|I shall be telling this with a sigh|
|Somewhere ages and ages hence:|
|Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—|
|I took the one less traveled by,|
|And that has made all the difference.|
(The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost 1920)
Come, join me on a flâneur commute to the garden:
Today I decided that rather than take the train and bus up to the Summer House I’d bring my bike on the train and then cycle the 18km (11 miles) from the station to the house in Kulhuse.
Okay, so it ended up being a lot longer and taking more time than originally planned, because the weather was lovely, and when travelling by bicycle you have the option of taking detours and doing sightseeing, which is not really possible on a bus.
For the first 8 kilometres, though, I followed the main road up to Jægerspris village. First of all it is a pretty stretch of road and second of all it has a great bicycle track along the road.
In Jægerspris village I turned off the main road into the grounds of Jægerspris Castle. After this point there is no bicycle track along the road, and the road becomes very straight, so cars tend to go very fast on the narrow road and it’s just not a nice place for a cyclist if you can avoid it.
Instead I opted for the forest lanes and tracks, which are perhaps a bit rougher but also immensely more pleasant.
The castle grounds are scattered with monuments to the Great and Good men (and VERY few women) of Denmark. This particular monument is actually for a married couple from the 1500’s, Herluf Trolle and Birgitte Gøye, and in many ways she was probably more important than him.
The forest North of Jægerspris is wonderful. It’s a mixed forest of beech, oak, birch, fir and pine – and the odd other tree in-between. Parts of it is still run as a commercial logging forest, but most of it retains the air of the old royal hunting grounds with dense undergrowth in places, open clearings in others and small puddles and ponds scattered throughout.
In places the track suddenly opens up and you cross a short stretch of fields before returning to the forest. I love the contrast of coming from the enclosed, shaded forest track out into the open where the sky is high and the barley moves in the wind.
This pond was absolutely gorgeous. You could only just glimpse it from the track, so I got off my bike and stumbled through the bracken and honeysuckle until I got to the edge of it. On the far side of the pond you can just about make out a few white dots of the flowering wild water lilies.
This is Snoegen, the twisted oak, one of the three famous oak trees in our local forest. I’ve never gotten around to seeing more than one of them, so I took a few detours to include them all in my trip. The last living branch fell off the tree in 1991, so now the only leaves on the tree are ferns and a small sapling oak that has sown itself in a gap and is now growing in the decomposing tree.
It’s difficult to tell the actual age of these old oaks, but the twisted oak is estimated to be around 8-900 years old.
The King’s Oak is the only one of the three large oaks that’s still alive, though it too is in a rather decrepit state. Its age is estimated to anything from 1400 to 2000 years, making it a likely candidate for the title as the oldest living organism in Northern Europe.
The oak used to have a 14-meter circumference, but one of the main branches has fallen down, taking a huge section of the trunk with it, so now the tree is only a small fragment of what it once was. The photo is taken from the “back side” of the tree.
It was never a very tall oak, though, and in fact all the old oaks are rather short and stubbly, indicating that the landscape around them when they formed their main shapes was probably open land, rather than forest as today. And the forest is part of the reason that the old oaks die; they have been smothered by taller trees around them, and the last one living may or may not be only one winter storm away from dying.
Still, there is a certain grace to a slow decay. This is the Stork Oak, named after an 1843 painting entitled “Oak with stork nest in the North Forest by Jægerspris”. The last living branch fell in a winter storm in 1980, and the trunk is completely hollow. The shorter section to the left in the photo is actually taller than me, just to give some scale to it.
This is the youngest of the three oaks, estimated at around 700 years, and it was the only one I had seen previously. All the oaks are within walking distance of the summer house if you take a 2-3 hour walk in the woods, so it’s appalling that I haven’t seen them all before.
And then the track reaches the meadows by the fjord where cattle graze the marsh. This is the sort of landscape that used to be where the summer house now lies; back in the 1950’s a lot of farmers made a lot of money by transforming poor agricultural land – including pastures – to plots for holiday homes in this area (and indeed in many other coastal areas of Denmark) as the post-WWII austerity quickly moved towards a time when the working class became middle class.
Our cul-de-sac of holiday home plots was created in 1952, and back then there wasn’t a single tree here and even the plots closest to the road had a view of the fjord. Now, though, it’s difficult to recognise the meadow when you look at all the mature trees. The only way you can tell the story of the landscape now is by digging into the soil where it is quite obvious that just under the fertile top soil there is clay sediments with various sea shells from when this was part of the fjord. (Or you could go down and look at the dike and the pumping station that does its best to prevent the area from flooding during heavy rain…)
My journey ended here, with another dahlia blooming in the garden. In fact there are quite a few now, though it’s still not quite the fireworks border that I hope it will be a bit later in summer. This one is another one grown from seed, and I quite like how it seems to be a semi-double cactus hybrid. One of the wonders of buying mixed seeds is that you don’t know what you’re getting, so you have the element of surprise!
I should have taken this trip a long time ago. Many times. In fact, if I omitted all the detours and just took the direct route – and went at a normal pace, rather than taking it as flânerie-au-vélo – it wouldn’t take much longer than going by bus, and of course it would remove the reliance on the rather erratic bus schedule. Sure, I might not do it in the pouring rain, but then I have the bus as a back-up.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed sightseeing with me!