Glastonbury. Search for the Holy Grail

April 22, 2019 in UK | Comments (0)

Like a ghost from the past, I found a very old website of mine devoted to my poetry and creative writing – I thought it was long gone. This is one of entries

Among the green hills of Somerset lies Glastonbury. A magnet for pilgrims and travellers, searching back through early Christian myths to Celtic roots and Druid and goddess magic…

Pilgrims have been coming to Glastonbury for centuries, Christian pilgrims. Now its also a New Age ‘Mecca’. Travellers come in search of the Holy Grail, King Arthur and Celtic roots, crystal healing, goddess mysteries and New Age festivals, with the Tor and Chalice Well as the most holy of the visible icons.

The Tor broods over Glastonbury, a rather bleak and strange conical hill with its stone tower and windswept grassy slopes. But any time of the day or night there is someone here – new age tourists in rainbow colours, druids in robes and leafy crowns, Celtic inspired refugees from city slickness in rough cottons and woven capes, drummers, pipers, partymakers, trippers and hangers on and thieves.

Gill Dwyer in search of the magic cauldron and Holy Grail

The hill is said to be manmade and honeycombed with a maze of tunnels from which legend has King Arthur descend to Annwn to bring back the cauldron of regeneration. At the foot of the Tor is a narrow lane with a stone wall from which spouts the clearest spring water. Behind the wall is a garden and the Chalice well. In the summer shuttle buses from the town bring tourists and pilgrims to the Tor and the well. The other big attraction is the ruined Abbey, built over the first Christian church.

The Abbey is also part of Arthurian legend. Arthur and Guinevere’s tombs were found in the Abbey in the reign of Henry II, with a cross proclaiming: Here lies buried the island of Avalonia, the renowned King Arthur.

The town itself celebrates a long and fascinating history coloured with Christian, Arthurian and pagan legend. Its a mix of old stone, Gothic arches, Saxon turrets, Celtic crosses, and cosy cafes along with a good variety of shops bearing witness to New Age dawning. Glastonbury shopwindows show a fair number of ‘plastic Davids’, vulgar sculptures of cult figures entwined in an overflow of plastic flowers. But not enough to obscure its charm lying so happily with its monuments to history under the starkly simple Tor.

In a sunny square just off the high street, I noted these shop names offering books, crystals, essential oils and therapy:





Two women who had not seen one another a while burst into delighted conversation outside the crystal shop:

“How are you? How are the kids?” “Fine…waiting at home” and then as if this was the real explanation of how she had been since the last meeting she said:

“It was the day of my solar return – my moon was in my sun – Neptune and Pluto were hitting my personal planets – it crept in and retreated again…”.

She looked very sensible and down to earth. This is everyday conversation in Glastonbury.

In the streets you notice Celtic hippies and earth people, rainbow hippies with rainbow hair and rainbow clothes. Plenty of grey haired men with long hair and peasant cloaks.

Leaflets placed out in a vegetarian cafe advertise Goddess workshops and other alternatives to male dominated and dry intellectual religion.

In the bookshops you find much on Arthurian legend, Celtic tradition and art, flying saucers, tantric orgasm, aliens – a mix of intellectual and ‘fluffier’ new age spiritualism (divorced from the need to check sources, theories built on others’ intuitions can sometimes reach for the sky like the Tower of Babel).

Following leads picked up browsing we went searching for the magic of Mort d’Arthur. One source suggested that the river down on the flats once made Glastonbury an island – Isle of Avalon. This was where Arthur’s sword was thrown and the hand came out ‘mystic, wonderful’. Passing a car where two lovers were making out we walked along the muddy bank and thought how slimy that mystic arm would be.

Still, contrary to what might sound like cynicism Glastonbury is ‘amazing’. Despite the plastic fairies and giddy aliens it does feel real, deep and quivering with mystery somewhere in Christian, pagan and archetypal roots.

Joseph of Arimithea is said to have built the first Christian church in Glastonbury. This later became the Abbey, destroyed during the reformation but for centuries a focus of pilgrims and still a tourist attraction. One myth goes that Joseph of Arimithea brought Jesus to Glastonbury. Another is that Arimithea brought two vessels, one containing the sweat and the other the blood of Christ. A window in St John’s Church depicts Joseph bringing the two cruets to Glastonbury.

Legend has this container of Precious blood as the Holy Grail, blood collected in the cup of the last supper when Longinus pierced Christ’s side with the holy lance (A demoted Christian relic once in the Vatican)

The very same Grail is later shown to King Arthur. It disappears and so he goes in quest of the Holy Grail. As did Parzifal, and metaphorically speaking pilgrims and travellers still do in Glastonbury.

The biggest event of the year is the Glastonbury Festival at the summer solstice, held a distance from the town. Tens of thousands of people come for a range of music from rock to techno, healing and magic in the ‘Green Fields’ in the hills, drumming in the stone circle, and stands selling crystals, handmade jewellery and chai. It is also much talked about for its food stalls inspired by cuisine from all over the world.

Pilgrims and the Holy Grail

Browsing in the Celtic and New Age bookshops of Glastonbury I found two books that inspired the following outline on the ‘pilgrim instinct’ and the deep psychological relevance of the myth of the quest for the Holy Grail.

The embers of the pilgrim instinct lie deep within us all….¨

To find ourselves we make an outer journey that reflects the inner journey.

The Search for the Holy Grail is the most powerful Christian legend embracing such a journey. The mystic symbol leads knights to leave complacent and ailing society and risk all to materialize it – at the inner level seeking integration of heart, body and soul, ‘divine purpose’, the meaning of existence.

In one version the grail is the cup of the last supper, in which Joseph of Arimithea caught the blood of Christ. Joseph was imprisoned for 40 years and crossed the seas to Cornwall bearing the Grail. He eventually settled in Glastonbury and built the first Christian church in Britain. Centuries later the Grail was brought to King Arthur at his Round Table by two angels. It disappeared and Merlin inspired Arthur to go looking for it.

The Grail stories which sprung up suddenly at the beginning of the 12th century became the most popular in Christian Europe but never got the complete approval of Rome. They are believed to have Celtic roots and were spread all over France and Britain by troubadours. Pagan myths of cauldrons and other magic vessels were transformed into the Christian grail and incorporated a new dimension – the search for self knowledge.

Among 12th century literary works that immortalized these legends were: Contes del Graal by Chretien de Troye and Parzifal by Wolfram von Esenbach.

In Parzifal ‘s quest and growth to manhood he meets archetypal characters and symbols that reflect his inner development from a lethargic youth through an ambitious upstart to someone with self-awareness, uniting heart, body and spirit. You find such symbols as Mother, Arthur and the Round Table, The Red Knight, The Wasteland – the condition of the self when development is misdirected towards base ends, The Grail King /the unconscious guide/ the suffering Fisher King, the Grail Castle – a glimpse at his own spiritual potential, The Sword- the ability to cut though prevarication and pretence, the Lance – symbol of inexhaustible spiritual power, The Loathly Damsel – ugly woman who is a reflection of the state of his own soul and who makes him realize he should search for the Holy Grail with his brother who is black and white – Feirifiz, Gawain, who uses his heart…and the Grail, divine power at work in the depths of our psyche.

“A pilgrim is not seeking to discover something new but is seeking to remember what the Soul has always known. And in this search it helps to stand amid the sacred groves and stones in order that this archaic memory might be triggered.”

Yes, I think Glastonbury can do that….

Not the end of a pilgrimage maybe, but a beginning.

Gill Dwyer

© 1999


Michael Bagent (preface) and authors Ean & Deike Begg, In Search of the Holy Grail and the Precious Blood: a Traveller’s Guide (Thorsons, 1995)

Ian Forrester Roberts, Symbols of the Grail Quest (Spirit of Celtia, 1990)

Magical must-do in Egypt

February 20, 2019 in EGYPT | Comments (0)


When in Hurghada – this is it – ancient wonders in a daytrip!.

Luxor & Karnak

The magic of ancient symbols in gigantic ancient columns

The “day” trip to Luxor was a rewarding experience, though a very long and tiring day – 17 hours on the go with 4 hours per way on the road. We were up at 4 am to have the early breakfast which the hotel thoughtfully provides.

Fortunately, we did not know about the terror attack that had just occurred – or we might have given up the day and missed its treasures. I might also have been more  worried about the sudden emergence of a woman in burka from behind a curtain at the back of our bus who stumbled past us at a stop on the way.

The bus actually had amenities – like toilet – and an electronic display about the temperatures. The seats laid back beautifully and my family slept.

I fortunately awoke for the magic of dawn in the desert mountains. To see the light emerge on sand spilling down the mountain to the road edge. To see the extraordinary sky dotted with different cloud. Small army outposts were the only spots where green sprouted – albeit desolately – the desert itself seemed rich with texture, colour and harmony

Finally we lumbered into the Nile Valley …. Travelling parallel to the great river (though it was out of sight) we saw canals or tributaries, palm trees and green fields, as well as shambolic towns bristling with mosques and old fashioned life, far removed from the familiar clichés of our western world. Traffic was full of scruffy old vans and adorable donkey carts, and traditional dress was the norm.

Carrying important cargo and leading his all important horse against the hooting traffic in Luxor – no doubt preferring to see the dangers than have them come from behind

Karnak temple was, more than expected, magnificent. The stony face of our teen  (who felt bullied needing to face culture rather than the fun life of the resort) softened as she seemed to grasp this was something worth seeing.

Little humans under the vast presence of the past

The columns (which have featured in movie thrillers) are breathtaking, for their immensity, solidity and 3d feeling with a deep hue of magic, perhaps due to the engraved symbols (like the powerful ank) catching light and shadow and with it intrigue and a sense of the past lurking tantalizingly just out of sight.

Why do sphinxes always lose their noses?

The day included lunch buffet in a small café (nice despite the cappuccino being a cup of hot water and a roll of powder); a taxi ride to the Nile and a boat ride over to the other side – the western sunset side where the Egyptians buried their dead. Behind was the East Bank, a skyline where mosques bristled like the back of a sow – the world of the living. Ahead the West Bank and a rim of mountains that hid the world of the dead. Valley of the Kings.

Looking back at the East Bank bristling with mosques and minarets
Looking over to the West Bank – ancient world of the dead.

We walked into a couple of tombs with murals amazingly still so colourful. One proposed tomb was too deep for me as a claustrophobic soul – so I sat and stared at the mountains, the haunting mountains where they burrowed so deep by oil light.

Our next stop Hatshepsut temple was backed by those same strange and brittle mountains. Impressive. She was a rather wicked lady who loved power (they all seemed to drink it like mother’s milk) …. And put the next heir to the throne Thuthmosis on the front for 30 years where he luckily survived.  Her temple was the only one built by a woman we were told by our pleasant (Egyptian Swedish speaking) tour guide  – and to be allowed to build one she had to persuade herself and others she was really a man.

