker. The house of the poacher, Lars Kjær, is on one of these terraces.

The hidden landscape

The ice left behind a well-drained, hilly landscape with soil consisting mostly of sand, gravel and rocks, which were the ideal basis for the future forest. Despite this, the landscape underneath the thin Ice Age strata has had the most profound significance for the landscape and nature in the Rold Skov area. The subsoil of Rold Skov forest consists of white chalk and limestone from the end of the Cretaceous Period and the beginning of the Tertiary Period, 65 million years ago. Chalk and limestone can be seen in many places in the overlying layers, for example at the Skillingbro Kalkgrav and the Thingbæk limestone mines or at Lille Blåkilde. The limestone deposits have had a great impact on the formation of the landscape, the soil, and thus on plant growth in the forest.

Studies show that the Lindenborg Ådal river valley was formed by movements in the earth's crust along faults. The valley probably already existed in the Tertiary Period and was merely trimmed in its current form by the advancing ice and melt water. The faults are part of a large network parallel to the Scandinavian peninsula bedrock. Violent movements in the earth's crust throughout millions of years have pushed chalk and limestone up from more than 1 kilometre beneath the surface and removed the overlying layers. The Lindenborg Å stream is merely a “crack” in this gigantic system where limestone deposits locally might have sunk down or merely been so crushed that they were easily removed by water and advancing ice.

Springs and sinkholes

There are rifts in the chalk and limestone because of the movements of the earth's crust and, later, due to the pressure of the ice. This means that rainwater very quickly disappears into the subsoil to the primary groundwater aquifer found in the millions of adjoining rifts. The rifts also enable very rapid, horizontal, underground water flow towards the steep slopes of the river valley. Here the water pushes out near the foot of the steep slope as abundant springs which are among the largest in Northern Europe: Lille Blåkilde, Ravnkilde, Kovads Bæk, Rold Kilde, Gravlev Kilde, Ersted Vælder, etc. If an aquitard of clay or mud in the river valley forms a “lid” on the spring water, this may come under pressure. If the lid is broken e.g. by a pipe, the water will spurt out under the pressure like at “Springkilden” or “Skillingbro Kilde”.

The calcareous subsoil in the Rold Skov forest also explains the so-called sinkholes. When rainwater permeates the forest soil with rotting plant parts, it is acidified by humic acids. The acidified water seeps down through the rifts in the soil and dissolves the chalk. When the chalk is dissolved, holes are formed which can suddenly collapse. Holes of 4-5 meters in diameter are common in the Nørreskoven forest.

One of the largest cone-shaped sinkholes is called “Hestegraven”. The name is from a legend about a bridal couple who drove here at midnight. Suddenly the ground collapsed beneath them and the couple vanished without a trace with their horse and carriage. This story is also known from elsewhere and is known as a migratory legend.

A more believable story is perhaps that Hestegraven was used to hide horses from the Germans when they arrived during the war in 1864 and that the place was since called Hestegraven (horse pit).

The nearby “Røverstuen” is another sinkhole and one of the largest in the forest at 12 meters deep and 35 meters in diameter. Legend says that the hole used to be the hideout of a gang of robbers. The sinkhole was a good hiding place close to the forest road, Roldvej, west of the hole. Back then Roldvej was the country road through the forest from Rold to Skørping. The robbers would make tripwires across the road and into the hole, where bells would alert them of travellers passing through.

The inlet in the forest

When the kilometre-thick ice across Denmark pushed down on the earth's crust so that the ice melted, the Stone Age sea permeated low-lying land and the valleys of the glacial landscape. When the Stone Age sea was at its highest, 6500 years ago, the beach came up to the foot of Rebild Bakker which was covered by impenetrable old-growth forest. A narrow inlet stretched from Kattegat in the east and Limfjorden in the north through an archipelago into the Gravlevdalen valley, as the Lindenborg Å stream is called locally. The Stone Age inlet was the site of the first settlement by people in Rold Skov forest where, in the edge of the river valley, layers of Stone Age villages have been found.

Stone Age farmers

In the Neolithic period, the cutting down of the forest began, most likely towards the open countryside of the river valley. The slash-and-burn method of agriculture was used, meaning that the trees were cut down and then the twigs and brushwood were burned. In the nutrient-rich ashes, primitive kinds of wheat such as one-grained wheat and amelcorn were grown. After a few years, the soil was impoverished and a new plot of the forest had to be cut down whilst the old fields became grazing grounds or returned to forest again. So far, no settlements from the Neolithic period have been found, but the sepulchral monuments give us an indication of where the farmers lived. In the Nørreskoven forest near the river valley, there are several burial mounds, probably from the early Neolithic period.

