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.

 

Footnote:

 

 

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  village of Ramshyttan has been particularly hit by the hunger for timber and biofuel, 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.

SAVE THE LAST FORESTS IN RAMSHYTTAN

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 visitorebro.se
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.

SOME COMMENTS BY TOURIST VISITORS & NATURSKYDDSFÖRENING (NATURE CONSERVATION SOCIETY)

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.

MAIN POINTS OF THE PETITION

  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.

HELP TO SAVE OUR FORESTS

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

CLICK HERE

WHAT IS RAMSHYTTAN

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.

GOOD THINGS

  • 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.

WORRYING PAST

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.)

REFER TO BLOG 2010:
ECOTOURISM CHOMPED BY MACHINES

IN PERSPECTIVE

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.

SUSTAINABLE FORESTRY

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.

SOME PICTURES TO COME

forest stream

SÅGDAMMEN’S DELICATE ECOLOGY

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.

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.

Gillian Stanbridge Ramshyttan


Maldives – in the heart forever

September 20, 2017 in MALDIVES | Comments (1)

Maldives – forever heaven. At least in my heart, though the mushrooming of hotels on once deserted islands can create some despondency in those of us who discovered this world of atolls and lagoons long ago. Some earlier blogs are now in pages

aleah

(more…)


The dreamy world again

August 18, 2017 in MALDIVES | Comments (0)

A few more images. For my travel story see the last post.

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Scenic flight by seaplane from Male to Soneva Fushi

This is a personal note. I adore Soneva Fushi, If I sound a bit too professional and remote from the experience its because there was too much going on in my mind. I was there this time with my grandchild. The previous time (2014) with my daughter, who passed on to another world last year, 18 April 2016.

I could not see her clearly in my mind’s eye, just feel her presence in the trees, which somehow caught her with them forever. I wept in my heart at Turtle Beach as it had seemed so far away last time, like a shipwreck beach where we shared adventure. This time it was the scene of a dinner party reserved for a Great white Russian hunter where we ended up by accident. We moved on to Dolphin Beach for our dinner by the glimmering sea, and I wondered where the rustic swing had gone, where Aleah laid her slender frame and communed with the tropics.

She had been ill and gone through tough treatments but got better every day at Soneva Fushi, and I remembered Aleah at By the Beach dreaming in the starlight on a sunbed as the sea seethed in. By the Beach was not in action this time and was going to become an overwater restaurant, now half built.  I felt Aleah came to meet me and whisper at me through the air  that had gone viscous like the luminous lagoon. I felt her, but I could only see old photos of her in my mind.

Meanwhile I had a few small upsets like a twisted ankle, and a foot stabbed by hidden coral at the cocktail party, and was l helped by my treasured grandchild as I limped along. We had so much fun, and so much laughter, but sad times too.

Like the time I told her we should try to be truly alive. Not live in Snapchat and photos but be here and now and at Soneva Fushi, which we might never visit again,

Thank you little F being such sweet company and for putting up with your grandmother….


Paradise at the flick of a switch

in MALDIVES | Comments (0)

Returning to the tropical island of Soneva Fushi after more than three years, it seemed as laid back as ever. But there was a new special switch on the wall of the family villa.

It brought  us  closer to paradise in the way intended by the visionary Sonu and Eva Shivdasani…

The Maldives’ first barefoot luxury resort was founded 1995 and it still evokes feelings of paradise. It is not just that you have a palm fringed villa on a white beach by a luminous lagoon, with your own hammock in your jungle-wrapped garden, attended to by your warm and thoughtful butler Mr or Ms Friday….

It’s not just the vast buffets with mountains of fresh organic choices, or the complimentary icecream room open all day, or all the other generous details.

It is that you can have a holiday away from all the buzz and agitation of our modern world at the flick of a switch (or check up on the world when you need to.) and feel the peace of a coral island.

There are many unlabelled switches in the villa but this magic switch is clearly labelled wifi. A few years ago you didn’t get wifi in the villas – now you can switch it on or off – especially useful when you have kids in the second bedroom of your adorable villa.

The 11 year old  already chats on Snapchat and launches videos on Musical.ly. These are rather addictive pastimes – moreover her friends in Sweden unaware of the time distance were shooting pictures of slime and other diversions to her in the middle of her night – so her initial joy and energy vanished and she slept on her sunbed rather than getting in the water to snorkel over the fairyland of colourful fish near our villa.

Until I noticed the switch, and after bedtime there was no more wifi to wake her up..

What a difference to her energy level…

Energy and harmony

The idealistic owners Sonu and Eva have done their best to make up for the shortfalls of the modern world. To give couples and families an earth time, and a harmony with nature. They have carried out a plethora of eco friendly measures like using sustainable wood and thatch in the villas, organic food, waste recycling – even turning old glass bottles into artwork and banning water in plastic bottles. So of course they have also resisted too much electronic interference.

