Humans have grown up with trees, at once a place of shelter, and of threat, of easily generated myths, yet bestowing a soothing magic. It comes as no surprise that trees should be at centre stage in our current search for effective recuperative measures to address our climatic misdeeds. Indeed, with the strictures on congregation brought on by pandemic, woodland of any sort has become a refuge, a natural hospice, a personal shrine for so many people unable or unwilling to risk health in the company of our fellow beings.
Norway is famed the world over for dramatic scenery, with high mountains alongside a sometimes surprisingly blue sea. In the span of humankind, most of the region was beneath an ice sheet, kilometres thick, which sliced the tops from mountains, then carried the debris along in rivers of ice to the sea. Some areas in the far north and offshore islands like the Lofotens escaped glaciation, leaving a coastal landscape of jagged peaks.
There are sights that immediately tug at the heartstrings for many people, perhaps more than we imagine. To my mind, a sight of the open road is a symbol of freedom, of potential; of the choice to go or to stay, to feel that one’s personal space extends beyond the horizon. This last sensation is commonplace among native peoples the world over, but I encountered it first among the Sami inhabitants of Northern Scandinavia.
Svartisdal, for Bob Cranwell, imbued a sense of place.
I was so lucky to learn this little part of history at a time when so much of it was still open to my enquiry. I was on my first trip of many driving a 10 metre bus on camping tours in Scandinavia. I’d started in Oslo, driven North through Sweden and a limb of Finland into Norway’s Finnmark.
Podcast version here;Read more . .
I was entranced and delighted to hear chunks of a programme on Radio 4 one day, (link at end) which confirmed what I’d been telling folk for years – particularly those who travelled with me on camping trips in Scandinavia. I’ve since found that my mishmash of ideas is far from novel, but at the time I got a lot of strange looks from m’learned punters who clearly thought I’d lost the plot a bit (Okay, okay, evidence-based). I hope you’ll enjoy this exploration of the people from whom significant chunks of the Santa Claus story derive.
Podcast version here
As an aside (before I’ve even started !), I’ve had an attack of synchronicity – today I got through the post a card from my opticians, reminding me of a sight test due (I have them every year, sometimes more often as I have glaucoma in the family), and also later a brief conversation with a new guy working for Scottish Water who has taken on my old job and my old van, too.
Podcast version here
…….I had felt there was an option that needed exploring, from my first visit there. Once having climbed high enough above the slippery rocky slopes of the main valley, the ridge offered an excellent high level walk back to the shoulder above the camp, where I knew there was a safe descent, and I set about checking this route out, with a few intrepid walkers. Read more . .
It was in the midst of powerfully absorbing wild scenery and offered a lot of chances to explore, besides the obvious draw of the glacier, and I went off often to find out more and more about the area. Read more . .
We’d arrived in Svartisdal in Northern Norway the previous evening having driven south over the Arctic Circle and set up our camp on a shoulder of land overlooking the valley. They were in the third week of a camping tour of Scandinavia and had great weather throughout the trip, rather surprising considering how much rainfall Norway gets. Read more . .