Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Villestrup Ådal, Himmerland

Villestrup Å

The otter

Skov- og Naturstyrelsen, Himmerland carries through in the period 2008-10 a restoration-project in Villestrup Ådal (river valley), which include the remaining 7 fish farms in the river valley. Villestrup Ådal is unique in Denmark. The river valley is dominated by fine clear water streams upon chalky soil. Villestrup Ådal and two large side valleys are selected as EU-habitat area. The water streams have extraordinary large falls and have a good population of otter and lamprey (Lampetra planeri), and "sea lamprey" (Petromyzon marinus) is often seen.

Store Blåkilde

At the top of the river stream is Store Blåkilde, which is Denmark's largest and finest bassinkilde (bassin-spring). Villestrup Å can be compared to the unique English water streams , named "chalk-streams". The river valley contains several habitat-nature types, i.e. the rare kalkoverdrev (chalk pasture). The valley has rarities like the largest growth of bakke-gøgeurt (burnt-tip orchid/Orchis ustulata ), only two habitats of burnt-tip orchid in Denmark and one habitat of hvid sækspore (small white orchid, white frog orchid ,Pseudorchis albida) .

Villestrup manor has a beautiful Baroque garden

Villestrup Å at Villestrup manor

Unfortunately the valley has suffered from many fish farms, which besides the environmental impact account for effective blocking. In spite of establishing various passage for the fish it has shown that this is not satisfying neither for the sea trout or other migrating fish species. And in spite of the unique landscape has Villestrup Ådal been a closed place for the public. Except the path down to Store Blåkilde and a short path east of Oue there are no paths areas with public access. You pass the valley across, typical where the old mills were and where the fish farms came into existence.

Grill-place in Rold skov

Stinesminde fishing village, Mariager Fjord

Via the project there will be some improvements in Villestrup Ådal (habitat area 222) and an opening for other projects and improvements: all fish farms will be closed down (some have been closed down now) ; phosphorus-reduction in Mariager Fjord; all blocking in the water streams removed and passage-improvements; Den Danske Stat willl via buying property and nature restoration establoish public access to several sections of Villestrup Å as the beginning of the next establishment of a Villestrup Å-Sti (path), which will connect Rold skov to Mariager fjord. Furthermore are projects about resorts and shelter areas.

It has been wonderful to see the places where the fish farms have been closed down. It is good for the nature. And for us all!

photo Blåkilde 2003; Villestrup/Rold /Mariager 2009: grethe bachmann

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Tustrup Dolmens , Djursland

Dolmens from Stone Age

At one of the grave chambers

Bondestenalderen in Denmark began 4.000 år B.C. and lasted until 1700 B.C. The period got its name because the Danish population began to cultivate the land and keep live stock. They had the inspiration from the south, where people had been peasants for a long time.
Bondestenalder = Peasant Stone Age

For the people from Bondestenalderen were the dead not separated from the living. The ancestors lived among their descendants in large stone built houses, built as a symbol of the eternal presence of the ancestors and the family's right to the land. Inside the dark grave chamber lay the skulls of the dead and other bones, an object of the worship from the living.

Their ceremonies ar not known, but there were probably some burial ceremonies, like grief rituals, moans and sacrificial ceremonies, where they perhaps prepared the transfer of the dead to the grave chamber. And this might have happened in special cult houses or at a large central place, maybe in both places. The uniform building of the cult houses indicates that they were used in ceremonies widespread among people of Bondestenalderen.

A small grave chamber

Reconstructed cult house (Dødehus) Moesgård Strand
photo 2003: gb

The Tustrup dolmens consists of four contemporary plans from ab. 3.330 B.C. ; two polygonic dolmen chambers, a passage grave and a cult house. The culthouse was the most sensational part of the excavation in 1954. It is placed in the centre of the area in proportion to the three large stone graves. Its outer wall is preserved; it is a horseshoe-shaped stone circle of ab. 1 m high stones with a 1 m thick face wall in field stones. From the inner wall were found traces of charred oak planks. The opening of the building turns away from the stone graves, facing northeast and the rising sun. A stone block in the middle of the opening might have had a cultic function, but it might also just have been supporting the turfed roof. In the middle of the building was a sand filled hollow, around it were the rests of not less than 28 beautifully decorated sacrificial vessels, 10 vessels with a high foot and each with a clay spoon. (exhibition Moesgård Museum).