While other kids clubs in the Maldives have laid on the computer games and electronic noticeboards, at the magnificent new den kids club, these are absent.

In their absence old-fashioned hands-on creativity is unleashed. A whole lego room, art room, dressing up room, and of course a little adrenaline with slides into the pool and hands on football game where other kids join the 11 year old in smashing goals with lots of High Fives to celebrate

It’s a nurturing place too, with dedicated staff.

 

” A wonderful kids club – I handed the baby over and a few seconds later she was asleep” said a film star we had met without realizing she was anything except a charming person and mother.

Only when the open air movie house put on one of her movies did we realize.

Which brings me to another point about Soneva Fushi and it’s earthiness.

Everyone dresses casually most of the time. At the cocktail party on the sandbank you may see some fancy finery – but almost everyone will be barefoot. If you really planned to wear your Gucci shoes your travel agent didn’t inform you properly. They will be charmingly whipped away from you and put in a bag on arrival – and though you get them back, like everyone else you will be walking barefoot and wriggling your toes in the sand, which is the stuff the island is made over.

 Getting back to earth

But though everyone kind of looks equal. they are not. There are some exceedingly wealthy people here, pleased to get back to earth, especially families.

After all the disappointments and broken promises of family life on the frontline of business, government or entertainment they need earth time with their families and other beloveds.

Not just two generations but three or four, there are some vast villas like resorts within resorts where intimacy is nurtured with near self sufficiency. Almost half of the villas have 3 or more bedrooms – up to 9 bedrooms.

All on the beach naturally….

Though our 11 year old had been enjoying our little pool in our family villa suite, she gave a sigh of envy when we looked over villa 15.

The slide from the upper floor into the lagoon pool was a source of wonder, so was the gym.. But then do was a banyan tree growing up in the middle of the house.

The jungle is as important in the Soneva Fushi experience as the beach, the villa pools, and the sea.

In conceiving a life at Soneva Fushi that would make up for the deficiency of the modern city experience, Sonu and Eva visualized just this. Kids cycling or walking around the jungle in perfect safety with a sense of wonder.

 

“Away from the nanny, the chauffeur or perhaps the security men,” said Sonu. “They can feel freedom and adventure”

 

For adults too the jungle creates an added dimension – back to remembering childhood perhaps, with a sense of mystery from winding paths – and a sketchy map that ensures you get lost a few times and slow down.

If you have tiny tots who can’t cycle themselves simply take over a large tricycle where the little one can be loaded. And wind through the jungle barefoot.

Soneva Fushi is a large island by Maldivian standards which makes the jungle experience exceptional. among the tropical leaves and lianes it is alive with little creatures like lizards, water hens, rabbits, and flying foxes that will spread their wings over the sky of your jungle bathroom at twilight. While coming from the beach into your jungle garden are hermit crabs. They will cooperatively drag their borrowed shells into a sand castle, to add to the thrill for the youngsters.

Other experiences the kids and grown up kids will never forget are the famous Soneva signatures of ice cream parlour open all day, Cinema Paradiso where you lie on loungers staring up at the stars munching popcorn as you wait for a movie to start.

Then there are the surprises, like a dinner arranged on the beach, or after a sunset cruise (where with normal luck you see dolphins popping out of the ocean)  you may get dropped on a pier where there is live music and canapes, and then walk along a beautifully lit path  to find more delicacies in a forest clearing.

 

 Magic’s bottomline

Behind all the magic lie two solid things. A commitment to the environment with waste management, water treatment etc., and true luxury hotel quality – with excellent food and beverage, well maintsined villas.  and effortless service. There are butlers for every villa who will help you with every possible problem that emerges – like falling off your bike (to name a true incident and bringing instant medical care to me).

A range of exceptional experiences are usually added on to feel you have touched all the elements the Msldives is known for (extra fee if you have not managed to get some added value).  A dolphin cruise. Snorkeling and picnic on a deserted island. Manta ray and whale shark swims within season (May to Sep).

But to tell the truth there is good snorkeling on the house reef – which is some 50 metres out, or  easily reached from the sunset bar. The lovely film star I wrote of above brought her family there on  my advice, including kids and grandmother.

Great for kids….

MAH00184

Great also for grandmothers and grandfathers…great grandmothers and great grandfathers.

And of course, for honeymooner who want to get back to nature…


Memories from Life’s Journey

July 10, 2016 in SWEDEN,THAILAND | Comments (0)

Aleah our Julia. These are a few memories from Thailand.

