– a landscape of many contrasts
Västmanland County includes most landscape types to be found in Sweden — everything from the broad agricultural expanses of the Mälaren Valley with its oaks, castles and manor houses, to the Bergslagen region’s hills and valleys, great forests, mystical lakes, and the old mine shafts and other traces of the bygone iron industry.
Västmanland straddles the junction of the central Sweden flatlands and the more rugged terrain of Norrland. As a result, one may encounter both northerly and southerly landscape types within a travel time of an hour or so.
The highlands of the Bergslagen region were the first to emerge from the ancient sea, at a time when the area to the south that is now the Mälaren Valley lay deep beneath the water’s surface. Although only 80 kilometres separate the conifer-clad highlands of Bergslagen from the broad-leaved woods and open farmland of the Mälaren Valley, the contrasts are great. Living conditions for plants, animals and humans vary widely between the northern and southern sections of the county.
The best way to experience the contrasts of Västmanland is to follow one of the major rivers such as Hedströmmen, Kolbäcksån or Svartån. A trip along the Strömsholm Canal or a hike on the Bruksleden Trail offers an opportunity to discover the varied nature of Västmanland.
Engsö – cultural heritage in a varied landscape
Along the shores of Lake Mälaren are many protected natural areas. One of them is the Engsö Nature Reserve with its islands, skerries and islets. The area is quite unique in Sweden, having remained largely intact – both in terms of ownership and land use – for many centuries. The character of the reserve is strongly influenced by Engsö Castle, several large farms and around sixty crofts. The land has been farmed for hundreds of years, and the landscape looks much the same today as it did several centuries ago — a patchwork of small fields, meadows and wooded pastures.
The Engsö area contains a large number of unusual plants, which can be explained by centuries of grazing and hay-making, the lime-rich soil and the favourable climate of the Mälaren Valley. The animal life is also diverse, including roe deer (the mascot of Västmanland County), unusual insects and some one hundred nesting bird species. White-tailed eagles can often be seen along the Engsö Archipelago in both summer and winter.
The varied nature and cultural heritage of the landscape provides excellent opportunities for outdoor activities. There are several walking trails and grilling places. Not far from the castle is a visitor facility adapted for prams and wheelchairs. Both Engsö Castle and the medieval church are open to the public.
Asköviken Bay – a well-known bird site
Another area on Lake Mälaren that is worth a visit is Asköviken Bay, one of the best-known bird sites in Sweden. The area is known especially for its rich birdlife and proximity to Tidö Castle, with its surrounding broad-leaved woods, its valuable natural features and cultural heritage.
Humans have long left their mark on the Asköviken area. The abundant nature of the Mälaren Valley bears many traces of farming and grazing. Both hay-making and grazing have created conditions for the rich plant and animal life. In recent years, however, the area was starting to become overgrown due to the discontinuation of farming. But a major effort has been made to restore the old farming landscape and, as a result, many of the birds that had previously abandoned the Asköviken area have gradually returned.
Over 250 bird species have now been sighted at Asköviken. About 100 of them nest in the area, including the marsh harrier, osprey and large flocks of various ducks and wading birds. One of the best-known plants of the western Mälaren Valley is the legendary mistletoe, which is also the official flower of Västmanland County. Mistletoe grows primarily on linden trees and is protected throughout Sweden.
There is a network of paths along which it is possible to walk around the entire bay. A bird observation tower and other viewpoints enable visitors to look over the entire area and come close to the birds. On the western shore of Asköviken Bay there is a handicapped adapted boardwalk that extends 150 metres out to an observation hide amidst a reed bed.
Based in the Naturskolan building is a nature education facility which offers guided tours to school groups wishing to experience the nature of Asköviken.
Strömsholm – an ancient, oak-clad landscape
Not far from the Asköviken-Tidö area lies the Strömsholm Nature Reserve, another popular area for walks along Lake Mälaren. Humans have been active here for at least a thousand years, something of which the large number of ancient remains bear witness. In the 16th century King Gustav Vasa built a royal farm here; it was replaced in the following century by the castle that can be seen today.
Horses have been an important feature of Strömsholm for many centuries. They were bred here for military needs during Gustav Vasa’s time. Today, the area is a centre for Swedish equestrian sports.
Fields, meadows and wooded pastures form a varied landscape with a rich plant and animal life. Of particular interest are the many oaks and other hardwood species that provide favourable habitat for plants, birds and insects, including the rare hermit beetle.
There are many paths and trails with beautiful resting areas. A lookout point that is easily accessible to prams and wheelchairs has been built at Lake Lagårdssjön, which is part of the Strömsholm Canal system.
Svartberget and Klackberg – traces of mining activity
There are also plenty of protected natural areas and other interesting attractions in the northern part of the county. The region is dominated by open bogs and marshes, rocky pineland and many lime-rich areas with a highly diverse flora. In the northwest corner, near the border with Dalarna, lies Svartberget Nature Reserve. Its landscape is very dramatic, more hilly than in the southern part of the county. Numerous plant species thrive in the forest glades and abandoned lime pits.
In Klackberg Nature Reserve can be seen many traces of former mining activity. The nature of Klackberg is rich and varied. The limestone bedrock has given rise to an unusual flora, and there are many old broad-leaved trees.
For more information, please contact Jan-Inge Tobiasson, Västmanland County Administrative Board