Sunday, August 19, 2012

Harrild Hede, The Jutland Heath in August

The heath is a special place on a day with no humans to see far and wide except us two people and no sound from traffic or anything. It's so quiet. Like Björk sings: "It's oh, so quiet". Except for the humming little bees!

But I can imagine how it must have been to wander on the large heath from house to house, where the distances were far, to overnight by a heath-farmer and his wife or sleep out in the open air with the starry sky above. Many people lived like that , they had to in order to earn a living. They used the heather twigs for brooms and other things and they sold some heather peat, but they also sold woolen things like homeknit woolen socks, perfect and warm for the winter season, easy to bring with them and easy to sell, and this was tbe first beginning of the wool-fabrication in the middle of Jutland with the energetic  town Herning as a center of the wool-industry. But this is not about the wool - this is about the Jutland heath. And the heath has a special place in a Jutlander's heart.

Holtum Aa River.

Here at Holtum Aa river by Harrild a Danish movie was made in the early forties about some vagabonds, one of the most popular comedies in Danish film-history. The hero, who was one of our most beloved actors, was singing a lovely and happy summer song, which is still being played in the radio. And it is odd that he was walking here on this place singing this song.
Well, look at the photo, I stood there for some time imagining something - and the photo shows surprisingly perfect what I mean. Couldn't you just imagine Hamlet's Ophelia coming floating along upon the twining waterplants with the pretty white flowers? If you are a romantic soul I'm sure you could imagine just that !

John Millais, Ophelia (Tate Gallery)
Queen Gertrud about Ophelia's death:
"..............when down she fell in the weeping brook. Her clothes spread wide, and mermaidlike awhile they bore her up. ......................but long it could not be till that her garments, heavy with their drink, pulled the poor wretch from her melodious lay to muddy death".   

Harrild Hede lies between the towns Ikast and Brande, just west of the Jutland  Ridge ( den Jyske Højderyg) in one of the largest wastelands of Mid Jutland. Here is an opportunity to experience open heath and grass heath, which alternates between plantation and clean, fast-flowing water-streams. Here is also a special fauna, since this nature gives good conditions for wild deer and some rare birds. In the southern part of the land are rests of prehistoric fields, some north-south turned, low, parallel earth banks, each with a distance between 20-25 meters.

Skov og Naturstyrelsen ( Forest and Nature Management)  takes care of the heath by removing unwanted tree-growth and by mowing and burn lesser areas at a time, by which the heather - which usually has got a longevity of ab. 25 years -  will be renewed.  The fringes along the water streams are being grazed in order not to leap into forest and to create good conditions for insects and flowers. The forest cultivation is given up in the future upon the unfit localitites, which then are allowed to become heath or fringe. In the cultivated forest the management will try to establish a network of belts, consisting of stable tree-species like oak, forest fir and larch. The purpose is to create a larger variation.

The image is a painting by Johan Fr. Vermehren from 1855: En jysk fårehyrde på heden (A Jutland shepherd on the heath. The painting is at Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen. 

Harrild Hede holds several animals and plants, which are typically found in places like in these heaths and their connected moist lands. Plants are besides heather typically bell-heather, rosemary heather, cranberry, crowberry, lingbonberry and blueberry. The heather produces nectare which attracts the bees, and a honey from the heather (Danish: lynghonning) is a fine and expensive honey.

Red-backed shrike (adult and young)

Here breeds Eurasian teal, Wood sandpiper, Common snipe, Nightjar, Eurasian wryneck, Black woodpecker, Great-grey shrike and Redbacked shrike, Wood lark and Whinchat etc. Many other birds are seen like the White-tailed eagle, the Golden eagle, Cranes, Eurasian hobby, Red-footed falcon - several owls like the Eurasian eagle-owl, the Long-eared owl, and the Tawny owl etc. Last year and in 2010 a Short-toed Snake eagle stayed in the area for a period. In the forested areas is a big flock of roe deer and red deer, especially seen in the morning and evening hours. There are of course also many reptiles and  amphibians. And insects, ab. 30 dragonfly-species and 45 butterfly-species.

According to this list of flora and fauna I should really have lots of photos of  birds and animals in this post, but I wasn't there in the morning or in the evening hours. There were no butterflies here today - which is a mystery.  Maybe next year. But I did meet millions of bees, they were humming and summing and working, they were fetching honey for the many beehives which stood along the edge of the forest eveywhere, and I saw them fetching water too. The bees are divided into many job-categories. Did you know that? I didn't. Not in this particular way. Those little bees (please enlarge the photos)  were the water fetchers. They use the water to cool the beehive, not to drink it.

