Glory of Green
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Stories from the Great Outdoors

 

Sometimes the off-season is the best season for visiting natural sights. We’ve been to Stångehovud nature reserve in Bohuslän at the Swedish west coast in late summer, but our winter-exploration is still the winner. The red cliffs graphically decorated with snow, criss-crossing along the lines and the cracks in the granite – the glacial grooves and striations. And then there’s the deep blue sea – freckled with rounded stones along the shore, where the wind has left only traces of white. It’s all reduced to light and these faded colours. I understand what she must have felt, seeing all of this beauty being hacked away. Piece by piece. Thank you, thank you, thank you – Calla Curman – for preserving this wonderful landscape for us all back in the early 1900s. 

Romantic is rational

It’s easy to ridicule romanticism, with its highly-strung emotions and hunger for despair, but – as it partly came along as a reaction to the industrial revolution and its rationalization of nature, I think it’s time for a little restoration and gratitude.


The rational way was for industry to see nature as a tool for making stuff – and money. The Bohus granite was formed about 920 million years ago, and then (after a very, very, very long time) the cliffs were shaped by the last ice age. After a shorter but still very, very long time, the industrial revolution came along and the quarrying at Stångehovud went on for a mere millisecond of 50 years. We could have gnawed it all away while nature blinked an eye.

Today we still overuse our natural resources to make stuff, but luckily money can also be made from nature just being pretty. There’s a new rationale for a new type of industry. That, however, required a shift in how we look at nature. After the romantic period in European history a cliff is no longer a barren entity that might be turned into a quarry if it contains the right kind of mineral. It’s something to experience.

Calla Curman, I think love you a little

This is what the Swedish feminist, mother of six and environmental activist Calla Curman (1850-1935) realised. And it’s a tale of romantic, awe inspiring proportions, with brute forces working against her. Not even this little article would  exist if I had that number of children – and oh my God, just thinking about six pregnancies and births… I’m sure she had lots of help – and no handball matches and no hip hop and no whatever to transport her children to – maybe some tennis and violin though. But let’s get back on track: The environmentalist part is the main thing to notice here.




The sign reads: Take off your tennis shoes (taken in Lysekil)

She saw her beloved Stångehovud disappear a little year by year, tried to stop it by writing about it, campaigning and enlighten people, but finally concluded that she had to be a bit sneakier to stop the local industry who both generated money and employment (I do feel sorry for those who lost their income and hope they found less damaging things to do to fill their bellies). She had the means to do it – and so she bought 16 hectares bit by bit, often using agents, so as not to cause suspicion. It took four years, but by 1920 she had secured the reserve we are left with today. In 1925 she donated the area to the Royal Swedish Academy, wanting to conserve it for all eternity (or as long as nature wills it). It’s not a very large area – it’s an easy hike, but it’s still so worth doing. BRING A CAMERA. 

A beautiful playground

The small city of Lysekil, next to the reserve, is an active place during summer. There’s a small aquarium, cafés, lots of boats and food stalls along the harbour. You can swim in the salty ocean, pick blackberries (they grow like weed in Sweden) and look for shore crabs underneath the seaweed. A ferry connects you to the old scenic fishing village of Fiskebäckskil and makes Stångehovud a possible stop on a bike or hike trip along the coast. Kayaking is also a rewarding activity in the area.

Our winter-hike gave us the opportunity to slide down the rocks, throw snow balls at each other and take lots of beautiful photos of the scenery. 

The abundant glacial striations were filled up with snow and the red boathouses so extra red against the whitened world. Striations are lines or gouges in the cliffs, made from the ice moving on top of the rocks, using fragments and sand grains to make the cuts (I know. I’m nerdy and proud of it). A small wooden lighthouse, built in 1890 and shut down in 1940, makes a visible landmark and a great reason to eat some chocolate along the way – after all – you made it to the lighthouse... You don’t have to follow the marked path, go ahead and explore, but know that a detour can imply some zigzagging as the furrows between the rocks might be deep.

Don’t mind the weather or season – it will be beautiful there come sun, rain or snow. Extreme wind is a bit risky though, as some parts of the path leads you close to the sea. Although you are more likely to be alone in the winter, and to have an extra special scenery, be aware that some services might be closed. 

Visiting in summer, we parked in the city and walked through it to get to the reserve, but in winter it was easy to find parking closer. 

The old Volvo in Lysekil isn't ours, but it's a trip down nostalgia-lane for us who were kids in the 80s...