The very first burial mounds are almost 6000 years old and began a custom which lasted for the next 5000 years; building a grave mound of soil and rocks. We must imagine that most of the construction was a carefully orchestrated process that demanded the participation of the whole community. The grave mound was built to be seen, and the construction served the surviving relatives as much as the dead. Entombment with tomb gifts expressed a belief in life after death.

In Denmark, the Neolithic period is mostly known for its impressive stone graves; dolmen and passage graves, and Rold Skov forest also boasts dolmen. There are two dolmen, Stenstuen and Ønskestenen, in Havdalen, a narrow valley starting near the forest supervisor’s house at Hollandshus and ending at the river valley near the railway bridges. Havdalen might have been a cultivated, fertile valley which cut into Rold Skov forest from the sea inlet.

Cultural landscape of the Bronze Age

The most characteristic cultural remains in Rold Skov forest are the many grave mounds from the Bronze Age. Even though only a few mounds have been dug out, their size and location unequivocally point to this period. Four areas are of particular interest: Nørreskoven forest north of Rebild, the forest south of Rebild Skovhuse, the forest south of Skørping, as well as the south-eastern part of Siem Skov.

A good example is the two well-preserved, large grave mounds “Svinehøjene” in the Bjergeskoven forest. The name (pig mounds) derives from when pigs pastured here more than 200 years ago. The size, typically 2.5 meters in height, and the location high in the landscape, indicate that the mounds were built in the Bronze Age. If the mounds were not surrounded by forest they would be visible from a great distance. In the Bronze Age there was probably an open forest with grazing cattle and small fields. The grave mound was built by piling up turf peeled off from the surrounding pasture and fallow fields which were then rendered worthless for decades. An area corresponding to several football fields was destroyed, thus signalling the spirit of self-sacrifice in the tribe.

The most significant graves are in Nørreskoven forest, with about 50 large grave mounds in an area of 1 km2, many of them from the Bronze Age. There is also a 70-meter-long row of huge rocks which may have been part of the sun worship cultivated in the Bronze Age. The row points directly towards the sunset at winter solstice. In Siem Skov forest, a settlement from the Bronze Age has been dug out near a group of grave mounds from the same period. This indicates that it is likely there were Bronze Age settlements near the sepulchral monuments, e.g. in Rebild Skovhuse, the fields north of Rebild and on the Slettingen plateau.

Large parts of the Rold Skov forest west of the old A10 main road as well as large parts of the eastern part of the forest have no visible prehistoric remains. Perhaps these parts were never inhabited? The forest still has its mysteries.

The villages take form

The time period known as the Iron Age lasted about 1,500 years and during this period society changed from chieftain rule in the Bronze Age to the royal power of the Viking Age. Throughout the Iron Age, the first actual villages emerged, in which all the dwellings were built within a common fence.

The villages were moved around within a small local area as the adjacent soil was exhausted through cultivation and as the dwellings fell into decay. Many of the present day villages are still located on sites where the Iron Age towns ended up in the Viking Age and where the first churches were erected.

The Iron Age in Rold Skov forest is not particularly visible through old graves, even though a number of findings indicate that the future structure of the forest, with the clearing, Rebild Skovhuse and the village of Rebild started to take form at this time. Findings in present day Rebild from this period confirm this. The light soil around the town was easy to cultivate.

Rebild was a centrally located settlement in the forest, whereas the other villages were in the periphery of the large forest complex: Rold, Gravlev, Oplev, Gl. Skørping, Fræer, Hellum, Siem, Møldrup, Astrup and Arden.

Around 120 B.C., a tribe of peoples emigrated from the Jutland area. The Cimbrian tribe might have emigrated from the central Himmerland area around Rold Skov forest. As the light soil became exhausted and with the extensive drifting of sand people may have been forced to move further the south, just as poverty in the 19th century made people seek their fortune on the other side of the Atlantic.

Together with the Teutons and many other Germanic tribes, the Cimbrians rampaged through Europe and shook the foundations of the Roman Empire. When the Cimbrians were finally defeated by the Romans in the North of Italy in 101 B.C., their army was about 180,000 strong. In Rebild Bakker, a memorial stone has been raised for the Cimbrians.

