Continuing our explorations in south-east Sweden, we visited Friseboda & Kivik, with days out to see beaches, arboretums and nearby national parks.
After our blissful week in Långasjönäs camping, we finally packed up and said goodbye to our amenable host, and to our beautiful swim lake. We drove south, with our customary Lidl stop on the way to restock our fridge after a week of sitting still. Our SatNav was very confused for most of the journey as we crossed wide green fields, meaning the smooth, fast road we travelled on must be less than two years old. We passed many sign-posted options for nearby picnic areas, beaches and swim spots. We finally chose one and cut left down a narrow, bumpy road, following tight bends to reach a large, empty car-park at Friseboda beach, a 5km long sandy strand on the Baltic Sea.
We parked in the green embrace of the nature reserve. We were surrounded by spacious, mixed woodland, replete with pine trees, with thick moss dominating the groundcover. Wispy lichen hung from branches and helped create a feel of ancient forest, and perhaps it is – the area has been settled, farmed and manipulated by man for over 7000 years. We walked over pine-needle paths to reach the calm, clear sea. With the exception of one elderly jogger, we had the long strand as far as we could see in both directions all to ourselves. We laid a blanket out in the small dunes and settled in for some serious relaxing, interspersed with cooling sea skinny dips, reading and snacking. The only sounds we could hear were the light buzzing of nearby insects and the soft lapping of tiny waves.
Late that afternoon we drove to Kivik, but the first possible aire we had in mind was mostly flooded, so we moved on to the marina parking nearer the town centre. It was late Saturday afternoon and the aire was fully packed with vans, and we just managed to squeeze into a nice spot between two others. We had a short walk around the town and the harbour walls, seeing several great swim spots and lots of birdlife. A square housed the beginnings of a festival, with stalls and stands under construction. We checked a local noticeboard and read about the upcoming Apple Festival. It would not be starting for a few days, so the current visiting crowds were simply weekend warriors.
The next day we cycled from our spot in Kivik to Haväng beach, a rare area of sandy steppe, caused by dry climate and lime soil, where the Verkeån river runs into the sea. We reached the beach by dirt road shortcuts across private land, avoiding the main roads wherever possible. The beach car-park was busy with dog-walkers and visitors. We cycled right along timber walkways and onto the grassy hillocks in front of the beach where we locked up our bikes and lay down, enjoying the sun on our backs and legs. We could see the military base right next door and later watched Special Forces undertaking training manoeuvres and mock rescues on the sea in heavily armed rib-boats.
On top of a small hill there were a few interesting trees with wildly twisted roots, all now above ground. We played here a while, like kids, filled with memories of similar trees from childhood. Near these trees was Havängsdösen, a Neolithic stone circle and dolmen grave site. We caught the distinctive aroma of wild curry plants as we walked over to see the standing stones. We walked the length of the beach and back to our original spot, then relaxed on the dunes to simply people-watch and read. The sun remained out and the air warm; bliss. Later we were passed by a string of Icelandic ponies being ridden across the sands, fording the river at its widest point as it entered the sea.
On our cycle home, we saw a gathering of red kites circling over the freshly-cut fields. We stopped to watch them hunt, seeing them easily spotting the voles or mice disturbed by the farmer’s work. We watched them glide, pause and then violently swoop, dropping almost vertically to pick off their prey in the short stubble at will. It was a compelling site to see so many red kites circle the same field. We cycled back on main road, before cutting back into Kivik and through, passing popular in-progress Sunday league football games, to visit Kiviks Esperöd arboretum.
Leaving our bikes aside we walked the gardens, where we saw an old Swedish phone box set among the trees, its short swing doors open lattice design, Elven-like, a real contrast to Scott’s famous British equivalent. We crossed an arched blue bridge set over waterlily-rich waters that reminded us a little of those in Monet’s Garden in Givenchy. The ducks happily sunning themselves on the banks quacked us a greeting. We walked many tiny paths around the arboretum’s perimeter, finding all manner of exotic trees from all over the world, and simply enjoying the wander. We returned to our parking spot in Kivik marina to find a new motorhome beside us. Our new neighbours were Brits, originally from Peterborough but now of Morecombe bay. It was the first British van we’d seen in a long time so we had to stop for a chat.
Next morning we packed up and left the now almost-empty aire, saying goodbyes to our British neighbours on one side and to a black BMW with a full set of interior curtains and someone sleeping inside on the other. We drove only a short distance to Stenshuvuds National Park, in Österlen, where we parked up at the central Naturum building, the visitor centre. It wasn’t yet opened, so while we waited we hiked one of their marked routes to the south, 3.2km long through light forest and pasture land. The sun was bright but the shaded trails in the forests were still sharp with cold this early in the morning, so we walked fast to keep warm, glad of the occasional hill to work up.
The national park covered quite small area at just over 400 hectares, but it packed in a lot of variation in both landscape and habitat. Around half of the park was leafy deciduous forest, mainly gnarled hornbeams with a thriving population of hawfinches. Pasture lands provided grazing for some wildly hairy, wild roaming highland cattle. There were thickly heathered and flat sandy heaths, wet and dry meadows and peat-rich mosslands all providing a rich variety of ecosystems for the many creatures and endangered plants of the region to live in. There were a number of well-marked trails through the park, and we followed several of these in turn, taking in the ever-changing landscapes beneath our feet and around us.
We clambered over leafy trails and tree roots, large boulders, deep sandy paths and marshy bogs by still, dark lakes. The hornbeam forest was cast deep in light and shadow by a bright, low sun, with lichen covered boulders lit up like beacons when in full sunlight. We climbed timber steps to the ancient hill fortress of Stenshuvud, at the grand height of 97m, where we enjoyed views out to sea from a rocky plateau. We passed Stenshuvud lighthouse and old cottages still used by eel fishermen as they have been since the 18th century. We reached a beautiful white sandy beach and felt drawn to dip in the water, but we abstained for once. We returned to the Naturum building and ate lunch in Benny, glad to have taken the time to visit this wonderful nature reserve.
Only a few miles further on, we stopped at a dedicated swim place on Gyllebo lake and decided to overnight there. We parked in the corner of the small car-park and walked out to explore their wonderful set-up, with pontoons and ramps reaching out into the pristine lake. A couple of large fire pits were provided to allow cook-outs, along with many benches, making it a tranquil, but also popular picnic spot. There were local cars buzzing around most of the afternoon, dog walking and picnicking, and it was good to see the area being put to such good use. It had chilled down and the wind had picked up a little, so our desires to swim here were dampened somewhat. Later we walked out to the swim platforms to watch the sun drop behind the black treeline on the banks of the blood-red lake.