LAND 21 The day began cold and rather breezy. I watched the sun rise behind the trees – a luminous crimson disc, slowly turning orange and then yellow as it began its ascent into the clear blue sky.
I headed north on familiar roads.
Soon I found myself walking along the bike path towards Lobbæk village. The path was built on the old railway track that connected Rønne with Aakirkeby. Lobbæk was built around a railway station in the early 20th century – at one point boasting several shops, a baker, a dairy and so on – and is still home to several hundred people. I stopped for breakfast by the old station and enjoyed the cacophony of birdsong. A red-backed shrike was an unexpected visitor. Swifts, my first of the year, screamed overhead.
I continued along the bike path for a while, and then headed north into the intensively cultivated fieldscape between Nylars and Vestermarie. The area had once been a mixture of pasture, marsh and heath, and had slowly been drained and cultivated over the centuries. Large dairy and pig farms were strung along the landscape.
My route took me south again, across the main road and into an area with smaller farms and homesteads, poorer soils, and more variety of vegetation. I headed east until I crossed Læse å, a small stream (though Bornholm’s second biggest) that on account of its unique geology and nature, is protected by law. For several kilometers a public path follows the stream along its heavily wooded valley, with fantastic information panels describing the succession of geological strata the stream flows over.
Huge windmills and a giant solar cell park welcomed visitors to the beginning of the path. I watched through my binoculars as a marsh harrier flew close to the huge rotating arms of the windmill.
Down by the stream I was sheltered from the breeze, but easy prey for mosquitos. I was entranced by my eye’s ability to see reflections on the surface and stones on the stream bed, but not both simultaneously.
I took a break by the side of an oilseed rape field, now fading a little. A low-flying marsh harrier was lit yellow by reflected light from the flowers.
Down in the wooded valley again, I felt overwhelmed by the insane visual complexity of the vegetation and water, by the myriad patches of sunlight and shadow, the colours, patterns, and shapes – all flickering with the wind. I tried desperately to simplify what I saw but to no avail.
Where the stream bends and meanders through a flower-rich meadow heavy with the scent of wild garlic, I spent a while trying to capture the layers of shale. Curious horses watched my every move. As evening fell, they became skittish and galloped about.
I followed the path out of the valley into the open fields of Vasagård – one of Bornholm’s, and indeed Denmark’s, most important archaeological sites. A cromlech was built in the early Neolithic period over 5,500 years ago, then a passage grave, and then both were combined into one barrow. Here funerals and other ritual activities have taken place over thousands of years. I crawled inside and along the passage into the pitch-black inner chamber and tried to imagine all that history. Outside again, the sun set behind the mound, with the entrance looking like an eye into another universe.
WEATHER REPORT – Sunny most of the day. Temperature 10 – 15 degrees. Wind 6 m/s from the northwest. Hours of precipitation: 0 hours. Hours of sunshine: 12 hours.
STOPS with the BIVVY – 0
KILOMETRES WALKED – 15.01 km
DAY LASTED – 16h and 42 m
PEOPLE TALKED TO – 2
BIRDS SEEN and HEARD – 50 species: 5 new (icterine warbler, red-backed shrike, house martin, swift, cuckoo) running total = 111 species
LESSONS LEARNED – more water needed – I ended up boiling water from the stream.
IN MY HEAD – so much. I knew the area well, so I thought often of previous trips and encounters, my kids and so on. I thought a lot about time and impermanence, how things come and go (paths, ponds, railways, fields, barrow graves…)