Inside the old charcoal burners’ hut, where walkers can bed down for the night (but only one night), a guestbook rests in a tin box on a wooden shelf. We have stopped by the lake in the centre of the Kindla Nature Reserve, about as far from the boundaries and the car parks as it is possible to be. It is a beautiful spot, former mining country left to be reclaimed by nature. The lake we are sitting at was once an open-cast mine. The rivers and streams we crossed to get here were once diverted, their power harnessed to work the pumps and the lifts. This place, where so many have been inspired to write about on the thick pages of the guestbook, was once a key site of Swedish industrialisation.
We open the book and read back through the entries. They are mostly in Swedish, some in English, but there is one young girl who writes in German. As we flick back through the pages we see her appear again and again, usually around the end of summer, as she makes an annual walk to the heart of the reserve with her grandfather near the end of her holiday. The most recent entry is her fourth. She is now thirteen years old. The first time she visited and took a pen to the book she was ten. Over the years her handwriting has improved, but her chatty enthusiasm for this place remains the same.
It is nice to think of her coming back time and again, to this place that was once the preserve of charcoal burners, miners and ironworkers, and that is now left to be discovered by only those willing to make the six kilometre walk to the heart of the reserve. It is not difficult to imagine that this will always remain an important place for the young woman from Duisburg, a long way from home in the heart of the Swedish forest.
Photo by Katrin Schönig
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