Hatshepsut temple

Wiki says:

Hatshepsut was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second historically-confirmed female pharaoh, the first being Sobekneferu. Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt in 1478 BC.

Ancient Egypt online: She initially ruled as regent for her step-son Thuthmosis III but promoted herself to the role of pharaoh instead of passing power to him when he came of age. After her death Thuthmosis III and Akhenaten both intentionally damaged the monument. The former directed his attacks at Hatshepsut herself, either replacing her image with his own or simply obliterating references to her, the later damaged her temple because of the frequent references to the god Amun.


Winter by the Red Sea….

February 19, 2019 in EGYPT | Comments (0)

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Yes, we escaped the snow and ice, and the sun shone every day. We snorkelled over coral, and wandered dazzled among flowers.

We marvelled at the treasures of Luxor and Karnak – and crossed the legendary Nile by boat.

Camel on the beach

We also had a camel on our hotel beach

It was a very pleasant and exciting holiday, but I wouldn’t go back in mid-winter. Though our days rose to 22/24 degrees C, the nights sunk to 10 or 12 – with chilly winds seemingly blowing off the Alps and over the Mediterranean. We were very grateful that we had left such a cold Sweden and thus taken down jackets with us, cosy in the damp chill of evenings in the open air.

Our new year’s dinner was a triumph, a show of colour and extravagance. All included – because everything was included in terms of food and drink.

The translucent brilliant turquoise waters of the Red Sea were swimmable, but not really warm; and even though I hired a wetsuit I was dismayed by feeling chilly water ooze into my ears and gave up – though my two beloveds snorkelled in their wetsuits with rewarding results. My son even had a school of dolphins jetting towards him and crossing under him at speed.

A frame of his underwater video clip as dolphins passed under him

Hurghada all-inclusive

Our hotel – Desert Rose

Mid winter flowers / not roses, but subtropical blooms

The hotel property stretches down to the Red Sea with its own pier, shallow lagoon ringed by rough sand beach, and a verdant garden festooned with bougainvillea and golden trumpet flowers, dotted with seemingly endless pools, bars, and restaurants. Along with all that is a rather nice spa, and a very active beauty salon where a nice young man mangled my feet during a pedicure with the painful insistence of a hygienist, to make them baby soft.

Pools and flowers

Desert Rose itself claims five stars but its guests rightfully vote four. Some of course vote less. All-inclusive is a good option when you have young teens and tweens as you don’t have to worry if they eat their food and waste your money. They love the freedom of choosing just what they want and actually start eating healthier despite the overkill of puddings and cakes – maybe because of that supersweet shock.

An entire wall of cakes and puddings

They love the adult feeling of wandering into “bars” at night to have a mocktail in what was a very pleasant unboozy astmosphere. There were no hordes of drunks making over-use of the all inclusive. Since you get drinks by the glass (bottled is extra) it could be they water drinks down when you show signs of inebriation. Maybe I looked in need of a pickup – I got the opposite sometimes – my cocktails hit me with a hammer – I wasn’t sure whether it was laced with some local spirits and fruit cordial  rather than the prescribed liqueurs.

Cafe betweeen lagoon and sea / coffee and pancakes all inclusive

The hotel had some 4 restaurants and 5 bars – they seemed to spread all over the place. Rose Bar was a pleasant and popular place for wifi and coffee or drink – with a smart contemporary décor and relaxed ambience. Our favourite was a café between the lagoon and the sea, with its own beach covered by beanbags, where you could have your coffee, cocktail or pancakes, sheltered from the wind.

We managed to book the a la carte Italian restaurant one lunchtime – too popular to get an evening booking. It was nice, if rather rich fare.

The buffets in the main restaurant were vast – am I exaggerating when I say a football field size hall with two wings divided into smaller dining rooms; and tables stretching many metres down the middle and sides loaded with food. Meat and fish were excellent (I don’t eat meat – I refer to the choice and the look). Breakfasts were piled with fruit and oh joy grapefruit and pomelo.  And joy for the tweens and teens: pancake station.  

A wall of breads

The New Year’s dinner was a triumph of colour and variety. One whole wall of the vast tent had a trestle table piled with cakes of every hue, ending with a celebration of fruit piled lusciously into mountains. Even the bread wall boasted pinks and reds. All sorts of salads and savoury mixtures lined another wall where food towers (sculptures?)  had been created to dramatize the festivity of the occasion. A disco was going and a band playing covers with gusto. We had heard them practicing all week. They put their heart and soul in it.

Winter snorkelling in the Red Sea

Our teen or tween was longing to snorkel but equally longing just to hang at the hotel with its sense of activity and promise, its bars and coffee bars where everything just flowed. But one day of filling yourself with sweet bubbly drinks and you are ready for adventure out there in the famously turquoise red sea.

So we let one of the touts that patrol the beach area sell us a snorkel tour that left from our pier. He sold us the advantages of his tour: in particular that you didn’t have to take a transfer to Hurghada marina or even further.  Its hard to know if you are paying the right amount – they refuse at first to tell you the price as they fish around to see how much they can charge while you try to bargain it down a bit. The snorkel tour we did later, booked via a tour operator in Sweden  – undeniably with higher quality facilities on board the  boat – cost 450 sek per person, quite a bit more than the hotel’s boat tour.

There was something slightly third world about our whole boat tour from Desert Rose, but with it came lots of charm and stunning beauty  – I wouldn’t have missed it for anything, even though the toilet floors of the boat Atena were disconcertingly wetly washed.

The trip was to so-called Paradise Island – a desert island, with a pale luminescence of dry sandstone which crumbles off to become golden beach, washed by sublimely turquoise water – luminously crystal clear. Simply gorgeous.

To get from the dive boat to the island we had to get onto a small boat – and as it rocked I got thrown with my back against a sharp edge.  Then they filled the small boat to overflowing as our ebullient tour leader light-heartedly commanded that younger ones crowd up onto the prow – finally the entire contingent of snorkellers was seated or standing as we laughed about being boat refugees.

When we arrived at the beach they placed a small ladder beside the prow. When I stepped onto it, the boat took a leap sideways and whacked and scratched my calf. Our leader then took us to a patch of beach where we were commanded to sit or swim (not wander off on the island). I was happy to sit staring at the dreamy beach, soothed by these radiant pastel seas.

But suddenly I saw a red dog nosing at me. Hello I said, what do you want? He showed me by lifting his leg and peeing on me.

My family roared with laughter.

They were very pleased with the snorkelling from Atena – among Napoleon fish and manta rays (I had given up because of the cold).

Frame from the film by Atena cameraman showing my son diving down
The water is irresistible / until you get into it (so at this moment I am on the boat

Here is the film the tour company made – my darlings feature for a short spell.

Our second snorkel tour to Dolphin House El Gouna was smoother and more professional – the boat less crowded – and the toilets a little less iffy.  The lunch too was better.  There was boring time given to hotel pickups along the road to El Gouna (10km?).

We tied up to a buoy at the reef called Dolphin House and as they (almost) promise, we saw passing Dolphins threading in and out of the water. At this protected spot no swimming is allowed so as not to harass the dolphins. Good show Egypt! They explained rightly or wrongly that dolphins sleep on one side of the brain and were sleeping as they passed us while the other side controlled their swimming. They did have a mesmerizing pace.

Later we tied to a different buoy where you are allowed to swim and you could see clouds of fish through the clear water from the boat. Afterwards the cold swimmers and warm me ate lunch. Suddenly a school of dolphins were seen heading towards us, and my son had the magnificent good fortune or quick reflexes to jump into the water with movie camera and catch dolphins heading right at him, diving under him, and then heading off into the free sea.

frame from his video clip

El Gouna is a millionaire stronghold, with expensive villas built along canals and golf course. Most are simply holiday homes for Europeans, Germans in particular. We sat in a cute café with Arabic mood and liked it.

On a sand bank a short swim from reefs – private glassbottom boat tour from the pier

The third snorkelling tour was a short private tour on our last day. Hoping to see turtles – but not succeeding. It was a glass bottom boat tour and the thrill there was that my son chose to free dive under the boat so we could see him under water through the glass bottom among the fishes.

Hotel review Desert Rose

Palms and a glimpse inland to the arid jagged mountains
Laden with natural gold

I felt trepidation before arrival, thinking of over 800 rooms and crowds in peak season. Actually it never felt crowded as the rooms with only 3 storeys were spaced out through the beautiful garden, and there were no queues at meals. The staff were numerous and full of easy friendliness. There were little machines where you could report your feelings about your stay and the service and recommend staff. A little odd but maybe it works.

We enjoyed ourselves in this bright and carefree environment on the verge of the dazzling Red Sea despite what comes next. The faults.

Shelter from the chilly winds on the beach of our favourite cafe after a pancake and cappuccino

The room: neat, modest size with a lovely pool view – but since the balcony remained shady we did not use it. We had no hot water in our marble bathroom despite its generous toiletry amenities. The water was tepid. I am a hot water maniac so I missed that. We finally got round to complaining and a technician tinkered around so it became gently warm, not hot.

The food: As I said earlier very generous on meat and fresh caught fish. There were plenty of salads and some hot vegetarian options too – though not a lot of choice. The breads were astounding – a big choice but…. how could a baker that produces such nice Arabic breads produce such floury Western style breads? The cheese was a challenge. Was there any resemblance to cheddar in the so-called cheddar offered or was it just the colour? Feta worked though. Finally the desserts. A massive choice but a bit oozy and sweet – no problem for sweet toothed souls.

The Desert Rose cocktail in one of its manifestations – all included

The drinks: I liked the Desert Rose cocktail the first time I tried it – but different bars mixed it differently till it became a pungent knockout or a fizzy cool drink. I also tried a margarita which came from a barman’s impulse rather than a recipe book. The coffee likewise. They had proper Illy machines. I think you were meant to pay for Illy but sometimes the barmen got kind and you got a gorgeous Illy cappuccino.  Other times they seemed to use a cappuccino powder mix – as our café did in Luxor.

Incident: I decided to tip the cleaner having being intimidated by Americans’ instructions on the internet about leaving an envelope every day. After I tipped him half way through the scene disintegrated. He took my transparent zipped bag and made off with my digestive biscuits and chips for the return journey and my sugar free bars that I keep for emergency. We reported it and the hotel took it seriously, if a little angrily – wanting to look in the safe to see if my bars were there. In the end I asked simply for a 2 euro credit to buy new biscuits at their shop. Since I would not be able to replace my bars at the hotel there was no point in giving me money for them.

Best part of our trip – the dolphins, the desert island and most of all – Luxor & Karnak…

The magic of ancient symbols in gigantic ancient columns


Discreet, hidden, close to it all in Palma

February 5, 2019 in MALLORCA | Comments (0)

The fourth in my series on the OTHER Mallorca, Sant Francesc Hotel Singular is a jewel of a hideaway – peaceful, soothing and discreet – with some unexpected pleasures.