It was our journey, my beloved daughter. Our journey in life. Our sad, illness torn lives. Our wondrous, creative inspired lives. Now you are gone, forever and forever.

I try to put on the torn coat of my life for my onward journey. Sometims I hear you talk to me so deep inside my mind. I dont believe in heaven or anything like that. But you live on in so many of us. My cheeks are wet with tears.

So darling I know you would think I was crazy to cry. You would grunt with dissaproval. I was not allowed, none of us were allowed to be sad about you. You believed in magic and if you didnt say you were ill, you could materialize health.

There were times of pure escape from that all. Its when we travelled in faroff tropical climes, where winter never comes. You hated the winter, You hated the cold. Your lungs could not take it.

Here are some images from one of our holidays in Thailand. Koh Samui and Koh Phangan. Kamalaya was our favourite spot. Our paradise. But everywhere we found joy and a soft peace, divorced from your illness that lingered and lurked in wait and played games and disappeared and then came back and then went and then came back….leading you out of this life.

 

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Arriving Koh Phangan

 


Kamalaya. We dare to call it paradise….

December 5, 2014 in THAILAND | Comments (13)

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Breakfast breads take or leave detox

 It took only a short while, and my daughter got an almost FIERCE look and said. I have to say — Kamalaya must be paradise…

We were here at this destination spa to recover from stress and burnout like so many others. Arriving at a hotel lobby where Buddha reclined over a lily pond, we were handed our private programme of “activities” – 11 hours of treatments that involved little more than lying in total pleasure getting massages to hands, feet, head, back and body…
Then programme in hand we had lunch – the biggest surprise of all. We knew we were going to have healthy food but we had no idea what the food would really be like.
Healthy food may not sound so delightful – harking back to days when mummy said: eat your food its good for you, If you dont – you wont get any dessert,,,
But then illness and allergies changed all so desserts became punishment not reward. “White” (sugar, dairy, starch) left you feeling bad.
Suddenly here is a menu that is thick like a book and full of delights – most of them without sugar, starch and dairy, most not fried….but more than that. Not just negatives, positives. With time we found the food to be full of colour, form and taste . inviting. More about that later.

We soon realized that Kamalaya though a destination spa is nothing like a clinic. It is more like a cosmopolitan village in stunning tropical scenery, warm and friendly, designed to give you back your joy in living-. Some pleasures are good for you …

 

No one forces you to do anything at Kamalaya. It is up to you. You can get involved in activities from morning to night, or just lie on a sunbed on the beach with a healthy (or less healthy) drink.

 

Most people however choose a package of health treatments. Since it was founded in 2005, dedicated detox packages have been the number one favourite at Kamalaya. Now the Stress & Burnout programme has passed detox in popularity due to the increasing stresses and strains felt by young business people and professionals. Under repeated stress the body suffers, you can get inflammation, aches and pains, sleep disorders – and drastic loss of energy. Adrenal Burnout! Kamalaya comes to the rescue with detox food, low in inflammatory properties, and calming treatments for the nervous system.

 

The lightest of the Burnout packages is Relax & Renew. This is designed as a super-relaxing holiday and includes some 11 hours of treatments, mostly massages of different kinds. The next step up is called Asian Bliss and includes also personal meditation, and a choice of reike (hands on healing) or Chinese medicine (acupuncture etc.). The most intense Burnout package, the 14 days Balance and Revitalize Comprehensive, includes also personal mentoring, Ayurvedic massage and the amazing Shirodhara therapy – an ancient Ayurvedic treatment that involves dropping warm oils onto the head and body. All packages include relaxing massages.

 
 
 
Making a choice
With a choice of over 70 treatments grouped into these packages, it can be very hard to choose. But no need to worry about putting all our eggs in one basket. Doing stress and burnout you can engage in a gentler detox as all foods suitable for detox are labelled on the buffet or a la carte menu.
 
The important thing to know is that the packages include full board. You can eat healthy, amazingly delicious food choosing freely from both the buffet and a la carte menus.
 
To show what amazing value you get: at Select Collection (www.selectcollection.se/info@selectcollection.se) you can book a 7 night stay at Kamalaya including accommodation, transfer, a Relax & Renew package of treatments (11 hours of treatments in total), and all inclusive food & drink (without alcohol) from 27500 SEK including flight from Stockholm and a wellness voucher for EUR 150. A week of top value luxury with so many dimensions, from body to soul.
 
 
 
Sensuality and warmth
Kamalaya is a gift to the senses, starting with the vistas and the smell of flowers and incense. We had a spacious sea-view villa with white corner sofa and big terrace. Our outdoor bathroom was drenched in the perfume of tropical flowers as a tree leant over the curved brick wall.
 