Rold Skov forest during the Viking Age and the Middle Ages

Even though there are not many findings from the Viking Age in Rold Skov forest, the few we have are astonishing. Near Gravlev kirke (church), a silver treasure trove was found with more than 100 Arabic silver coins and in Rebild more treasure was found in 1971 with coins, silver ingots and jewelry weighing all of 5 kilos. This silver is primarily from the Russian area. It is impossible to say why these riches ended up in a poor, desolate area of Himmerland. They may have been loot brought back from a Viking raid but, and more likely, they may just be from tradesmen passing through the region who temporarily buried their wealth under ground. At Sebbersund and Aalborg there were wealthy trading posts from where goods were transported across country towards the south through Rold Skov forest. More recent theories indicate that the route by water up the Lindenborg Å stream may have been of importance in the Viking Age.

Even though there are only a few written sources from the early Middle Ages, pollen diagrams from the forest lakes show the development of the forest as a mirror of human impacts. Since the Bronze Age, Rold Skov forest has been an open oak forest with an undergrowth of mainly hazel. The beech came to Rold Skov forest around the birth of Christ, but unlike other places in Denmark, it did not force out the oak forest which was maintained by extensive forest grazing by cattle and pigs. Oak can survive constant chewing down through grazing much better than beech. The plague around 1340 laid many farms to waste and this could have meant that forest grazing disappeared for a period, giving beech room to establish. Over the next 200 years, the beech took over Rold Skov forest. The oak forest only survived in Skindbjerglund, where today the forest goes back almost 4,000 years.

Traces of history in the trees of the forest

The Viking Age and early Middle Ages saw the establishment of royal power, with land laws that determined property rights and created a nobility which fought the church for forest and lands. Rold Skov forest became the property of the nobility, but the farmers’ rights to use the forest for grazing and wood were so important for the survival of the villages that they were incorporated in the property rights for the forest. In popular terms: The upper-growth belonged to the lord; the under-growth belonged to the farmers.

This meant that massive over-exploitation of the forest continued up through the Middle Ages and well into the 19th century. Forest grazing became widespread, foliage hay was harvested for winter feed and the under-growth was cleared of wood for firewood, building and charcoal burning. This exploitation is still reflected in the old beech forest today.

In the past, there was no forestry and no new trees were planted, but fortunately for the farmers they could exploit a special property of the beech trees which had immigrated to Rold Skov forest. Here, near its northern limit, the beech has developed a special attribute. When it is cut down, it shoots lots of water sprouts from the stump and roots. Water sprouts are a panic reaction of the tree when it registers that it has lost a significant part of its foliage, and they are most common if the damage occurs in the winter, while the tree is dormant. In beeches this only occurs in the northern part of Jutland.

The reaction means that the beech grows many new stems which, after 20-30 years, can be harvested for firewood. The process then repeats itself. It is called coppicing the trees. The cattle ensured appropriate pruning, although they left a crooked growth of the individual stems.

When over-exploitation and forest grazing ceased with the 1805 forest reserve regulation, the coppiced beeches could grow into mature trees. You will find these old, multiple-stemmed and crooked beeches all over Rold Skov forest. Some grew up in such windy and nutrient-poor places that they became even more crooked and curvy; so forming the “troll forest”. The wood of gnarled trees across from Rold Storkro is the classical example, but also Bjergeskoven forest and Nørreskoven forest have their gnarled trees. In Rebild Bakker you can see wonderful examples of these beech trees with 20-30 stems. Rebild Bakker was common grazing for the village and located outside the forest reserve, which means that grazing and coppicing of the low beeches continued until the Rebildselskabet company purchased and conserved the hills in 1911.

Dykes and sunken tracks

The majority of dykes in Rold Skov forest are from the time following the introduction of the forest reserve regulations in 1805. The regulations were introduced because of the disappearing forest area throughout Denmark which, at that time, only covered 2% of the country. In addition, the remaining forests were in a miserable state on account of grazing and over-felling. The introduction of forest reserves meant that cattle and pigs were banned from the forests and the forests were listed. At the same time, the sharp boundaries between forest and fields that we know today were formed.

The dykes were built from soil, rocks or turf along the edge of the forest to keep domestic animals out of the forest. Often a wattle was created on top of the dyke, and the earth dikes also had a ditch along the dyke on the field side.

Well-preserved forest reserve dykes can be seen north of Rebild along Nørreskoven forest and the southern edge of the present-day Rold Skov is boxed in by a continuous dyke from the town of Arden in the east and to Nørlund in the west.