Sant Francesc Hotel Singular… rooftop views

Telescopic view from the rooftop pool deck of the Cathedral

Here, in its stone-carved city setting, the hotel offers a magical rooftop pool and bar. The poolside view has the haunting charm of terracotta tiled roofs, the age worn Sant Francesc basilica and the rearing form of the Cathedral.

Facing the quiet square of Sant Francesc, this little charmer occupies a former aristocratic residence in the maze of narrow streets that make up the old medina of Palma, a short winding walk to the Cathedral and the shopping honeypots.

Sofa, deck chairs and sunbeds offer lounging in the sun or the magical sunset and cooler evening. This is the spot for tapas in summer, cool Red Sangria or perhaps “Holy Water” surely pure heaven at 15 euro – gin, chartreuse, lavender syrup, green apple, lime.

Feeling at home
Service at the hotel is friendly and helpful. You feel at home in this old century mansion which has been renovated with understated elegance, contemporary flair and respect for the original building.

From the demure entrance step into the lobby and over a stone courtyard, which opens into a sleek bar, a spot to have a serene drink and check your mail.

Wifi, drinks and quiet

In the former stables, the tiny Quadrat restaurant rewards you with a pleasing buffet breakfast including home made items and eggs to order. You should pre-book for dinner here as it is popular with outsiders.

Home made pastries adds to the luxury feel / if luxury is comfort, seclusion and caring

Rooms at Sant Francesc are spacious and decorated in warm yet demure and soothing colours like palest grey with delicate touches of dusty pink.

Gracious, demure rooms

Many rooms do not have balconies so you may want to upgrade if that is important to you.

Privilege twin
Rooms to covet include San Francesc junior suite with frescoes and a balcony overlooking the square. There are two special suites of 60 sqm: La Torre with its additional 30 sqm rooftop terrace and San Francesc suite with a frescoed ceiling and private balcony with views of Sant Francesc Square.

The corridors enhance a contemporary feel with an interesting collection of photographs.

Looking back
The building of Hotel Sant Francesc once belonged to the Alomar Femenia family. This Spanish historic landmark is an architectural treasure built in the neoclassical style of the 19th century.

Surrounded by ageing terracotta rooftops like a sea of charm

The hotel is situated in one of Palma’s oldest quarters, which dates to the Arabian Medina Mayurqa settlement. After James (Jaime) I of Aragon was crowned King in 1229, many of the Muslim lands were deeded over to religious orders. Under his son, King Jaime II, Franciscan monks erected the Sant Francesc Basilica and Monastery after which the square and hotel are named.

A meander through austere narrow medieval streets to other narrow streets alive with colour / Palma is great for shopping
Palma Cathedral, 10 mins walk from Sant Francesc
Relics of saints in the must visit Palma cathedral…

Quick facts
No. of rooms: 42
Distance from airport: 15 mins
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: Situated in the old city close to restaurants and about 7-15 mins walk from the Cathedral or main shopping street.
Why stay: Quiet, classy hotel with central position in the old city.
Car hire: You need a special permit to enter this heritage area and there is a c. 30 eur per day parking cost paid via the hotel.
Beaches & Beach Clubs: You walk some 10 mins to Anima Beach club placed right on the sea on Palma’s boards walk. Portals Nous has a pleasant beach next to Puerto Portals yacht marina – nice area for shopping, restaurants and amazing yachts. 20 mins by car. Es Trenc – often called the best beach on Mallorca – is a natural beach with a rustic bar and no hotels – 45 mins drive from Palma.

Stylish, understated and serene hotel with attentive service in a converted mansion on the quiet square of Sant Francesc in the old medina, only 10 mins walk from the Cathedral and main shopping areas. Enjoy a pleasant rooftop pool and bar with views of the Basilica of Sant Francesc. Upgrade to be sure of a private balcony with view of the square.
Last word – romance

With its charm, calm understated elegance and perfect position, Sant Francesc is not just for intellectuals, shoppers and foodies. It is also for romance. One of my friends was popped the question on a weekend visit to San Francesc. So the weekend turned into their engagement and the perfect time for Sangria de Cava.

Images by Sant Francesc and Per-Olov Broddeson. Words by Gillian Stanbridge, Select Collection

Sixties glamour & Palma views

February 3, 2019 in MALLORCA | Comments (0)

The third in my series on the other Mallorca, the legendary Castillo Hotel Son Vida brings us closer to Palma…

Castle with a history of medieval kings and sixties movie queens

Palma. the Cathedral and the bay as the sun goes down – telescopic view from the hotel

Moments of magic on the terraces at Castillo Hotel Son Vida as the sun sets over Palma

Glamour and distinction

Away from the tourist masses, the classic hotel has stunning views of the city and bay from its vast terraces. Celebrities and dignitaries have sipped cocktails and partied here since the Sixties and the hotel still has an aura of glamour and distinction.

Inside, the castle is packed with antiques, paintings and historical features that give it an authentic Mallorcan character, while outside you feel the island’s natural ease.


Palma is only some 10 to 20 mins drive, depending where you want to go – but golf is literally next door and your tee times and transfers are taken care of.

If history adds a romantic twist to your sense of place, this castle is a good spot to honeymoon or get married. Various members of the deceased Royal family adorn the walls in gigantic oil paintings to show you are in elevated company, and frescoes distinguish a room that is suggested for wedding ceremonies.

A room wrapped in history – used for special events

Galleries or ante rooms are lined with antique items and velvet sofas where you imagine dowagers sat in the Sixties heyday when the hotel opened with a trumpeting of fashion reporting. More about that later…

In a less worldly frame of mind, the dome or cupola is an amazing art work worth gazing up at from the lobby and higher floors.

Otherworldy dome depicting the musings of Raimundus

The cupola was produced by a German artist Nils Burwitz in stained glass based on the philosophical musings of a Mallorcan writer, philosopher, mystic Ramon Llull (1232-1316). In “Ars Brevis” Llull (also known as RAIMUNDUS) is seeking a way to calculate universal truth.

The corridors between the rooms are adorned with lighter Mallorcan paintings, water colours washed with pastels and Mediterranean joie d’vivre.

More than 60 newly renovated rooms in the Classic category have picked up that light hearted mood, with tropical lagoon coloured curtains in lightweight almost transparent fabric.

The renovated Classic room has gone aquamarine and pale grey…

Hotel inspection – self with zebra look or something

The higher room categories remain embedded in the old sense of quality with carved and darkly lustrous hardwood furniture. If you really want a bit of the past, try a suite in the Tower….

Round desk to match the round tower and style to match grand tradition
A medieval peep at the view through the castle turrets

Or perhaps a Grand Deluxe room peeping between a froth of palms to the sea? And palms and sea from your balcony

Where to dine?

There are two well respected restaurants at the hotel, both with windows where you can admire the view. We had a splendid buffet breakfast in Es Castell with everything we could dream of.

But in the evening early we began a transfixing sojourn on the terrace that changed our dinner plans.

The mesmerizing terrace

We felt rooted to the magical spot as the sunset glow tinged the pale buildings of Palma and the sea.

Having discovered the world’s most amenable barman, who remade my margarita three times to get it perfect, we felt this was the place to eat Mallorcan tapas.

The tapas bars of Palma are a short ride away but it would be hard to beat the fare and the ambience at Castillo Son Vida that evening.

If in the mood to hang all day at Castello Son Vida, you can enjoy the spa, pools and terraces but if you want a beach not far away, a good suggestion is Portals Nous (15 mins), which has nice diversions like posh restaurants and designer shopping.

You can also indulge in some shopping at the hotel. In keeping with the glamour of the establishment we found some high quality shopping downstairs – a jewellery boutique with items up to over 40 000 euro – priced the same as their sister outlet in Palma. Most choices will be tailor made.

There was a sweet little piece for c. 2500 euro

(which I should have bought?)

Looking back

The deeper history of Castillo son Vida began in 1229 when King James of Aragon conquered Mallorca and gave this cherry-on-the-top piece of land to a loyal combatant. In 1900 the buildings were combined into a castle with inner splendor to match.

The days of news flashes and glamour began on 23 June 1961 when Steve Kusak launched the noble residence as a luxury hotel. Within a week the world’s most talked about celebs started arriving and Prince Rainer and Princess Grace hosted an extravagant society party. The festivity bubbled over with people like Veuve Cliquot magnate Crovetto and filmstar David Niven. Prince Rainier and Onassis held a picnic in the grounds that afternoon while Princess Grace walked around photographing guests!

Later Rainer was the first person to try out the new Son Vida Golf. Royals were also frequent visitors, including the Spanish Royal family, Belgian and Thai.

The A to Z of visiting celebrities, magnates and world leaders includes a long list from Arafat to Zamin, via Brigitte Bardot, Baron Rothschild, Christian Barnard, Sting and the 13 most important shipowners in the world.

The final Z goes to Zsa Zsa Gabor who attracted curious publicity when she made an eccentric exit without paying.


No. of rooms: 164
Distance from airport: 15 mins
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 10-20 mins from Palma depending which area
Dining: Es Vi modern tapas, Es Castell int. and Spanish cuisine with fine view, Pool restaurant/bar Snacks and drinks, Indoor bar serving the beautiful terrace.
Facilities: 3 outdoor pools. Spa: sauna, steam bath, indoor heated pool. Kids club for 3-12. Gym, 3 18-hole golf courses.
Reason to stay

Golf, history, art and beautiful terraces overlooking Palma – easy access to the city

Hanging with the Royals

Golf, spa and so on as younger companions enjoy the kid’s club

Gourmet hideaway

February 1, 2019 in MALLORCA | Comments (0)


More about Hidden Mallorca – Castell Son Claret is a refined hideaway with a two-Michelin star restaurant – Mallorca’s only…

Towering amidst lovely gardens

People make the pilgrimage all the way from Palma to Zaranda just for the evening or overnight to taste their way through the long menu from two-Michelin star executive chef Fernando Arellano. Other guests stay longer at Castell Son Claret to combine good food, exercise and quiet relaxation.

A sublime cocktail worth crossing the world to sip again with a wildflower float and a wildflower syrup along with the rest

Tranquility surrounds Castell Son Claret – you can almost hear the silence between birds and crickets calling. Wrapped In beautiful landscaped gardens at the end of a palm lined driveway in the foothills of the Tramuntana range, this small castle became a private boutique hotel in 2013.

Between mealtimes guests can be seen sunbathing silently by the sparkling garden pool, but most seem to disappear for spa treatments, hammam rituals, self-drive touring – or sporty activities.

Apart from Zaranda, the hotel offers restaurant Olivera, also mentioned in the Michelin guide, where you can dine in a winter garden or out on a charming stone terrace graced by olive trees and lavender.

Mediterranean ambience. Lovely spot for breakfast with bread and cakes from their own bakery plus lots of healthy items

Exercise is a very important drawcard at Castell Son Claret. There are two rambling trails on the estate totaling some 7 km. We saw a couple striding back from their circuit with Nordic walking sticks – not surprising since the quiet and tasteful hotel has a strong appeal for Northern Europeans.