There are also some delightful waterfront villas with own pools. High up and popular with young people are the seaview suites and the well sized and lowest priced hillside rooms. Opening soon are some luxury suites with phenomenal views, up near the new gym and the yoga platform.
 
The resort is built in tropical gardens under very tall palm trees, with a tumbling freshwater stream through it all. It’s a steep slope and at every point you can see the glitter of the sea stretching over to the silhouette of offshore islands.
 
The stream runs down to goldfish ponds beside a freeform pool among magical sculptures. The restaurants all have sensational views.  So do the treatment rooms – 40 of them. Drenched in pleasurable sensation after a massage, you open your eyes, and are stunned over again by the brilliance of the vistas.
 
Now you wander out to a lookout place to sink into a sofa for a ginger or lemon grass tea in a tiny earthenware pot and wonder at the magic of life. If you had forgotten joy existed, now you will remember.
 
If you want, you can meet people, or stay in total privacy, dining in your accommodation or sitting alone at tables with a view. 
 
If you choose to sit at the community tables, as we sometimes did, you will likely meet artists, singers, business people and academics, researchers, housewives, therapists, and mothers on their annual visit while the husband looks after the kids. You see couples, men together, women together, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons. (Children are allowed but keep a very low profile). 
 
The service is memorable. Looking over my shoulder during a meal one of the waitresses asked me: “Are you looking for your friend? She is up at the heated pool in the Wellness area.”
 
How did she know all that? It felt like a genuine part of caring.
 
Losing weight is a pleasure
Food is central to Kamalaya’s charms. Losing weight here (sustainably) is a pleasure. And if you are actually instructed to gain weight (as we were) – life is a fest.
 
At Kamalaya you learn that healthy food can be far more delicious than unhealthy food. Eaten with pleasure and no worry over the consequences, totally fresh, full of choice, taste and colour.
 
So many people in the modern world suffer vague unpleasant symptoms – not just caused by stress but by fried food, white starch and sugar – like aching muscles, creeping sensations, flatulence, restless nights. Our millions of years of human evolution did not prepare us for refined food, and our bodies don’t tend to cope.
 
After a plane journey you may feel even worse so it takes a few days to feel really good and rested. But you will notice results.
 
The choice of food is vast – the menus go on and on – everything from Thai and international vegetarian to meat and fish.  Labels guide you to a detox diet – without sugar, dairy and wheat – if you want to go that route.
 
Fresh fruit and vegetable juices in dozens of health giving combinations can be ordered almost all day long, each long glass adorned with orchids or pieces of pineapple.
 
We enjoyed many memorable dishes from those three heavy “books” the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. Lobster and mango salad with cocounut and wasabi dressing; roasted pumpkin and sunflower seed dumplings with balsamic vinegar and ruccola; quinoa sushi with tamarind sauce; chilled avocado soup with galanajulienne; Vietnamese spring rolls with steamed rice wrapping around poached prawns with vegetables and chili sauce were among my favourites. Though if I have to choose one it would be the baked black cod with avocado, cucumber and watermelon mustard sauce. Cries of delight were also heard from those enjoying the Australian lamb filled with Zucchini and fig caponata.
 
Desserts are astounding, and good for you.  How about raw chocolate and avocado cake? Or chocolate mousse without dairy or sugar. It’s like a dream come true.
 
After a punishing health diet, one girl here was like a soul reborn. She had felt in a prison, unable to dine out as so little was available in Sweden. Suddenly the world of joy and plenty has come to her – without breaking her regime.
 
 
Thank you, thank you, thank you…
 
I was in the Wellness area’s change rooms, where women come and go from their treatments, wrapped in sarongs.
 
Hearing talk about an astounding meditation session with Smitha, a young woman burst out: “Smitha…isn’t she amazing. She can see into your soul!”
 
She explained what lead her to Kamalaya and Smitha – her business. “I have had so much stress with my company growing fast and five of my best consultants going on maternity leave. I needed a holiday. I thought of going to a dedicated detox resort to lose weight, luckily I didn’t. I registered for detox at Kamalaya but at my wellness consultation they pointed out I was in far too fragile state for heavy detox – I had adrenal burnout.
 
“So I am doing a stress and burnout programme to help me run my business – including time with a mentor, Smitha.”
 
She added with delightfully British irony: “I thought that she would help me write a business plan – instead she got me to find emotional obstacles from my childhood. She is amazing.”
 
Several people had found Kamalaya by accident (or divine luck). They asked their travel agents for a holiday resort where they could swim and have good food and maybe some yoga. They found so much more…
 
A song writer from Sydney, who merely came for a holiday by the sea said: “When I got here I was given a wellness consultation so I enrolled for Relax & Renew (5 night package) spread over 10 days. I go running up the mountain on my own trail (5 km) – use the gym and do relaxing treatments. Evenings I go to my room (a seaview suite) to write songs.”
 
