Irrigation channels at Villebøl Bro
In November 1873, the landowners along the river Kongeå from Villebøl to Jernved agreed on the construction of two irrigation channels along the river. The systems were designed by the Det Danske Hedeselskab (the Danish Heath Society). The companies would jointly build and operate a weir east of Villebøl Bridge. After almost a year of waiting, they obtained a permit for the construction. Starting from a a newly built weir east of Villebøl Bridge, two irrigation channels were laid; Villebøl-Hjortlund and Villebøl-Jernved irrigation channels.
The companies shared Kongeåen's water and weir maintenance equally. Villebøl-Hjortlund Channel was 8.2 km long and covered 37 landowners. It irrigated 300 acres of arable and meadow land. Villebøl-Jernved Channel was 7.6 km long and covered 41 landowners. It irrigated 350 acres of meadows.
Not all landowners wanted to be involved in the irrigation companies. Some landowners said directly no to having the channel led to their meadow. However, their no was trumped by the authorities, who believed that the proposed system would lead to such vast economic benefits that it should be constructed, even if it was to the detriment of individual landowners. The channels were laid over the protesting landowners' meadows anyway.
The meadows to the east of the weir were low and therefore were in danger of being flooded by the damming. The irrigation companies therefore had to protect these meadows with dikes. The dikes prevented the natural drainage of water from the meadows, so the company also had to lay water drainage ditches in the protected meadows.
The companies closely guarded their right to water from the river Kongeå. When Lintrup-Hygum Irrigation Channel was to be built in 1885, they protested against its construction. They feared their amount of water would decrease. The same happened when Sønderskov-Tobøl irrigation channel was to be built. However, the protests had no effect. Both channels were constructed.
Villebøl-Jernved Channel was closed down in 1951, while Villebøl-Hjortlund channel was operational until 1954. Road bridges and overpasses were taken over by the county and municipal authorities. The dikes were demolished and the land went back to the landowners on whose land it lay.
Author: Linda Klitmøller, museum curator, Sønderskov Museum