You can walk the trails alone or with a guide, or keep on walking into the mountains. Cycling is a very important sport on Mallorca – and Castell Son Claret is well sited for a scenic road trip to Valldemossa along the astoundingly beautiful northern shoreline and back through the mountains…

Historical Valdemossa

Stunning views from the northern coastal drive

View from Es Grau, a popular pitstop for cyclists on the picturesque north coast

If the hills sound intimidating, you can get help in the form of an e-bike set to your capabilities – book at least a week in advance. Another sport is tennis on site.

In tune with its country setting, the décor at Castell Son Claret is a contemporary interpretation of old Spanish country style. Earthy and soothing elegance featuring oak panels, leather headboards and wooden beams.

Our room, a deluxe room, looked out over a Juliet balcony to the white garden paths and the impressive driveway.

But our hotel inspection had us hankering after a very appealing room with a vast terrace (if you want to book, ask us for the magic number)…

For those who at all costs must have a big balcony we also recommend one of the Tower Suites.

Then again – for those who love gardens there are demi-suites with exuberant flower filled garden terraces, set away from the main building. Or for more space and private pool – consider a pool suite.

Come evening it’s time to gravitate towards the bar – a gentleman’s club feel under centuries old Gothic arches. Here we had some of the most delicious cocktails ever…

We simply had to flash the iPhone at our Tramuntana cocktail (the cocktail image above) that looks good, tastes amazing and reflects the environment – a perfect suggestion before an environmentally friendly (and curious) tasting dinner at Zaranda.

Tramuntana cocktail: Local liquor palo containing herbs, fresh lemon juice, mint, home made syrup of the estate’s flowers topped with ginger beer.
A delightful gastronomic Olive Daiquiri. Their Sollers Orange Mojito
was another masterpiece.

Soller orange mojito – still struggling iwth new version of WordPress

To dine at Zaranda needs forethought – booking months ahead. Otherwise Olivera offers tastes from the same master. Some examples:
Pesca del dorado, 30 eur – delicious fish with bulgar and carrot creme, well presented. But try to sip your wine as you wait instead of eating too much of the”pan y apretivon” (dangerously delicious fresh made farm bread and virgin olive oil and dip).

The outside entrance to chef Fernando Arellano’s creative domain – in the restaurant castle-style slots see through to the magic kitchen

Zaranda’s locally made table ware.

It is like the thrill of hearing the orchestra tuning up as you wait for the two-Michelin star masterpieces from the kitchen. This is surely worth it. Zaranda’s 5 course meal with wine pairing 190 eur, 10 course with wine pairing 215 eur. items included waygu beef brisket and suckling pig – along with adventurous sea urchin, cuttle fish, congereel canelloni, artichoke with black truffle and foie gras roasted pigeon breast. Many other wonders of the earth may be on the menu

Another option is local dining in the village Es Capdella which is only 1,6 km – quite walkable. We ate well at Bar Nou (it’s popular and should be booked ahead). Other local dining options are Rocamar and Flanigan.

Those hankering for a swim in the ocean and a beachy relaxed mood can enjoy a recommended beach club some 20 minutes away.

Quick facts
No. of rooms: 38
Distance from airport: 40 mins
Distance from nearest town/shops/restaurants: 1.6 km to village Es Capdella
Dining: 2 restaurants & bar, incl. 2 star Michelin restaurant
Facilities: Outdoor and indoor pools, spa, gym, hammam, tennis court, 2 hiking trails on the estate, tai chi, yoga, cycling guides and trainers.
Who to stay
Foodies, seekers of peace and quiet, and those who would like some nature-blessed exercise. There are a few accommodations for families but it’s so blissfully quiet that it would be better to stay only with older children who want to join in a cycle tour and keep a low profile in adult company.

A tranquil boutique country retreat with the island’s only 2-Michelin star chef. A spot for superb cocktails, walking, cycling, tennis, hammam rituals and spa treatments, and resting by the quiet pool or in the beautiful garden. The small castle has been decorated in a contemporary interpretation of old Spanish country style. Earthy and soothing, fresh and new.
The driveway to Castell Son Claret and Zaranda

Note: this was written as a continuation of the series on Hidden Mallorca – not published till now

Urban beach & the black box

January 25, 2019 in DUBAI | Comments (0)

A sweet incident from the past  – not published then. 

Retracing our steps in Four Beaches and Five Animals, a trip via Dubai to South Africa and Mozambique. Beach one, Dubai.

This is the beach at the Ritz-Carlton, an area where lots of little cafes and restaurants make it a very urban beach. You can hardly be more urban than Dubai, and yet beachy…

Dubai was just a short stopover, baked into the Emirates plane ticket. With some 12 hours in Dubai wedged between arrival and departure, we tried to retrieve as much time as possible for sleep at the Ritz Carlton. That means we ordered Ahlan & Marhaba VIP services to get us through the airport fast.

Like magic on arrival you mosey off to a lounge to sit a short while with a drink while your Ahlan agent rushes off with your passports. Then you are lead quickly through the passport control and through the airport via a currency exchange of sorts (the real one was too far away). They refused our SEK. Outside we were handed to another agent who handed over to a competent driver.

Indeed competent. We asked our driver to change our departure time from the Ritz Carlton, pinning our faith on our VIP service to gain an hour of sleep. And he did, allowing departure from the hotel at 8am. We really needed it…

It was somewhere in the middle of the night when we were shown to our room, which turned out to be much more than a room thanks to upgrade  – a wonderful suite with a curved balcony viewing the pool, the palms, and the glint of water between the beach and that phenomenal man made island, The Palm.

The porter had offered to show us the lights. This  usually has the form of you trying to scrabble in your handbag looking for a suitable note for a tip while the porter finds  yet another light switch to impress you with- We had no dirhams.

So we said no thanks – we are tired.

We would be far more tired before the switching out of the lights it turned out. They are controlled by a little flat electronic tablet we did not notice. No switches work.

We tried pulling out the door key, and sure enough the lights went out, but a deep thick curtain began to groan as it closed, and we were in utter pitch darkness.

Luckily we had a torch ready for our visit to the bush later on. So we were able to make our way back and insert the door key. Work out how to phone reception, and then try to solve the problem. In the end they had to come up and show us where the black computer was…

Next problem was how to switch on the loo light  for a late night visit. There was no way to do this simply in the middle of the night. You would have to switch on the main lights to see the computer controls, and a spotlight would gaze blindingly into your eyes from the ceiling above your bed.

So we had to leave the loo light on all night.

This was a small incident.

The suite was gorgeous. Loads of room for entertaining if we wanted to do more than sleep through our stopover. Lovely decor. Lovely bathroom and dressing room. Wonderful bed and bedding. And a lovely balcony, curved with a view of palms and water. I just had my iPhone which was not up to the scenery at night.

But I took this picture down below on the way to breakfast through the tropical green morning.

Breakfast was a lavish tropical feast, adorablly delicious. We love you Ritz-Carlton…

I am trying to rescue Orbitwithgillian which has been hit by sorrow, loss of my webmaster my beloved daughter, time loss through work pressures and the loss of plugins from WordPress. 

Deia, art & olive groves

in MALLORCA | Comments (1)

Picture 1 of 16

Flowers and lemons, olives and mountains seen from La Residencia

Long before mass tourism, artists, writers and composers hid away on Mallorca to create masterpieces. But it became one of those “‘suburbs” of northern climes where you were more likely to meet a sweetheart than in your own home town, so you didn’t miss a chance, partied till dawn and lay limply uncovered in the sun.

Now it is back as a first class destination. We never once made the beach, and found a beautiful island full of mountains, stone villages and hidden corners, overflowing with cultural interest. We had no time for sunchairs, even by the pool though we had the privilege to stay in four luxury hotels, hidden from the crowds.
The first lies in a picturesque mountain village with a good number of expat artists. The second takes you to the foothills for a 2-Michelin star restaurant and a quiet stay devoted to spa and exercise – perhaps e-biking. The third overlooks Palma with sublime terraces, historical paintings and a vivid retrohistory of celebrities. The fourth is right in Palma, but gently hidden.

1. Deia

Deia, an enchanting village at the foot of the massive rocky Tramuntana mountains  has been home of artist’s since the sixties.

Here lies Belmond La Residencia, occupying the land and buildings of a 16th century finca or farm. Stepped up the slope in the same honey coloured stone as the village, it blends in harmoniously, surrounded by lush gardens erupting with gigantic roses, lemon, orange and olive trees. I had seen pictures but was unprepared for how gigantic the mountains are, looming up into the sky.

At sunset something amazing happens. It’s as if they catch alight for a short intense moment. Guests and those in the know sit on the terraces of Miro cafe waiting for the transformation. Preferably with a Miro cocktail. And I did the same, in the company of the ravishing Eva, svelte Kate and others.

Art is a passion at Belmond La Residencia. The hotel has three resident artists, the gorgeous grounds contain a sculpture garden, and the walls are hung with 800 curated artworks – including an impressive collection of 33 originals by Miró in place until September 2017.

Belmond La Residencia’s resident sculptor, Juan Waelder, knew the artist personally. Juan runs one of the hotel’s art workshops (which I joined that weekend). You can also join art walks with a guide to meet the village artists – more about that later.

The loving touch

The hotel welcomed us warmly. The farm mansions have been converted artfully into guest rooms of every size and shape, all enlivened by original paintings and antiques, and a refined rustic style with terracotta tiles and wooden beams. I had a junor suite superior, which enclosed me sweetly in an earthy mood, and gave visions through the glass doors into a small garden that had a sunbed round the corner and a table, from which you could see the incredible mountains
The hotel’s caring touch extends up the mountain through its own centuries-old olive groves. La Residencia spends a considerable budget on restoring the archaic stone walls that terrace the steep slope, and in removing unwanted plants for the sake of the precious olives and the beauty of the surroundings.

As allies in this effort they keep donkeys that nibble away between the olive trees. These beasts of burden add colour and authenticity to what is already a hotel full of Mallorcan atmosphere. They also encourage guests to adopt olive trees for a price.

Sharing their passion for their environment with guests is in itself a passion for hotel management and staff. Once a week they organize a walk up the slope with donkeys carrying your drinking water to a stone shed high up with views of Deia and the sea. There you sit down at a rustic table to hear about local ways and eat rustic food – a range of Mallorcan sausages and “pa amb oli” with fresh made bread, which you rub with wild tasting Mallorcan tomatoes, various salt mixes, and olive oil of various local varieties.