In particular he found the Indian Head massage utterly amazing. Then he went on to try meditation with Smitha. With the addition of yoga and mocktails (instead of cocktails) he ended up very inspired and ready to keep up a healthy lifestyle on return to Sydney.
 
Several had chosen to do a la carte treatments for a spiritual path of healing and self discovery.
 
I found one of these guests next to me at the lookout point. She was staring at the view but suddenly could not keep it to herself.
 
“I want to cry it is so beautiful,” she said, adding she would have her last swim and then return to Australia today. Some 10 minutes later I was in one of the lunch dining salas as she ran past to the beach. She stopped by one of the mentors, and was beaming, radiating with bliss and joy.
“I just have to say thank you,” she said. “Thank you, thank you, thank you…”
 
At any one time Kamalaya boasts 60 to 80% repeaters!  Most resorts in November on Koh Samui were running at 50% – it is the rainy season on the island – but Kamalaya was at 80% occupancy.
 
Everyone I spoke to wants to come back – everyone felt Kamalaya was their own special place. As we do…
 
 
Getting to feel good
You don’t always feel good straight away. You can feel jittery waking in the morning with the old stress habits of what shall I DO now, unable to sit still. But it soon passes.
 
The great thing is you start your day facing mountains of papaya and bitter sweet pomelo, wheat grass shots to stimulate your immune system…and if you wish it, cappuccino, omelettes, pancakes….or raw salads, quinoa bread and many other choices. 
 
Meanwhile you have a sense of purpose with your programme of treatments … you feel pampered and taken care of, and begin to feel life’s potential – one of Kamalaya’s stated aims.
 
Starting early in the morning before breakfast you can keep even more active by including the complementary programme of activities.
 
Start the day perhaps with hatha yoga way up on the yoga platform with far views over the sea. Follow with pranayama breathing or yoga and meditation. In the afternoon you could perhaps join a tea ceremony, pilates session, tai chi, aqua aerobics at the pool, or a power walk. 
 
There is a changing programme of visiting practitioners, world leaders in their field. These are not included in the packages, but they do offer appetizers as part of the complementary activities.
 
In all this you meet wonderful people BUT more important you meet yourself…the part you will take onward with you home again. The part you need to treasure…
 
Leaving Kamalaya is a sad moment. It’s not easy to go back to the world…
 
But for days afterwards we felt a warm glow,  enriched by the experiences of peace and harmony, the moments of self knowledge, and the dream of returning one day to Kamalaya.
 
Next time though  – we will stay two weeks!
 
 

White Pearl on the Sands

January 10, 2014 in MOZAMBIQUE | Comments (1)

On the way by sand track

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BEACHTIME IN MOZAMBIQUE …CLICK THROUGH THE IMAGES
Wrapped in quiet luxury, White Pearl lies on a sublime beach nestled into gigantic sand dunes on the unspoilt coasts of southern Mozambique

Beaches in Europe never look like this. The restless Indian Ocean has pounded silica and feldspar into sand, and even tiny specks of diamonds lie among wide pristine sands stretching for miles upon miles. Fringing the beaches, gigantic sand dunes are draped with glistening green forests where monkeys, bush babies and tiny antelope live off the land. Trees twist and turn, lianes tangle together, and the feel is breathtakingly wild and primeval, with the sound of birds and pounding of waves.

These beaches are some of the world’s last and most heartbreakingly beautiful wildernesses. Here you share the sands with loggerhead and leatherback turtles who have come in since ages past to lay their eggs, and Southern Right whales spawn offshore-

The waters are tropical as the Trade Winds drive water down the coast from equatorial regions, so there are coral reefs offshore, colorful fish, rays. Dolphins and, for the adventurous, sharks on the reefs

Beach forever

White Pearl Mozambique lies on nearly 40 km of unbroken beach stretching all the way from south of Kosi Bay in South Africa to near the capital Maputo.

The sands are golden with a blush …wide and endless; you would have to walk 18 km along the beach to get to the next little town. Perfect for someone who wants to jog and get fit amidst exquisite beauty. Or just for those who want to wander and pick up seashells on the shore.

At White Pearl you stay in quiet comfort, with divine food, your own pool, and wide views of the sea and sand, yet wrapped in the privacy of exuberant greenery.

Book suite 6 for your honeymoon, your recovery, your treat – that was our favourite. Suite 5 next door is also fabulous, so are all the beachfront suites, and we also favour suite 11 a little up the slope.

The higher rooms have the furthest views, but then you see the other suite rooftops, so if you have a fantasy about returning to the Garden of Eden you will prefer the views that we had, showing nothing but nature beyond your comfy sofa, your bath with a view and your swimming pool on the deck.