Tustrup cult house is reconstructed by the archaeologists at Moesgård Museum and placed upon a field close to the beach and the outflow of Giberåen. (river). The Tustrup-house is the only reconstructed cult house, but there have been found traces of about ten cult houses in Jutland. Some of them were burnt down like the Tustrup-house, probably as a part of the cult service.

The passage grave

Tustrup passage grave is the largest among the small east Jutland passage graves. The well-preserved chamber is 10 m long, and behind the chamber is a small side chamber, which else is mostly known from the Limfjord-area. In the passage grave were found some bones and an amber pearl, and outside the entrance were several clay vessels, similar to the vessels in the cult house and at the entrance of the other two dolmens.

The cult house , horseshoe shaped.

Some of the cult houses were placed close to the stone graves. They were small, but solid houses.
The foundations were horseshoe-shaped or square, and the gable of the house was open, eventually with a front room. The area was often 5 x 6 m. Sometimes the building was built in the same technique like the stone graves. The Tustrup house was built like this with walls in large stones, outside packed with flat stone tiles. They formed a facade of meter high flat blocks. The walls inside were built in down-digged planks, while the roof was supported by heavy, vertical posts in the middle of the house.

Entrance to the cult house

An important part of the sacrificial ceremonies might have been the use of the pretty large vessels with matching spoons. The ceremonial clay vessels are some of the finest ceramics known from the period. It also seems to be a part of the rituals that the houses after a period of use were burnt down, and the vessels weres crushed by the falling roof. After the destruction the houses were just left to be.

Entrance to the passage grave.

It might be that the cult houses were just a temporary whereabout for the dead, who later on was put to rest in the grave chamber. And maybe people of the settlement prepared for the final burial ceremony, which went on at the passage grave.

Ingrid Falktoft Andersen: Vejviser til Danmarks Oldtid, Wormianum 1994.
Jørgen Jensen : I Begyndelsen, Gyldendal og Politikens Danmarkshistorie, 1992

photo Tustrup/Moesgård 2003/2009: grethe bachmann

Friday, September 11, 2009

Coal Tit/Sortmejse
Periparus ater

A sweet and very busy little coal tit in the pine wood.

The coal tit is native to Africa, Europe and into Russia. In Denmark it is especially found in coniferous forests, but it also likes the bird table in the villa gardens. It only weighs about 8-10 gram! A coal tit likes seeds and insects, but it is also a little master in collecting a store of greenflies. It takes a bundle of greenflies and crush them into a mass before eating them. When it finds food among the needles on the firs it also hoards some of it before winter, hiding the food in the cones or in rests of undeveloped shots. The coal tit is mostly hopping in the top of the trees together with the small firecrests.

photo Løvenholm skov: grethe bachmann

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Common Tansy/Rejnfan
Tanacetum vulgare

Common Tansy has got many names, Bitter Buttons, Cow Bitter, Mugwort, Golden Buttons. The flowers look like small golden buttons, a fine name for it. The whole plant has a bitter taste and a strong spicy smell. Tansy is native to Eurasia, but is found in almost all parts of mainland Europe. It is common along roads, in field boundaries, banks, but also at the beach.

Common Tansy has a long history of many uses. The ancient Greeks may have been the first to cultivate it as a medicinal herb; the Benedictine monks at St. Gall in Switzerland considered common tansy a cure for many health problems. Because of its repellent abilities it was also used as a vermifuge. Only Tanacetum vulgare is used for medicinal purpose; all species of tansy are toxic.

Common tansy has been cultivated and used for its bug repellent and preservative effects. It was placed on window sills to repell flies, sprigs were placed in bed linen to drive away pests, and it was also useful in gardens as an ant repellent. Common tansy was plant alongside the potatoes to repel the Colorado potato bug. Some insects, notably the tansy beetle, have evolved resistance to tansy and live almost exclusively on it. Bee-keepers have used the dried leaves in order to calm the bees.

In the kitchen it was a flavouring for puddings and omelets, and as a spice in lamb and venison. In Yorkshire tansy and caraway seeds were traditionally in biscuits served at funerals. Meat was rubbed with tansy which kept it from rot for a time, or maybe the strong smell of the herb drowned the stench of meat, which was a bit off! Flowers and leaves are fine for spicing a snaps.

The dried yellow flowers are pretty in floral arrangements. The flowers dye various yellow or green shades.

NB: The plant can provoke contact-allergy. The leaves and flowers are said to be poisonous if consumed in large quantities. The plant's volatile oil is high in thujone, a substance found in absinthe that can cause convulsions.

photo : Skern Ådal, August 2006: grethe bachmann