Rold Skov forest was and is a forest of manor estates. Three-quarters of the forest are now owned by the estates of Lindenborg, Villestrup and Nørlund, and until the state-owned forest district was created in 1826, this area too was owned by a number of other manor estates: Buderupholm, Teglgård, Kyø, Restrup, Lundbæk, Overklit etc. Only the two first-mentioned were manors close to the forest. The most remote was Overklit, which is west of Hjørring. The state took over the two first-mentioned estates to pay for tax debt. Then the state started purchasing other land until this made up the current 2,200 hectares of state-owned forest.

When walking through the forest, it is impossible to miss the many sunken tracks (hollow ways), the courses of which have several narrow parallel wheel tracks, often near the wide gravel-paved forest road of today. A good example is where Stendalsvej crosses Stendalen. These sunken roads have not been dated, and the youngest are probably no more than 200 years old. However, ever since the cart arrived with agriculture, people have been on the move through the landscape. Trade and the passage of powerful leaders through the countryside established the roads. From the Bronze Age we know many examples of grave mounds lying in rows along the courses of the roads at that time, as a sort of advertisement for villages with strength of resources and respect for the lineage of their chief.

A hollow way is so called because wagons and carts have made tracks in the road on their way up and down a hill. If the road was completely churned up, a parallel course was taken. Perhaps people returned to the original road when overgrowth made it passable again so several there was often a choice of roads and travellers simply took the most accessible. The most impressive hollow ways are linked to the ferry stations across the river valley, e.g. Skillingbro in the north end of the state-owned forest known as Vælderskov. Along Pumpevejen just west of Troldeskoven, there are deep sunken roads, and in the forest around Rold Storkro, you can also see hollow ways all leading to Skillingbro. If you cross the river near Nybro and drive past the Thingbæk limestone mine, the road follows the same course on the opposite side of the river valley, as a sunken road along the contemporary Kridtbakken road.

There is also a number of parallel hollow ways in the western part of Nørreskoven forest, and these are crossed by the path between Ravnkilde and Lille Blåkilde. All of these point towards a prehistoric crossing, and the most significant hollow way starts just below Slettingen, making a nice serpentine curve and crossing the river valley on a low road embankment.

Robbers, poachers and charcoal burners

For centuries, Rold Skov forest was linked with sinister and violent attacks by robbers. The dense forest was the hide-out of society’s outcasts and outlaws who lived by poaching, theft, breaking into farms in the area, or even violent assaults on passers-by.

In the early 1800s, this culminated in a veritable plague of robberies in mid-Himmerland, but in the 1830s the gang was successfully brought to justice. The gang consisted not only of outlaws; smallholders and local farmers were also involved. The trial against them took as long as seven years from 1837 to 1844 when the case was decided by the supreme court. A total of 82 people were accused. Out of these, 78 received sentences from public flogging and lifetime imprisonment with hard labour to acquittal. The remaining four of the accused died before the trial ended. In the public floggings, the prisoner’s backs were stripped naked and whipped with a hazel stick which had been soaked in a brine overnight. The prisoner was tied to a stake, called the whipping post “kagen”. The robbers from Rold were flogged in public in Aalborg town square.

One of the principle defendants in the case was Johannes Jensen from Stenild, better known as “Bettefanden” (the little devil). He was a tough, short, round-shouldered man just 145 centimetres tall who got his nickname after breaking into an old lady’s house. He disguised himself in a cow’s skin with horns. After the break-in, the lady had been convinced that she had been visited by the devil himself.

Steen Steensen Blicher wrote a novel about “Bettefanden” which was published in 1846. Johannes Jensen was given a Royal pardon in 1864 and returned to Stenild where he made a living as a minor trader. His reputation was so bad, however, that when he died, he was buried outside the church dyke in unconsecrated ground. In the forest near Teglgårdsmølle you can see “Bettefandens eg” (oak of the little devil), where legend says he was tied up during his captivity.

The many robberies and assaults were partially a result of a harsh life in a poor area where living conditions could be merciless. Extensive poaching was certainly for the same reason. Game from the forest was a welcome supplement to the poor diet.

The most renowned poacher was Lars Kjær (1856-1946), who, despite his unlawfulness was a respected man in the area. He was reputed for his impressive knowledge of wildlife and its habits, and he was able to get into close shooting range of the game, often red deer. He hunted in the dead of night from small hide-outs, built from lathes and turf from along the Kovads Bæk brook. Lars Kjær shot enormous numbers of game, and in his old age he reportedly said in his local dialect: ”A hår skudt så møj kronvildt, at det ku’ fyld’ to godstog og en bett af den tredje!” (I have shot so much game that it could fit into two goods wagons and half a third). But then he also added that he had not been to bed for the whole night for the past 60 years. The house of Lars Kjær is located in Rebild Bakker and it is now a museum on the poacher and his wife, the fortune teller, Marie.