Towards the beginning of the stiff walk we saw a new platform with stunning sea view – destined for romantic private dining. The velvet blue of the sea peeps between the gnarled trunks of olives.
The hotel ,in reviving its large olive plantations, is grafting fresh olive plants onto the old rootstock of well adapted Mallorcan olives. The higher we walked, the more sea we saw

Sea and mountains You can see the sea way below but it’s not so far away. It’s a mere 5 mins drive or some 20 to 30 mins walk down a rustic path to Cala Deia. We arrived at a rocky cove with sparkling seawater and a small beach strewn with kelp and pebbles. We chose one of two tapas bars, to sit in the sun sipping gin with hibiscus tonic – a drink that our party were now wondering how to get back home.
In the slide show you see a  rustic bar at Cala Deia with Kate from the Belmond team

In the summer the hotel offers boat trips along the coast to other sights and beaches. Or for hikers, you can stride for some 2 hours over mountain passes to Port Soller to enjoy its beach and bars, feeling you really deserve it.

Back at the hotel swimming goes on from spring to autumn. The main pool is heated, and there are two more pools including a spa pool, where one of our party trained before breakfast.
Deia and the Tramuntana mountains add enchantment beyond the heated pool

Tapas and village culture

With their stunning backdrop of towering mountains and gardens simply erupting with flowers, the hotel terraces are sublime spots for breakfast, lunch and cocktails – and of course for tapas.

Both Miro restaurant and El Olivo are worthy F&B destinations with guests coming from far afield. In the picturesque village there are 8 restaurants so that creates a bit of competition which helps to keep a high standard all round.

Other boasting points in Deia are a museum and a lovely church with the churchyard where the English poet and writer Robert Graves was buried. He lived here for decades from 1929 until his death in 1985 and his home can be visited.

Intimately part of Deia, La Residencia gives easy access to village life. You can buy Mallorcan gins and olive oil, browse in a few arty shops, and interact with local artists in their studios (most of them simply homes stacked with art for viewing and for sale). No artists will hassle you to buy (however happy they will be if you do). They will tell you why they painted x or y, revealing their dreams or their loves and disillusions.

On our art walk with one of La Residencia’s art gurus:

Some artworks by David Templeton outside his home – which is packed with paintings and collages from floor to ceiling, lounge to kitchen

Arturo drifted in to Deia on his travels round the world – and stayed decades. No pose of arrogant intellectual mystique – he will tell you a story behind every painting – true if you want or pure fantasy. Vermeer’s lady with the pearl earring pops up in various paintings – here she has the background of Cala Deia.Behind is Blind Date – based on a failed date of his own – which lead to the next painting….
Women bear a huge burden of romance – his amusing perhaps sardonic explanation for the flowery lady bearing Cupid on her breast.

In the gardens at the hotel at least once a week you find local art on display. One of the managers told us about a big party in the summer to which the hotel invites the villagers – another high point of interaction with the locals. The band is very likely to contain a few of the expat artists who discovered Deia decades ago.

A place of your own At Belmond La Residencia most rooms have views of mountains soaring heavenward, the lush gardens or the stone village.

The building lowest down – virtually in the village – is the oldest mansion (16th century) and some rooms have a more medieval feel ladled with nostalgia. Next tier, the Son Fony wing is where we stayed in an 18th century mansion above the main pool area. Finally, perched high on the slope, is the new Tramuntana wing – recreating the old style but with stunning open views and a number of plunge pools. I liked the Son Fony wing best for its balance of old and newish.

In June 2017, there were six new rooms high up in the Tramuntana section, with a special attraction for extended families. On two levels you have the possibility to book three interleading suites as two Exclusive suites (each with plunge pool and separate lounge) interlink and interconnect with a Junior Suite Deluxe on each level.

in a nutshell – worth your bucket list In short, Belmond La Residencia is a hotel with soul, with refined and cultured atmosphere yet warm and relaxing. It radiates the authentic feel of old stone, original art and antiques – and is wrapped in beauty with tall mountains and exuberant scented gardens, within easy reach of the sea. Hotel arranges activities to put you in tune with Mallorca, its olive groves, artists, and tapas…or just head off on your own.

Post from 2017 that somehow escaped publication…

Green-washing & retro forestry

August 17, 2018 in SWEDEN | Comments (1)

I suspect the law does not cover all our concerns regarding clear-cutting (kalhygge). And worse, I suspect it never will.

How green is Sweden?

Biodiversity is still a catchword, but carbon trapping has become the trump card. If Swedish forestry companies wipe out a large number of species that is something for the tree huggers to mourn over – normal Swedes are proudly told that Sweden is super-green: Sweden is providing sustainable building materials and trapping carbon faster than the country releases it by cutting forests before they get old, and planting new. The industry has hijacked the word “sustainable”.   Extensive and expanded kalhygge seems to have become equal to “sustainable forestry”  because it allows them to plant lots of new carbon trapping trees.

So is Sweden happy to become a vast carbon trapping factory with big forest companies ruling alongside increased consumption of wood based materials? A factory where all that counts is production, and the deep forest culture of Sweden can be swept into the past?


Deteriorating scenery?

You can cut a forest down every 60 to 80 years – if they cut too many within a limited geographic area you are left with a bald and deserted landscape with (in our usually cold climate) a patchwork of  bare scarred earth, impenetrable brush and slow growing plantations.

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“Kalhygge” 1km from Ramshyttan in May 2018

This is what is happening in a big radius around Ramshyttan…and along Bergslagsleden (felling followed by impenetrable brush and plantation). Since Sveaskog has the whole country to play with, they can leave some forests somewhere else for future cutting. But Ramshyttan area does not benefit from that. If they take our last forests now, they will have nothing to cut in the area for some 40 to 70 years and we will have no forests in this country of forests though we are grateful for the nature reserves.  (A nature reserve protects a narrow band of trees along our little stream that flows out of Sågdammen into Kvarndammen, and on to Lilla Ramsjön; and protects a band of trees some 1km along a canal to near Lilla Damsjön – we also have a nature reserve consisting of meadows and some copses of deciduous trees)


The greening of Sweden?

The forestry business has a sizable investment in propaganda films that present a vision of Sweden as a heroic carbon trapper. Of course carbon trapping is good, but these films suggest old forests are dispensable as young growing forests trap more carbon. In such films we see giant machines (which will destroy the ground from earth to sky, obliterate animal homes, and reduce biodiversity) operating to happy music with a techno-enthusiast’s dream of GPS to guide them, while the ground is left merrily bare except for fallen branches that will be used for biofuel. If biofuel is going to release some carbon into the air, we are not told.

Is this applause for carbon trapping the reason Sveaskog took a step backwards in terms of sustainable forestry and began doing “kalhygge” all around us. Retro forestry!

Can they shelve their internal green revolution and still claim to be green? Apparently yes, to the detriment of our environment and our healthy forest recreation lifestyle.

You can’t walk in the new plantations for some 30 years or more – and they don’t feel like or look like forests for a very long time, definitely not fairytale magical forests (trolska skogar)

In the new “green” retro forestry, there is little respect for forest recreation with walking, riding, biking, berries and mushroom picking nor for Sweden’s ancient cultural fascination for old forest enchantment.  The paintings of Hans Arnold, the film Dunderklumpen, the forest trolls come to mind – will there be any “trolska skogar” left?

Sweden has preserved less virgin forest than countries that are considered as forest destroyers, and sits around 100th in the world for forest protection. But Center party has gone out to claim the virtue of Sweden as a carbon trapper and insists that 20% of the forests are protected. The Miljö party in Nora has not answered any of my mails about our distress in Ramshyttan. Apparently couldn’t care – or have also adopted kalhygge as sustainable forestry and a good way to get biofuel. The social democrats are traditionally happy with industrial thinking and big boss style – a nice big carbon trapping factory from border to border might suit them too?

Can anyone tell me which political party in Sweden understands the true meaning of sustainable behaviour/economy? Sustainable means you can go on doing it without destroying everything… cultural and spiritual, economic and social.


A microeconomic focus ?

Can we not put high value on small business and growth in rural areas? ? Ecotourism has tremendous potential for us in Ramshyttan, Nora and Örebro län. With due respects Örebro castle and the big Ica might bring a few busloads of Chinese tourists to Örebro but the real attraction for urban European tourists is our unspoiled environment of lakes and forests and the walking trails and mountain biking trails.  Beauty might be a suspect word in economics but it is everything in tourism. It’s hard to be happy about Sweden’s carbon footprint when our own environment in Ramshyttan and Bergslagsleden  is being subjected to huge “sores” – vast Kalhygge that might even make  a biker choose another route. See the video clip along a road at the perimeter of our village. We need our forests.





Early this summer (2018) we suddenly had a vast and devastating Kalhygge at one of the entrances to our village (see posts July & August 2018) though in recent years Sveaskog have limited themselves to checker board cutting which is less offensive to the eye, less disruptive to animal life and less destructive for biodiversity. At least 3 of us burst out crying when we saw the devastation of our favorite berry and mushroom forest, a once pleasant walk from home.

When the danger of fire was over after the summer they were back. With a petition from Ramshyttan village to save 10 forests on their table (small forests shown in the attached map) they without warning during the night brought in subcontractors to do a clear cut (kalhygge) adjoining the last bigger kalhygge, now facing one of the village properties.  Its not that they ignored our petition – Sveaskog have been very pleasant and agreed to look again at the plans for the small forests intimately associated with the village; they apparently just didn’t realize that the area opposite Grindtorp farm’s meadows is considered part of our environment in Ramshyttan.

So what is awaiting the axe?

The below map shows projected forestry operations in the village of Ramshyttan – due to commence soon (as of 18 Aug 2018). Outside the map and north of the village, four clearcutting operations (kalhygge) took place between May and 16 Aug, including its northern entrance by Ramshyttans Horse Farm.

10 places to cut

1, 2, 3 – an integral part of the village

Most important for the villagers are 1, 2 and 3 on the map which provide wind shelter, traffic noise protection, recreation (and are a vital part of the look of the village).


2 – the ski trail

2 is also an impressive part of the ski trail through Ramshyttan from Ånnaboda to Digerberget; and 3 is flush with the home of Vic and Kathleen Fenn – almost in their garden!


4 – scenic road by Ramsjön

4 is a small forest gracing the banks of Ramsjön’s scenic road to Ramshyttan..


5 on Bergslagsleden


5 is an old rugged forest on Bergslagsleden – a favourite spot to take riders from Ramshyttans Hästgård / Horse Farm (it also has a small stream with a bridge). Marie Elfversson will be very sad to see that destination disappear and become kalhygge, followed by brush or uninteresting young impenetrable plantation.

(A nature reserve protects a narrow band of trees along our little stream that flows out of Sågdammen into Kvarndammen, and on to Lilla Ramsjön; and protects a band of trees some 1km along a canal to near Lilla Damsjön – we also have a nature reserve consisting of meadows and some copses of deciduous trees)

Save our forests in Ramshyttan

July 13, 2018 in SWEDEN | Comments (0)

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The forests swathing the green hills and valleys of Bergslagen are shrinking, and with it the amazing recreation potential with carpets of berries and mushrooms open to all to pick under the far sighted law Every Mans Right.  Visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the freedom of the forests, walking, riding, cycling, mountain biking along the myriads of forest trails in Bergslagen. We would like to keep it that way. What we need is sustainable forestry…

Year after year, the area sees forests cut down, sometimes simply devastated by unsustainable forestry. The  village of Ramshyttan has been particularly hit and has seen the old forests in the environs disappear one after one and new monospecies plantations come slowly up – too thick to walk through and without the wonderful mushrooms and berries undergrowth. The kantarell / chantarelle is particuarly difficult to regenerate.