This was turtle time, so we shared the beach with the night visitors. Turtle walking tours go in the evenings when the tide is right. People are encouraged not to do their own turtle tours as you have to be very careful not to disturb these creatures on these inherited sands …. The sands of multi-generations before them…

In the southern winter then the whales come, and play and spawn in these waters.
Rain washed out some of the included activities. Instead of the usual short thunder storm in the afternoon, steady warm rain came and went on impulse from iron grey clouds. Nursing colds, we did not dare to go out to sea for dolphin watching. Nor did we go snorkeling, diving with the hotel dive shop or turtle walking. We longingly watched a boat bobbing out over the waves. Heading for a reef and dolphin waters…

But we were still happy. We chose instead to go to the spa. I had a divine hydromassage on a special hydromassage bed.

WHAT TO DO

Waterports, horse riding, snorkling, diving, beach walking, tours to the nearby elephant reserve.

For those who like to swan around in the latest swimwear – be noticed, pop in to little boutiques and markets, eye the lifeguards, this is not your beach.
There are not even any lifeguards.

Nor is it your beach if you want a sea that is glass still like a swimming pool. This is an ocean for those who adore the sense of eternity from the sound of the sea and the tides. For those who like to try surfing, or bobbing up and down on the waves.

The waves surged in evenly, and kids enjoyed floating in the water behind the first breakers, not far from the edge. The rest of us chose to dip in the infinity pool, the beach bar pool or our own pool. Or just sit on our powder blue sofa staring at the waves. This is the way to fill your soul.

A lot of soul is involved in the food too

The head chef is a treasure who comes from the Polano hotel that dates back as a legend to the days as a Portuguese colony. For us he produced imaginative personal menus headed with our names, and built up on our info given to AndBeyond. Along with interviews with us on site through an interpreter (he is Portuguese).

The dining room is all glass to give you the beauty of your surroundings. With candlelight silver and glassware the night has sparkling ambience along with great food. Lunch is served at the beach bar.

GETTING TO WHITE PEARL

Getting to White Pearl was a delightful adventure.
Our wonderful AndBeyond driver Sipo took us to the Kosi Bay border on a surfaced road. White Pearl was already waiting on the other side with the essential 4wd. Then we drove on a sand track – that criss crossed grasslands and then lush tangled dune forest.
The atmosphere of southern Mozambique is relaxed, cheerful. Clean picturesque villages with reed houses and paintings on walls ( all by the same artist), offered little pubs and restaurants well frequented by young tourists who seemed to be camping within easy reach of beaches.
This is the same road you follow if you fly from Maputo by light plane, as the air strip is near the Kosi Bay border with South Africa. However an airstrip closer to White Pearl is under construction.


Home in the bush

January 6, 2014 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (9)

Vlei Lodge

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Our private pool to share with the animals

AndBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve has six intimate Lodges, each very different, making the most of the variety in natural vegetation and topograpy. We stayed in three Lodges and enjoyed three very different experiences. From high on a hill at Mountain Lodge in southern Phinda, to Forest Lodge hidden under the canopy of Sand Forest, to the ultimate luxury of a cottage at six roomed Vlei Lodge, with its views of herds of animals from our private pool. Though Vlei was definitely our favourite I can recommend moving just to get the different moods and different eco zones – to the tune of at least 2 nights at Vlei following 2 nights elsewhere.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Vlei Lodge…

Mountain Lodge

Mountain Lodge lies in southern Phinda in an area of tall hills and thick acacia veld or savannah. We had room/suite (chalet) number 12, the one most loved at Phinda Mountain Lodge, as it faces the most stunning views.

The chalets are very chic with thick clean golden thatch as roof and ceiling, a spacious lounge area, lovely bathroom with long double vanities, Feng shui bath in the centre with morning views over green hills, and two showers, one out there on the extensive deck. Stepping outside on our first sunny day in South Africa, we saw the joy of golden sun spread over the green early morning hills, and play on the surface of our plunge pool.

There are 25 chalets at Mountain Lodge which means 50 guests. The public areas are placed way up for the views, and the pool is a perfect place to be if you didn’t have your own pool too. It also has a conference centre.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Mountain Lodge…

Forest Lodge

Here at this somehow simpler but very special camp, there are 16 glass walled chalets deep in the sand forest, way under the canopy. You meander down past the tall trunks and curving branches in the leaf filtered light over a sand path, in meditational quietness to get to your room. Built on stilts over the sand, the chalets can be relocated easily to spare this precious rare coastal rainforest that remains thanks to conservation efforts.

forest lodge view out

People who live in glass houses, have the dreamiest views

In the room you see all around you into the forest underworld. We saw red duiker through our glass walls and heard the cry of bush babies and red chested cuckoos the locals call Piet Mij Vrouw. Like the European cuckoo it repeats itself, in this case saying piet mij vrouw or Whip Poor Will.