Where the robbers and poachers used the forest as cover for their dubious occupation, the charcoal burners went about their business in a much more visible way. Charcoal burning, which is the manufacture of charcoal, required large quantities of firewood and contributed to the impoverishment of the forest. All over the forest there are traces of the extensive charcoal production. Melting metal requires very high temperatures which can only be reached by burning charcoal. This technique stretches back to the Bronze Age. The need in the Iron Age for fuel to make iron from the ore in the bog and to forge iron tools pushed up demand for charcoal. There are hollows in the ground of 2-4 metres in diametre all over Rold Skov forest. Scratching in the ground a little will reveal small pieces of charcoal as evidence that this was once a charcoal burning hollow. To burn charcoal, the wood is burned with restricted air. The hollows were filled with wood which was ignited and covered by ferns, twigs and turf or soil.

In the early Middle Ages, in a new technique the wood was stacked up to adult-height after which it was covered with turf. The charcoal burners ensured such appropriate burning of the wood by removing or adding more peat to the stack. If the fire caught too fast, the charcoal burners had a large barrel of water next to the stack to put out the flames. A single burning often took 24 hours or more and the stack had to be watched constantly. Every year, the local charcoal burner association in Rold Skov forest runs a charcoal burning event and anyone is welcome to join in - even as the night watch. The charcoal burning site in Rebild Bakker is one of the last places where traditional burning in stacks took place. A single charcoal burner maintains the tradition and makes charcoal in the forest, although using modern iron ovens.

Nature area and memorial park

In a way, Rebild Bakker was Denmark’s first national park, as a group of Danish emigrants in the USA, led by Max Henius, bought the hills from the farmers in Rebild in 1910. The purpose was to acquire a magnificent area which held the essence of the Denmark the emigrants had left behind. Inspired by the first American national parks, it was named the “Rebild National Park”. At the first Rebild festivities in 1912, the area was donated to the Danish people under King Christian X on the following terms:

  • The national park must be open to the general public and with free access.
  • The national park must be a natural landscape.
  • It must be possible to hold the Rebild festivities on the American Independence Day on 4 July, as well as other activities to celebrate the Danish-American friendship.

Ever since then, the Rebild Festival on 4 July has attracted many participants who make speeches, sing and entertain, celebrating the friendship between the two nations. The festivities are held in the natural amphitheatre in Gryden. The museum of Blokhus tells more about the history. One of the hiking paths goes past a bust of Max Henius.

Despite its status as a popular national festival in mid-summer, the Rebild Festival has occasionally been marred by anti-American demonstrations, e.g. protests against the treatment of native Americans, against the Vietnam War, etc. These situations undermine the original intention of the Rebild Festival.

From the mid-1800s and up to the First World War in 1914, 300,000 people, or more than 10% of the population, emigrated from Denmark. In many poor country parishes, the percentage was much higher - everyone knew someone who had emigrated. Typically, poor agricultural workers first went to the big cities in Denmark with the fledgling industrialisation, but when there was no work, people took the plunge, inspired by the surge of “searching for a better life” which was characteristic of Europe at that time. This was not much different from the migration of the Cimbrians 2,000 years before, and it is no coincidence that the memorial stone to this tribe is in Rebild Bakker.

The state and the forest

The state took over the manor houses of Buderupholm and Teglgården to pay their tax debt in 1826, and the first state-owned forest district was established; “Det kongelige buderupholmske Skovdomæne” (the royal Buderupholm forest domain) The forest was cut down to such an extent that it could hardly be called a forest, it resembled more a heath with beech brushwood. It would be ten years before it was possible to sell the first produce - faggots of firewood.

The first spruces were planted at the Villestrup Gods estate as early as in 1774, and the state also began to replace the impoverished beech forest, primarily with common spruce. The first forest supervisor, H. J. Hansen, held the position for more than 40 years. He introduced North-American conifers to the forest; the Douglas fir, the White Fir (Abies Grandis), Sitka spruce, etc. At the driveway to the forest supervisor’s estate, there is a small group of Douglas firs planted in 1849 as the first in Denmark.