Click here for the latest “kalhygge”. I cried – I more than cried – I howled….

The shock of this sight has waves.  I have helped the villagers prepare the following petition for Sveaskog…please excuse my mix of English and Swedish. I write in English but some of the villagers have given me quotes in Swedish – which I prefer not to translate.



For the sake of our quality of life, for our children and grandchildren, for our visitors, and for the riders who gallop our living trails – please save our last few old forests

sågdammen from house2

We, residents of Ramshyttan (see names below), plead that Sveaskog revises its plans to cut down the last few small forests in our village area, shown as the black stippled areas in the map below.  In recent years vast areas of forest around us have been cut down by big machines that destroy the undergrowth and biodiversity for generations, and the last few small forests in our village are important not only for plant and animal diversity but also for wind shelter, recreation, quality of life and our tourist economy. Ramshyttan lies on Bergslagsleden so tourists come through our picturesque village for hiking, riding, mountain biking and other recreation. They bring income; and the loss of our forests means loss of investment in developing ecotourism.

We are a close-knit community of people, most of whom live here permanently. We chose to live here because we enjoy nature, so we want forests left in our village and around us where we can walk under tall trees, with a rich variety of species, an undergrowth of mushrooms, berries and so on, all in harmony with the wildlife. It is time to let the environment in Ramshyttan catch up. WE DO NOT WANT any more “kalhygge” in Ramshyttan or at the entrance to our village.

We want future generations to experience Sweden at its fullest. Our forests are part of our culture, our heritage and our folklore.


map of forests to be cut

Ramshyttan forests felled in May or soon to be cut down are stippled black. The pale green areas have been cut down in recent years, sometimes with far spaced pines left to seed  

  • SHRINKING FORESTS. Over the 10 to 15 years the forests around Ramshyttan have drastically shrunk due to massive areas being cut, gradually replaced by impenetrable plantations or thick brush that will reduce the recreation potential for decades and biodiversity for generations. Now the last old forests in the village are targeted – and some have already been cut. See map above: black stippled areas are due for felling and pale green areas that have been felled and not yet regenerated.


  • RECENT DEVASTATION. We were shocked and distressed when we saw the destructive “kalhygge” this summer in one of our recreation areas walking distance from the village. A vast area the size of many city blocks has been totally devastated and the ground left scarred by giant wheels. It will be far greater devastation if Sveaskog does “markberedning” (ploughing the ground for later planting). In recent years this forest was our main kantarell and berry picking forest due to most of the others being cut or diminished by big machine forestry. It’s doubtful that any kantarell will be there in the new plantation and it will be impossible to walk through for many years. The area is not in the above map – it is walking distance north.


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The devastation of our forests – this is not sustainable forestry


”Jag förstår det är skogsproduktion det handlar om, men kan man inte tänka sig en steg längre och avverka på ett hållbart sätt nära byar och turisttäta områden. Dess kalhyggen är som sår i naturen och det kommer att ta så många år innan de läker. Vem villa besöka dem?”


Comments by Ramshyttan residents and villa owners who want to preserve the forests in the village of Ramshyttan

”Vi tycker att det är viktigt att skogsägare visar stora hänsyn när det gäller avverkning i områden som har särskild betydelse utifrån ett naturintresse. Såväl Örebro kommun, Region Örebro samt Länsstyrelsen i Örebro har ofta påtalat vikten av naturhänsyn och värdet av miljön i och runt Ramsjön och Ramshyttan.”


Claes Wahlberg & Lena Källströmowners of a house in Ramshyttan for 27 years. Claes has helped to develop recreation in Ramshyttan and Kilsbergen.

Claes och jag har bott 27 år i Ramshyttan och vi vill inte att skogen nära och runt omkring oss avverkas mer. Vi valde att bo här just för närheten till naturen med allt vad det innebär. Att ha ett kalhygge som utsikt vill vi verkligen inte!

Lena Hellström – has lived and/or had a house in Ramshyttan for 28 years and written 20 books on Bergslagen including Den blåa Bergen. Lena has already informed Sveaskog she does not want the forest protecting her house from destructive winds to be cut down.

Hur ska via kunna skydda de sista resterna av underbar artrik skog med allt vad det betyder av växtliv, djurliv och glädje för människor? Sveaskog tänker avverka alltihop av det lilla som finns kvar i Ramshyttan.

Marie Elfverssonowner of house(s) in Ramshyttan for 30 years/ runs Ramshyttan Horse Farm riding ventures:

Ryttare kommer från hela Sverige och olika länder i Europa. De älskar det här området och berättar för sina vänner. På väg från Ramshyttan mot Mogetorp frågar de om detta är ett naturreservat, men det är det inte. Sveaskog kommer att avverka den gamla skogen på både sidorna av Bergslagsleden. Jag gråter varje gång jag ser en gammal skog nedhuggen – speciellt skogen runt Ramshyttan. Skogarna som finns kvar borde räddas.

Så här står det i
Ramshyttan Horse Farm i Bergslagen har ridning i lite skala men i stor natur. Här rider du i ett kulturlandskap som innehåller både trolska skogar och gamla hyttor. Att bo i Ramshyttan är att bo i den svenska historien. Att Rida i Ramshyttan är en fröjd då du får kliva upp på magnifika Frieserhästar eller de mindre Islandshästarna / Marie


Jan Hermansson & Karin Tellås Hermanssonowners of a house in Ramshyttan for 29 years, active as photographers and painter.

Vi bor omgivna av skog sedan många år och vi älskar det – vi går i skogarna och inspireras av den för målning och fotografering. Skogarna har minskat mycket de senaste år och nu borde det som är kvar räddas.

Ragnar Sutter & Lena Bergsten Sutter Lena och Ragnar har bott i Ramshyttan i snart 30 år och bedriver en uthyrningsverksamhet för turister.

 Hit kommer människor från hela världen för att uppleva Kilsbergens vildmark och skönhet.

Vi tycker att det är viktigt att skogsägare visar stora hänsyn när det gäller avverkning i områden som har särskild betydelse utifrån ett naturintresse. Såväl Örebro kommun, Region Örebro samt Länsstyrelsen i Örebro har ofta påtalat vikten av naturhänsyn och värdet av miljön i och runt Ramsjön och Ramshyttan.

Henrik Bergström – owns a house in Ramshyttan for 1.5 years

I moved to Ramshyttan in Kilsbergen after falling in love with its natural beauty and the calm surrounding it. The forest has always been close to my heart and I feel that it is a big shame that so much of the beautiful and important forest surrounding the central part of Ramshyttan is planned to be taken down! It will permanently alter the framing and wildlife of the entire village. I fear that this is only the beginning and that this has to be stopped in time in order to save the forest, wildlife and local business.

Sabina Schnegotski  – owner of a cottage in the village for 12 years – lives in Örebro.

Nej dom får inte förstöra vår vackra skogen i byn. Skogen är så vacker. Försträckligt om man skulle göra det till en kalhygge mitt i byn. I Nora villa politikerna stasa på att får så många turister som möjligt att kommer till vårt område. De verkligen prioritera detta. Det som lockar är bla Bergslagsleden, mountiinbike tracks, svamp och bärplockning. Att campa och bada, och uppleva lugnet och djurlivet – och allt hänger på att vi har en fin nature. Varje dag vandrar det förbi och cyclar turister från alla världens hörn vid min stuga och de säger att det är fantastisk med all skog och fina natur.

Just nu blir det fler och fler kalhyggen runt byn. Om detta fortsätter kommer turisterna inte ha något vacker att åka till.

Jag förstår det är skogsproduktion det handlar om, men kan man inte tänka sig en steg längre och avverka på ett hållbart sätt nära byar och turisttäta områden. Dess kalhyggen är som sår i naturen och det kommer att ta så många år innan de läker. Vem villa besöka dem?

Borde inte Sveaskog som är staten, alltså vi, tänka på att bevara omgivningarna runt byar och turisttäta områden? Fortsätta detta så kommer inte det finnas någon vacker skog kvar.

Erik Burghgraaff – from The Netherlands has visited regularly for 6 years

This place has such beautiful nature. To take away all forest would be devastating not only for our generation but for coming generations. The reforestation cycle is so long! How in a sane mind could one make such a decision – to leave the nature as if it is a war zone!!!  You can see it all round Ramshyttan already. Please save the last pieces of forest.

Kristina Bervenståhl – Ramshyttebo sedan 2001

Jag är ägare till Ramshyttans äldsta Bergsmansgård byggår före 1861. Ramshyttan är en av de småbyar som uppskattas av de boende men även av alla turister som passerar dagligen inte bara från närområdet utan också nerifrån Europa. Dessa uppskattar precis som vi att vi har frisk luft, rent vatten, tystnad o vilda djur. Om skogen försvinner förstörs närmiljön i Ramshyttan för innevånarna men även för alla turister från när och fjärran som besöker oss i sitt sökande efter en vacker och ursprunglig natur och hittar oss via sina datorer. Jag hoppas att alla förstår vad eftersökta dessa miljöer blir i framtiden med tanke på den miljöförstöring som försiggår.

Juha Raivio – Finnish musician – has lived here to write music together with Ramshyttan resident, the singer Aleah (died 2016 and has a memorial garden facing the Sågdammen forest). 

We walked and rode horses among the beauty of these woods and we wrote the Hour of the Nightingale Album together inspired by these woods around us. I wrote Swallow the Sun’s Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, Songs from the North triple album and Hallatar album inspired by these woods and landscapes. Aleah did all the photography for Songs of the North album in these forests. I even shot a vido for the song ” Pray for the winds to come” in these very same woods they are going to destroy.

Magnus Hansen & Carin Juhlinhave lived in Ramshyttan for 9 years.

We are against the cutting down of any more forests in Ramshyttan. Our area in Kilsbergen is called Eco Park by Svea Skog. The forest around Ramshyttan ought to be considered as ecologically important.

Kathleeen Fennfrom South Africa – lived in Ramshyttan for 6 years, been visiting Ramshyttan for 13 years.

They are murdering our forests. Surely there are some official bodies in Sweden who can step in and save these beautiful forests around Ramshyttan. It is my understanding that Ramshyttan is an important part of Bergslagsleden, not only precious to Swedes but an important tourist attraction.

Victor Fennhas lived in Ramshyttan for 6 years, been visiting for 12 years and former owner of an Insurance Broking Company that insured growing timber in South Africa.