The veranda has a sofa and 3 large candles as well as a complimentary minibar to go with the all inclusive. This is a magical place to recline and let the sounds of the night enchant you. The chance of a leopard slinking by is not non existent. One was seen in the camp the next night when we had moved on to Vlei Lodge. My daughter who lay there for hours wished she had seen it.

At night they draw the curtains for you, for a sense of privacy in your glass house, though each glass cabin stands hidden in the bush reached by a side path. Come morning, you cannot wait to see out into the secrets of the forest milieu. One way to enjoy the view is standing in the shower. The door open wide… and from the bath too you have forest views.

The public area areas at Forest Lodge are charming. Wooden platorms with sofas and dining tables, overlooking parkland.

The hands on of management was remarkable: we felt we were just 2 there, not 32. The head chef Stuart met us to discuss our special needs with happy enjoyment at the challenge and Phindas organic garden and juice machine came into good employ.
The boma, a typical feature of any self respecting game lodge, does need good weather. And we were so lucky that the rain had cleared that day, allowing us to dine there in the light of fires, with the caterwauling of bush babies, and the flicker of warm light.
No private plunge pools at Forest Lodge but a very attractive round common pool – quite deserted actually. You are either on safari, eating or sleeping – very little time to swim. And no wifi in the rooms.

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Forest Lodge…

Vlei Lodge

We loved all the lodges. But exclusive six room Vlei Lodge is undoubtedly our favourite, certainly a place of bliss if you stay in chalet number 6.
In the cooler hours nyala, impala, warthogs and more come right in to graze off the acacias or the grass on the open area. This is safari as you dream of…if you prefer serenity to activity, floating in your jewel of a pool, lying on your sunbed, and seeing these animals in their wild freedom. You can even view them from your net draped bed through the wide glass doors, or from the shower or the feng shui bath tub.
In the heat of day they move off into the shadows under the trees, but now is a time to catch up on your wifi or just catch up on your sleep after all the hectic game watching by 4WD. I suggest you will cry your eyes out if you don’t book at least 3 nights here, or 2 here and 2 at another lodge. A problem Is that people seldom leave enough time to enjoy their gorgeous accommodation properly at the Select game reserves.

The head chef at Vlei  is aptly called Happiness and was very typically happy  to get personal instructions from Stuart at Forest Lodge, regarding how to create delicious fare even for vegetarians and vegans. We were so touched at this caring invovlement by Stuart in a special visit to instruct Happiness. And we enjoyed also the greeting at the gate by British manager Sara. Generally the hands on feel at Vlei and Forest lodges is wonderful, warm, silken…

Click through the gallery at the top to see more pictures of Vlei Lodge…

Sole use lodges

Zuka is nestled into a parkland area, oh so colonially thatched and spreading with old style verandas under cover. With only 4 bedrooms, it is the most delightful place to rent if you have an extended family, along with your own safari vehicle, ranger, tracker, cook and butler. If you occupy 3 bedrooms they do not wedge in another couple, but leave the bedroom empty. Six is a good number as you will all fit on the safari vehicle together. The modern feature is an open kitchen – but you don’t have to work in it as you have your private chef to watch at work instead.

Homestead is a manor house also perfect for sole use – the one we missed seeing due to the elephant visitor.
A site inspection was scheduled for around noon. But when we met our ranger on the deck at Forest Lodge he told us the hot news.
An elephant bull in musk had ‘trashed’ Homestead. He put his tusks through the windows, threw a chair and attacked the planks of the deck. Our tracker suggested that he had seen his own reflection in the windows and thought it was competition for the cows he was desiring. Now no guests were to approach the area…hence our site inspection was cancelled.
The bull had escaped from neighbouring Mkuze game reserve and made its way into Phinda. The last we heard of him was that he had come upon the big herd of Phinda elephants and was traipsing along behind them, hoping to get a lookin at some of the cows. Nick told us they were waiting hoping that Mkuze would come to fetch him (no easy task).

 

Rock Lodge is on a clifftop with sight of birds wheeling. Also exclusive with only 6 self standing suites.


Safari & Beach

January 5, 2014 in SOUTH AFRICA | Comments (0)

Click for bigger images and through the gallery

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Slinking beauty

SAFARI AT PHINDA

Continuing our safari and beach holiday in Southern Africa, amidst fascinating biodiversity and different landscapes.

Flight direct to Durban from Dubai on Emirates, then all travel done by car and 4WD, driven with silken courtesy and perfect safety by And Beyond and Town&Country Tours.