A water fetcher
nurse and housekeeper
Other bee-jobs: builder, packing pollen, honey-fetcher, guard, blowing-bee, scout, housekeeper, nursing kids

  A significant part of Harrild Hede was listed in 1954 in order to keep and take care of this fragile piece of nature, but this land is just a rest of the large heath which covered most of the Jutland peninsula about 100-200 years ago. In the 1700s the heath covered 1/2 of Jutland.   Today the large, widespread heath has almost disappeared, but not without a trace. There are marked traces in place names and farms and in the language and traditions - and the heath has also left rich traces in art and litterature. Some of  the most wellknown and loved Jutland poets are the heath-romantic writer and pioneer, Steen Steensen Blicher, and the environmentalist and preservation activist, Jeppe Aajær, who fought a fierce fight to save the Jutland heath from cultivation, and the smallholders' poet, Johan Skjoldborg, who wrote about  the smallholders and their conditions on the heath -  and finally H.C. Andersen, who wrote the wonderful Jutland national song.

What the heather was used for:
Bronze Age hills were often built upon heather-peat.  Up till about 100-200 years ago the heather was used by the heath-farmer for sheep and cattle fodder, it was used for fuel and thatching roofs, in early times even for building the house, it was good as a bed.straw in the alcove, as backfilling on sandy heath roads, and what was left and not used by the farmer at home was sold in the nearest town on the market - or the heath-farmer went from door to door in the large heath, staying out for weeks, selling brooms and other things made by heather and crossberry twigs, and selling some heather peat for peoples' stoves. The green heather was used for dyeing wool browngreen - and with alum the wool was dyed lemon yellow.

Harrild Hede is one of Denmark's most important bird habitats and also an Ef-habitat area. 3 hiking paths are marked in the area - and there are fishing places at Holtum Aa river. Brochures and information for free at the Tourist Bureaus and at the libraries -  and at the entrance to Harrild Hede itself.  Smoking is forbidden in the area due of fire hazard.

Are you ready for a walk? The path is longer than you think.....

I tried to catch a dragonfly - do you see a dragonfly in the clouds ?

...but then came a helicopter. What a dragonfly!!

photo August 2012 Harrild Hede, Jutland: grethe bachmann


Wanda..... said...

Your imaginary image of Hamlet's Ophelia on the Holtum Aa River couldn't be better. Beautiful spot to have viewed, Grethe. Thanks fo the info about the little 'water fetchers'...didn't know that. I do know bees spend a lot of time at my swallow bird bath though, sometimes as many as 20 or so. Maybe that's why.

Carolyn said...

Beautiful as always, Grethe! love your dragonfly ;)

the water fetchers... wow - I didn't know that either. I've been around a lot of bee farms ... never knew they fetched water! they are busy little fellows... I almost leaned on one this afternoon on a wooden rail... it didn't move ... and I just said hey and went on my way! ;)

Teresa Evangeline said...

What an interesting and atmospheric post. Your photos create such a feeling of place. I particularly love the top photo. I'm partial to roads that lead to the distant horizon.

I can well imagine Ophelia in that very place. Beside your photos, you've included some very nice paintings.

Bees are such interesting little creatures. I had not been aware of the water-carrying, either. Nature is endlessly fascinating.

Thank you for this peaceful post.

Thyra said...

Thank you Wanda, since I was told this about the bees and their various "jobs", I have found something which is an interesting story for another post!
It must great to have such a swallow bird bath. I imagine you've got many swallows and their nests at your place each year.
Grethe ´)

Thyra said...

Hello Carolyn! Hope you are well on your long tour in the US!
Yes, they are always so busy those little honey bees - and making honey for us. They work and work and we are just stealing all their honey!!
Grethe ´)

Thyra said...

Hej Teresa, I'm glad you like it. I wasn't aware it was a peaceful post, but maybe it's the nature which has a good influence - for I'm rather rebellious and restless in these days because there is so much unrest everywhere.

Nature means so much to us, doesn't it?

Grethe ´)

Haruka Unakami said...

Hi Thyra

Thanks for beautiful photos and interesting informatiions!!

Harrild hede is so nice place! Peaceful and quiet...

I've never been there but I've wanted to go there!

Heath flowers doesn't grow in Japan so I'm looking forward going and feeling there!!

Thyra said...

Hello Haruka!
Thank you, it is very kind of you to send me such a nice comment. Harrild Hede is a lovely place, and I'm sure you would like it. There is a special atmosphere in such a flowering heath in late summer - it is a good experience to go there on a sunny day with swarming bees and the scent of the heather and the thyme.
Good luck!
Grethe ´)