Referring to the Sågdammen forest:

This is not a plantation I would want to insure – it is steep and rocky and marshy. Not worth very much (from a production point of view). It looks like a jungle. If they fell this little forest it is not going to recover for a long time.

Howard & Ingrid Simson owner of the “manor” (herrgård) in Ramshyttan for 8 years.

The rhetoric of Sveaskog and of the Swedish government about sustainability seems to be forgotten – judging by the scarred ground and the big deforestation on our doorstep. It’s not acceptable that they cut all around us and then come right into our village to take the last grown forests AND remove our wind shelter.

Per-Olov Broddesonlives in Ramshyttan since 2016.

Jag förstår inte varför de vill fälla den lilla skogen (Sågdammen skog). Det är så svårt att köra en stor maskin runt i, den är full av träsk där maskinerna kan fastna, träden är inte fantastiska för timmer – men det är en vacker plats att besöka för bär och svamp. När de har kört runt där – det blir inget kvar, även om de inte skär alla träd. Om de lämnar en rad av några träd på banken som de har planerat kommer det bara att se dumt ut.

Roland Stanbridgeowner Grindtorp farm for 12 years:

Their enormous logging machines cause immense environmental damage which will probably not recover for hundreds of years. They should leave our last forests in Ramshyttan to help regeneration of the whole area with different types of mushrooms, plants, insects, animals and birds. Ramshyttan and the surrounding forests had, until recently, wonderful biodiversity. This attracted scores of international visitors. Now we are being surrounded by clearcut ‘kalhygge’. We hardly see deer or elk anymore….

Michal Kaczmarek –  Polish citizen, visited Ramshyttan many times and became a resident here 2.5 years ago.

I visited for many years and walked a lot in the forests. They have cut too much. There was some really beautiful forest on a hill by Ramsjön. When I came back I was shocked. It looked like the moon.

Gillian Stanbridgeowner of a house in Ramshyttan for 11 years and been coming here for 17 years – the targeted forest on Sågdammen is within full view of the house.

My heart broke when I saw what Sveaskog did to the vast forest near us, which was so full of magic and memories of picking mushrooms and berries with my daughter Aleah who died. That special forest has become acres and acres of nothingness churned up by their giant forestry machines – and it now feels like the end of the world. For weeks I have woken with dread every time I hear a heavy vehicle, as if it were the sound of tanks roaring in to conquer our village.

I have been talking to Sveaskog representatives about saving the last forests in and around our village of Ramshyttan – all targeted for cutting – including the beautiful forest fringing the lake in front of our house. They have been very helpful but need to find a way between the rules of their vast organization, in order to fulfil the promise of the new generation of more ecologically aware staff, in line with a new generation of Swedes who value biodiversity.

I live with the Sågdammen forest day and night – and I will shrivel inside if it is destroyed. It has a delicate ecology, with marshes, fabulous mosses and a little stream, and I am very worried about the plans to leave only a fringe of trees on the bank; they will stick up like a broken comb and the wind will howl through the valley. I am worried about Sveaskog’s insistence on taking all the spruce (gran) – as it is an important part of our wind shelter. Also – to me the spruce is a truly Nordic tree full of the magic of Dunderklumpen and Swedish folkore. Can’t the very old ones be left along the ski trail as they add so much magnificence?

We want a lush, exciting entrance to our village – not a kalhygge followed in later years by a grey green growth – and finally something you could call a forest perhaps 40 years later – most likely with no kantarell. I will then be long gone and so will most of my neighbours.



Agate CurieFrench citizen – visited Ramshyttan for a holiday and to help with organic farming

The nature of Sweden is remarkably preserved, In contrary to most areas in the world, and it was especially impressive in your area. The air is pure, the woods are alive, walking in it was wonderful. I think it’s of the utmost importance to keep these natural jewels intact…And if only to appeal to the governmental priority, its nature is the first reason to visit the country for most travelers. You take away its nature, you give up the money for tourism. That’s of course not my personal concern but it should be one of the government’s.

Clementine CurieFrench-American citizen – has spent many months in Ramshyttan in the last 2 years, and worked from here.

The first time I came to Sweden in 2016, I was stunned by the beauty of the snow-covered forest of Ramshyttan, the epitome of what I imagined a Nordic scenery to look like. The forest and nature are truly what makes this area a magical and special place, one amongst very few of its kind left in the world. It is a treasure far more precious than any immediate profit could ever be. More recently, I was devastated to see what has been done to some areas of the forest already – they have been turned into battlefields, graveyards.

A forest that is centuries old can’t be replaced simply by planting new trees, especially of just one species. The relationships and interactions between trees are complex, and should be understood and respected by those who claim management of the forests (for reference, see for example the documentary “Intelligent trees”). In our own interest and that of future generations, we must start working with nature rather than against it.

Henrik Perrin – Ordförande Naturskyddsförening Nora.

Det är främst tre regler som ska beaktas av oss och ansvariga skogsägare.

  1. Social hänsyn: Varje avverkning ska ske med social hänsyn som t ex vindskydd för privat egendom eller andra direkt påverkande faktorer som försämrar de boendes förhållanden.
  2. Ekonomisk hänsyn: Enligt FSC ska särskild hänsyn tas om skötseln av skogen påverkar företagares utkomst av marken ifråga. I Ramshyttan finns flera näringsidkare med hästuthyrning, kulturarbetare, konstnärer som är direkt beroende av naturen för att kunna bedriva sina respektive rörelser. Detta beskrivs mycket väl i petitionen.

Den ekonomiska hänsynen måste även ses i ett vidare perspektiv då en hel kommuns ekonomi påverkas i detta fall. Nora lever på sin kulturmiljö, inte bara hyttor och träkåkar utan även den helhet som skapas av en vacker natur med mycket liv och aktiviteter. Moutainbikeleder, ekoturism, bergslagsleden, ljusstråk, turisters önskan att få uppleva vår ”unika” natur, hästridning, inspiration för konstnärsskap mm mm blir direkt påverkade negativt av kalhyggen och andra ”naturbruks”-metoder. Nora kommun borde vara mycket bekymrade över denna fråga nu och i framtiden.

  1. Alla bolag som lyder under FSC ska på anmodan från boende och andra intressenter i det aktuella området för skogsbruksåtgärder, komma ut för ett samrådsmöte på plats. Detta har Nora kommun och alla boende i Ramshyttan rätt till.


  1.  QUALITY OF LIFE & RECREATION. Our forests are important to us for walking, riding, picking berries and mushrooms, photography, painting, inspiration, peace and enjoyment. We chose Ramshyttan as a place to live largely because of its position amidst forests and lakes. We want the last forests in the village to be preserved.
  2. TOURISM POTENTIAL AROUND BERGSLAGSLEDEN. Ecotourism is an important source of economic growth for Bergslagen, now and in the future. Tourism advertising always mentions the unspoilt forests.  Not only in Ramshyttan area but in Nora and other areas of Bergslagen tourism will be negatively affected by the lack of forests worth walking, riding or biking through so close to Bergslagsleden, and the disappointing sight of the devastated newly deforested areas.  Riding in Ramshyttan is famous and people come from far and wide to ride on its many forested paths. The village should be left with some real forest or tourists will feel cheated and will certainly not recommend that others visit.
  3. DESTRUCTION OF BERRIES, KANTARELL & OTHER BIODIVERSITY. Because of modern forestry methods with huge logging machines we in Ramshyttan have lost many or most of the rich berry and mushroom picking forests in a wide radius. The number of plant species (and assumedly of animal species) has been reduced drastically with planting of single species.  This makes it all the more urgent to save our last forests.
  4. REPLANTING & ACCESSBILITY.  We are surrounded by large areas where forests have been cut down and dense growth of saplings or grey green brush have taken their place – too tight together for us to walk through. A few pockets of biodiversity must be left so that the vast areas cut down can regenerate in a healthy way with seeds and spores carried in the wind or by birds and insects. Please leave our last little forests.
  5. SMALL FORESTS. Our last forests in Ramshyttan are small forests, worth relatively little economically if one considers the destruction of our biosphere, quality of life for villagers and the negative impact on tourism.
  6. SÅGDAMMEN FOREST’S DELICATE ECOLOGY. The Sågdammen forest due for “avverkning” (felling) is seen from the Pershyttan-Ramshyttan road leading to Bergslagsleden. It is a very delicate environment with several marshes, a variety of mosses, a small stream, beaver-gnawed trunks, badger homes and mixed species of trees and undergrowth. Leaving a standard 10m band of trees on the bank will spoil the beauty of the lake and drastically reduce shelter from the wind. All the spruce are to be felled and most of the pines, further increasing winds in the valley. There are “naturvårds” ribbons placed near stream, marshes and bank – but it is such a small, steep forest it is hard to see how the machines will avoid creating immense damage. The forest will not regenerate easily due to large areas of boulders and marsh.**
  7. WIND SHELTER. We already have very high winds and now they will become even more destructive. The swathe of forest along Sågdammen and skirting the village to the old trail to Mogetorp should not be removed. **
  8. BERGSLAGSLEDEN. Some of the planned felling operations in the above map are along the famous forest trail (red/stippled line on map), and along the ski trail in the village area. Care should be taken not to give passers-by – on foot, on horseback, on cycles, on bikes and on skis – a feeling of desolation and loss. There are further close-by areas awaiting felling outside the scope of the map, where the impact should also be carefully considered.
  9. AWARENESS OF AFFECTED COMMUNITIES. Forest owners should show special consideration around communities where local people have a strong interest in interacting with unspoilt nature.


** Gillian Stanbridge has already communicated with Nils Nygren about the wind protection provided for the whole valley by the forest on Sågdammen, and the delicate ecology in that waterside forest in danger of total destruction from the big wheels of logging machines. He said that Rune Andersson would get in touch with Gillian Stanbridge. He hoped a mutually satisfactory position could be reached. A field assistant Moa, recently given the brief of Ramshyttan’s forestry, walked with Gillian and Marie Elversson through the site on 17 July.  Moa will visit again to study the forests and to try to find a more favourable solution that possibly takes into account both natural assets like Sågdammen and community recreation. Gillian informed her she already had a petition from villagers, and that she would send it as support for Moa’s endeavours.


We thank Sveaskog for a chance to talk to staff and air our views, and trust that our wishes will help to shape plans for sustainable and community-aware forestry in Ramshyttan area and surroundings in Bergslagen.


On behalf of ourselves as residents of Ramshyttan, our children and their children

On behalf of our visitors from Nora, Örebro, Stockholm and further afield (Holland, France, Germany, England, Ireland, Thailand, South Africa, USA and more)

On behalf of the riders who cross the world to ride on our famous forested paths

On behalf of our budding eco tourism economy in Ramshyttan and Berglslagen

We plead that our last few small forests in Ramshyttan should be preserved.