Even though, like others, state-owned forestry focused on growing forest dominated by conifers, focus changed when the railway came in 1869 and with that, tourism. The train stopped at St. Økssø, where the forest pavilion was built, and in Sverriggård, where the station town of Skørping arose. From 1912, the Rebild Festival and the many visitors have also encouraged motivation to maintaining some of the picturesque old forest, e.g. Troldeskoven, Urskoven and Bjergeskoven, and today the state-owned forest includes a large part of the old forest and also attracts the majority of the visitors in Rold Skov forest. The recreational element in the state-owned forest was extended by forest supervisor, Jens Hvass who further developed the experiments of his predecessors, and in 1970, the arboretum , “Den jyske skovhave” (the Jutland forest garden), was opened.

In 1992 the state introduced a natural forest strategy by designating areas as untouched forest. Today much of the state-owned forest is run according to close-to-nature forest management principles. Deforestation and thinning out is by selective felling, natural reproduction is supported, deadwood is preserved, etc. Nature-related measures have made their mark on the state-owned part of Rold Skov forest over the past 20 years. Small wetlands have re-emerged from overgrowing and new wetlands have been established, open forest meadows have been established on windfall areas, and forest grazing with cattle has returned as a nature management initiative. At St. Økssø work supported by the EU is underway to restore the former raised bog west of the lake.

Forest biodiversity is the most recent headline in this development. Future operation of the state-owned forest will also endeavour to take into account recreational opportunities, greater biodiversity and appropriate wood production.

The history of the Rold Skov forest in a timeline

Tundra 18,000-9,000 B.C. The ice melts. Rebild Bakker arises as erosion valleys at the edge of the subglacial stream trench. Almost naked tundra with dwarf birch, reindeer and mammoth.

Early forest 9,000-8,000 B.C. Open forest with birch, fir and European aspen. Large grazing animals such as red deer, elk and aurochs can now find food. The bear immigrates. The virgin forest arises 8,000-7,000 B.C. The climate is getting warmer. Pine still dominates but now together with hazel. Ash, oak, elm, lime and alder immigrate and the forest becomes more varied and dense.

The virgin forest dominates 7,000-3,900 B.C. Denmark is covered by forest. Mainly lime-tree forest with birch, willow, oak and pine along lakes and rivers. The sea penetrates the Gravlev valley in the middle of the period. Hunters arrive with the sea inlet and they establish settlements along the shore.

The Neolithic period - deforestation 3,900-1,700 B.C. Forest is cleared for farming in Havdalen and along the Gravlev valley. Dolmen and burial mounds. The dominance of lime tree retreats, replaced by oak and hazel.

Bronze Age 1700-500 B.C. Open oak and hazel forest. Peasant society of livestock breeders. Forest grazing, small fields and clearings, but large areas without anthropogenic impacts. Many grave mounds and places of worship.

Iron Age 500 B.C. - 700 A.D. The beech immigrates to Rold Skov forest shortly before year 0. Extensive grazing in the oak forest. Exhaustion of arable land leads to drifting of sand, the Cimbrians emigrate.

The Viking Age and the Middle Ages 700-1536. The plague in 1340 wipes out many people and forest grazing disappears for a period, which is why the beech takes over Rold Skov forest for 200 years. Charcoal burners over-exploit the forest.

The forest of manor estates 1536-1805. Increasing over-exploitation of the forest. Livestock grazing and trees felling in the many manor-house forests and in the common forests of the villages destroy the forest. No natural reproduction or new planting. Open coppice forest with beech, thin and exhausted, and heather spreads everywhere.

Forest reserves, state-owned forests and tourist attractions 1805-1945. Danish forests are protected by legislation in 1805. The state takes over the manor estates of Buderupholm and Teglgård in 1826. The first spruces are planted in Rold Skov forest in 1774 and in 1849 the first North American firs. Rold Skov forest becomes a tourist attraction when the railway is introduced in 1869 and with the Rebild Festival from 1912.

Large-scale production and nature conservation 1945-1992. Production forest with mainly common spruce and Douglas fir as well as decorative greenery take over more and more of Rold Skov forest. Increasing mechanization of forestry. Huge forest storm damage in 1991, particularly conifers. Nature preservation with clearing, fencing and grazing in Rebild Bakker. Burning of heather in 1990 and since 2012.

The future Rold Skov forest takes form, 1992. The state-owned forest introduces a natural forest strategy with untouched forest. Huge areas are run on close-to-nature principles. The term biodiverse forest is introduced.