Now the wild joys of safari…

On safari you are hunting, with your camera and with your eyes. Since the best sightings are at the hours between day and night, including sunrise and sunset, you are woken early, in summer at a startling 5am, and given rusks and tea before setting out to see the dawn break over Africa. Breakfast is around 9am after the hunt, and dinner again late in the black and usually starry night, after the evening drive. Yes you are on the go…

There is an intimacy about your safari-ing.
You are given your own game ranger and tracker, usually sharing him with 5 other people. But we had the good fortune to have our game ranger Nick and our tracker Tom all to ourselves. It is certainly worth the extra money to try to book your own vehicle and ranger. It becomes your own hunt…

Nick took upon himself the earnest duty of finding all the big five just for us. Guided by the camp’s radio transmissions, we would head towards a spot where game had been sighted, watching for tracks over the sand roads. The tracker Tom could tell you just by looking how many hours ago a buffalo or elephant passed.

They are very careful not to disturb the game, or the beautiful terrain. No more than 2 vehicles are allowed at a sighting. Because of rain we were not allowed to drive offroad, as in the mud the beautiful bushlands can be carved up and ruined. But there are many intimate tracks that take you deep into the stirring romance of the bushveld.
Phinda has seven eco zones, so part of the adventure is finding yourself in very different scenery. Rocky mountain tops, then down onto the wetlands which were lush green spiky grasslands, fringed by lala veld (rich in lala palms), then into the sandforest with its tight canopy creating a hidden world, and out into open parklands with trees dotted over grassveld, finally deep into thorn thickets….

And of course the look of everything changes as darkness turns to dawn blushing on the sky, then blazing sun or silver rain. Again, the afternoon light dimming into a sky blooming with sunset and finally night. Perhaps most exciting of all, with Tom spotlighting left and right watching with his eagle eyes.

The Big Five

The Big Five are not necessarily the biggest – they are the ones the first hunters considered the most dangerous.

Our first of the Big Five came without trying. A bunch of young rouge buffalo lying in a mud puddle. ‘Stand up very slowly,’  said Nick who felt we could get better pictures above the long grass. ‘If they stand up sit down. It means they are about to charge.’ Buffalo are not called one of the Big Five for nothing,

Number 2 was the lion king on our second evening, Lying on sandy ground near a dam. Lording it out with two ladies, we saw him turned down for his amorous advances, whereupon he just gave up to lie in the sun and sleep. They are so used to vehicles we seemed invisible to them

Number 3 was a herd of 40 elephants, on the glistening marshland, in a frieze against the sunset. Gradually they dispersed, heading towards acacias silhouetted against the reddest sky. Not before some of the elders approached us giving signal that we should move off.

That elephant are one of the Big Five was dramatized for us the next day when we had a rendezvous with Nick to see one of the elegant lodges especially suitable for 3G travel. The visit is off! A bull elephant in musk has trashed the place.
The next night we came close to cheetah, not considered as Big Five. But splendid big cats and a thrill to see three beauties each staring in a different direction to cover the panorama of the wetlands. Then driving the sand roads we spotted two lionesses just by the roadside and shouted Stop. Tom was exposed on the front of our vehicle so they had to drive forwards to allow Tom to get off the tracker’s seat and back into our open vehicle. They stared with their powerful yellow eyes, as if to pounce…but finally our ranger and tracker noted their behavior was calm enough for us to reverse. We adored our lions…

Now night was falling and we began the most exciting hunt of all — for our fourth of the Big Five – leopard.

Tracks showed that the oldest and biggest leopard had crossed into a block of dense bush. Tom predicted where he would emerge, and sure enough he came out of the darkness walking towards us along the road and right by the jeep.

His muscles rippled and his spotted coat seemed alive and glowing… It was the most exciting moment of meeting the other kingdom.

Then he headed off down the road, with us following, and I got this little proof…

Next morning early we were up at 5 to do our last hunting. Nick was devoted to this triumph . and so we got to see Number 5, a white rhino. They looked very peaceful, almost bovine. Hard to imagine that they are dangerous….

The most dangerous animal

It is of course man, not the Big Five who are dangerous, in 2013 year 964 rhinos have been killed in South Africa by unscrupulous moneymaking poachers. The North Koreans are the main villains Nick told us and they employ Mozambicans to do their dirty work. Number one villain is the president of that monster regime

As DH Lawrence wrote
‘MAN THE ONLY ANIMAL ON EARTH TO FEAR’

Nick told us it is possible they will lift the ban on rhino horn and devalue the absurdly high rhino horn price by flooding the market. They will farm rhino for the horns; if you cut off the horn it grows again. The reason poachers kill the animals is for their own safety… rhinos are after all one of the Big Five.

Next blog will cover the lodges at Phinda