To sign the petition to save our last forests in Bergslagen and Ramshytan



Ramshyttan is a picturesque village with a 400 year old history of iron working , situated in Bergslagen on Bergslagsleden, 500m from Ramsjön. It is a popular destination for Örebro and Nora people for swimming, cycling, berry picking, and mushroom picking – forest recreation – and hundreds of people walk through the village and along its paths including Bergslagsleden every summer.  It is also a growing eco tourism destination, like the rest of Bergslagen, and several Ramshyttan properties get income from stays by tourist visitors. Ramshyttan Horse Farm is becoming increasingly well known – riders come from all over Sweden and abroad to ride on many paths and quiet roads through the forests according to Allamansrätt.

In snowy winters, people from Örebro and further afield ski through Ramshyttan village and through a spectacularly beautiful forest in the heart of the village – which is one of the highlights of the trail along with the meadows, Friesian horses and red and white houses of Ramshyttan. That spectacular forest is one of those due to be cut.


  • Sveaskog have marked out some small areas for special attention regarding culture (kulturhänsyn) and nature conservation (naturvårds hänsyn) in the targeted forests. The culture markers follow an ancient trail from Ramshyttan that goes through forests (including one of the targeted forests marked for avverkning) towards Mogetorp. Some of the kulturvård markers indicated the ruins of a community 100 years ago which lies in another old forest close to Ramshyttan, which has already been cut bare while preserving the remains.  A few naturvårds ribbons can be seen in the beautiful forest by the ski track awaiting “avverkning”; and near some marshes in Sågdammen forest and along the bank of the water. Many ribbons are half hidden so it’s a lot to expect that the drivers rushing to get through their work will not cause damage.
  • Fortunately, when cutting down vast areas c.  2010, Sveaskog has left a small stand of trees around one of the shelters on Bergslagsleden (the famous forest trail) and that means there are berries and mushrooms there too for the tourists (subject to competition). Earlier they cut away a beautiful forest up on the left bank of the Bergslagsleden pathway from Ramshyttan and on both sides further on. Pines were left far apart in part of the forest – which remains quite bleak. In other areas there is a plantation growing up  – at this stage not very interesting.
  • Also fortunate, a visionary employee of Sveaskog sold forests and meadows in the village to Grindtorp farm to prevent the sort of trouble we experience now. So there are beautiful pastures where horses feed; and some small areas of very old forest standing (mostly birch but with some genuine old forest covered in lichen), used for keeping horses and thus not usually visited by the village. Also there are some beautiful birch groves in Ramshyttan nature reserve, which was donated to Örebro by one of the former residents – as well as lovely pasture land where cattle are grazed in summer.
  • On the far corner of Ramsjön (a few km from the village centre) is part of the Kilsbergen Ecopark, created just before Sveaskog started massive felling “avverkning” in Ramshyttan area in 2010. There is a beautiful stand of trees on the far corner of Ramsjön (lake) beside the forest road to Närkeskil. (marked red on the map with text nyckelbiotop). However much of the park area is scrub – not old forests.
  • A nature reserve (domänreservat) protects the running stream from the waterfall out of Sågdammen to Kvarndammen and on to Lilla Ramsjön – one of the most exquisite parts of Ramshyttan and Bergslagsleden. World class beauty though limited in extent. A few km along the ski trail that passes through the village, you can find the remains of an old community and next to it a nature reserve of magnificent trees, stretching down to the river and the site of the former mill. It is a pity that they did not try or could not add the area of the old community to the nature reserve. Sveaskog in May this year did an immaculate kalhygge on the site of the old village. Kalhygge in the sense that no trees were left on the site (though remaining in the nature reserve). Immaculate in the sense that they exposed various remains like a former cellar, and left 1.3m high trunks of trees around the various remains  – “kulturstubbe”. Care was taken not to entirely remove the moss cover of the ground – though the wheels have left ruts, and a former transport road from the village was ignored in their preservation efforts.


During the last large scale forestry operation around Ramshyttan in 2010, Sveaskog’s machine drivers caused damage to ancient paths that traverse this village. Later they tried to fix one of the stone-paved paths – which is good, but easier of course than restoring biodiversity  (See my think-piece blog written at the time.)




Mopping up the last old forests of Ramshyttan follows vigorous forestry and kalhygge operations by Sveaskog in other areas of Bergslagen last year – including Dalkarlsberg and Pershyttan, a picturesque village full of history with a steam train station and thousands of visitors vising the old mill. A vast forest was taken down facing the station – once a wall of impressive gigantic trees – they could at least have left that awe inspiring living wall of greenery and cut out down trees out of sight. The forest by the Pershyttan lake was also cut down (a smaller area) and some trees left along the bank of the lake and a jogging trail. One is grateful for the trees, but looking at the lake from the road, it doesn’t look like a forest on the bank – just like trees standing. On the banks of Kvarndammen a forest was cut down leaving only a single line of trees, quite far apart. Birch brush is growing up beyond it – not very interesting.


The Swedish parliament and Sveaskog itself have spoken out for sustainable forestry and Sveaskog has practiced it in some areas. Please hold up these principles for us in Bergslagen and in our village of Ramshyttan. We have lost too many forests too fast and the forestry methods have destroyed the undergrowth and biodiversity. In villages and the outskirts of cities – sustainable forestry methods should be developed so as not to destroy the undergrowth and the biodiversity that gives us so much joy. Tree cutting need not devastate the landscape as in the latest extensive “kalhygge” by Ramshyttan village. Patchwork cutting, as developed in recent years, is more acceptable, or most preferably continuous cutting of mature trees, which leaves a natural forest with trees of all kinds, shapes and sizes, along with the precious undergrowith (and provides a regular income). Please consider employing this ultimate form of sustainable foresty in villages and important tourist areas to maintain their appeal and recreation potential, and to help maintain biodiversity for us and the generations who come after us.



forest stream

Sågdammen and a targeted forest – view from one of the houses in Ramshyttan Forest and Sågdammen. View from road Pershyttan-Ramshyttan / Bergslagsleden
Sågdammen with our red marking of the marsh/sumpmark and an area of the bank where all trees may be removed creating a wind tunnel Fabulous mosses, probably three kinds, in the marshes of Sågdammen forest  – a natural treasure  and in danger from the big wheels.
Beautiful mossy area in one of the swamps. Some “naturvårds” ribbons on a few nearby trees – but not all around  – very vulnerable to big machines Small stream still visible in Sågdammen forest despite 3 or 4 weeks drought. Some naturvårds ribbons on nearby trees – but not all the way along
Mosses, berries and water – beauty to be saved from the destructive wheels of the gigantic machines Showing an area of the bank of Sågdammen where few trees would remain – leaving gaps through which the wind will howl down the valley
One of the culture (kulturvård) ribbons besdie the ancient path from Ramshyttan towards Mogetorp. Good thing – but the little old forest it crosses is due for “avverkning”. Animal bones remind this is a real wild forest that will be removed The ancient path that Sveaskog will take care not to disturb this time round – though the journey that thrills riders will become tame when the last old forest goes and only half grown saplings line the
The old forest beside the Mogetorp path, with a little bridge over a currently dry waterway – Sveaskog is taking care this time not to destroy the path and spoke of creating own bridge over it to get at the forest on both sides. This is the forest loved by the horseriders – though much diminished in size by previous cutting A parking place built to store the once living forest as poles and scraps for timber and biofuel. On the left is a swathe of forest that sweeps around some of the village forming a wind break – but scheduled for felling. On the right is a boring sweep of once richly forested hills now with occasional pines sticking up and a grey green growth




Sågdammen, is the central waterway in Ramshyttan and can be seen from two little bridges used by traffic and hikers on Bergslagsleden. It is also the view from 413 Ramshyttan.


Magical moments around the clock – mist and moonlight over Sågdammen and the fringing forest. Please preserve this beauty and the waterway Some of the magic of Dunderklumpen and paintings by Hans Arnold – part of Swedish folklore.  Please preserve this forest.



In the projected forestry operation with big machines in the little forest, this is the most varied and vulnerable area targeted. I have the following concerns in addition to my fear about my precious view.

  • The wind through the valley. Only 9 pines are to be left in the whole forest (an estimate excluding trees on the bank) – and all the spruce (GRAN) will be removed (which is the main growth and wind protection of this dense old forest). On the banks, trees will be left in a narrow area  – leaving little protection from already destructive winds. In one area I understand there will be no trees – thus creating a wind tunnel.
  • Protection of the forest marshes (sumpmark). It is important that the big forestry machines do not traverse the swamps and that this area is left alone. It is full of beautiful mosses – 3 different kinds including a rare moss I heard.
  • Protection of a little waterway in the forest There are some nature conservation markers near the waterway, but not along its whole length. It is important the giant machines do not cross this delicate waterway anywhere along its length.
  • Sustainable tourism. By leaving only denuded stones and a few trees here and there, the beauty of the lake will be spoilt, creating a negative impact on eco tourism – by disappointing visitors to Ramshyttan and along Bergslagsleden walking, riding, cycling, and camping. Niche tourism is largely spread by word of mouth and ecotourist visitors seeing the last forests cut down in Ramshyttan will be unlikely to bring new tourists.
  • Poor future as a production forest (plantation) due to a large area of boulders, marshland and crumbly slopes and river bank. The majority of the trees are spruce (gran) possibly because their roots can hold on in these stony thin soils – but all spruce will be cut down.
  • Destroying undergrowth and animal habitats. Will the economic gains in cutting down this poor forest for timber be worth the destruction of a priceless habitat for animals and plants?
  • Reducing recreation potential for villagers, The locals live here to be amidst the forests for walking, berry picking, mushroom picking, riding, or conducting tourism. Örebro, Nora and other visitors also visit, searching for berries, mushrooms etc. Almost every berry and mushroom patch will have disappeared in the next few weeks and our favourite walks are looking sad and sorry. Several residents are so devastated by the deforestation of Ramshyttan that they think of selling and leaving, including myself.
  • Responsible sustainable forestry/maintaining biodiversity.  There is a qualitative difference between a forest in a village and out in the bush, and the responsibility of a state owned company to think also of the well-being of the people it impacts with it operations.
Not much profit to be made from old trees like this – but they add such depth to a study of the biosphere Whether it’s the beavers or the wind – there are a lot of fallen trees in this forest (unimpressive plantation from a forestry point of view)
Jewelled beauty of moss in a marsh. There is a nature conservation marker somewhere in the trees in the middle here. It could be missed by the drivers View of the forest from Aleah’s Garden of Trees of Eternity. Two trees planted by band members of Trees of Eternity in the foreground. Please let the garden face an eternal forest not a tree grave.


There is a gully full of fallen trees at the end of the lake- resulting from marshland and wind. There is a danger that leaving too few trees will cause even more powerful and destructive winds to howl through the valley The very welcome nature conservation ribbons. A long one is meant to indicate an area to be preserved. Would that mean from here to the lake? Or something behind it? In other areas the ribbon is very close to the lake which is very worrying.


Gillian Stanbridge Ramshyttan