The oak forest on Visingsö
Sweden’s largest solid oak forest was planted in 1831 for the navy’s future ship construction. These days boats are made from armoured steal and carbon fibre, which means that the beautiful forest remains on the island. Take a walk, go on a bike ride or go by horse and carriage under the tall trees that are a part of our cultural heritage.
For several hundred years the Swedish Crown had exclusive rights to oak timber on land owned by farmers. Oak timber was primarily used for ship construction and was therefore an important part of the country’s war plan. For those farmers who cut down oak without permission there was a hefty punishment in store. However this did not deter the common people from the oak trees and the supply of oak decreased. In the beginning of the 19th century one realised that there was becoming a shortage of oak tree.
Perfect location for oak tree planting
The climate, soil and closeness to water made Visingsö the perfect location for planting oak trees. In 1831, the oak tree plantation was started at Visingsö by royal forester Israel af Ström. For several years, oak trees were planted in order to secure the navy’s need for timber. The oak trees were pruned so that they would be tall and straight and suitable for ship construction. In 1975 the oak trees were ready to be cut down and they were offered to the Chief of Navy but he declined the offer - at this time ships were no longer made from timber. The oak tree wood never came to be used for its original purpose.
However, oak timber from Visingsö is a sought-after commodity. The National Property Board of Sweden has among other things laid wooden floors from Visingsö in Östra stallet in the offices of the Swedish National Heritage Board in Stockholm and in the embassy in Pretoria. Oak tree can also be found in the barrels where Mackmyra stores its whisky.
New oak trees for future generations
We would also like for future generations to be able to visit and experience the oak tree forest on Visingsö. Therefore new oak tree populations are planted in connection with logging. In the forest you are now able to study oak trees of different ages and observe different maintenance methods during the lifespan of the trees. Major efforts are being done to weed out among the fir trees that are growing in the oak tree population, which in later years have begun to compete too much with the oak trees. Other issues to deal with is how the oak tree populations will be managed now that they are starting to get old. Logging and replanting must be done with consideration to recreation and natural values. The aim for the future is to ensure the survival of oak trees based on aspects such as cultural history, ecological and experience.
Hiking trails through the oak tree forest
The hiking trails are located on the southern part of Visingsö and they start near the harbour. There are three marked trails: 3.8 km, 6.4 km and 7.2 km. The trails run through the oak tree forest. They pass through sites and objects that are interesting both in terms of cultural history as well as botanical aspects: everything from grave fields and the timber framed Kungsgårdsladorna to mulberry trees and “Stora silvergranen” (The Big Silver Fir). Both botanical and cultural historic sights are indicated on signs. In five locations along the trails there are resting places with benches. People with disabilities are directed to use the forest roads that go through the oak tree forest, several of them lead to indicated objects.
Grave fields from the Viking Age
Visingsö has been inhabited since the inland ice retreated and the island emerged from the water. Ancient remains from all ages have been found on the island. Findings indicate the significance that Visingsö had during the Viking Age and can for example be compared to Birka. The most eye-catching findings are perhaps the three large grave fields from the Viking Age. They were originally larger than they are today.