2020: Not Bornholm
At home

Sunday 5 April

Adrian and Peter went walking today. The original plan was train and ferry to Bornholm, then walk around the island. Can you believe that it was less than one month ago, that I wrote:

Here we are in the second week of March which means that Bornholm is hoving into view. We shall be heading off in just three weeks...In fact, everything seems to be clicking for this walk, can anything go wrong?

Instead, we have our lockdown, so we both are spending the weekend at home. However, a small case of house arrest is not enough to stop our strides. So on this day we both set off walking, together, just a thousand km or so apart, with plans to have a shared beer at a pre-arranged time. It's what this time of year is for.


The Edsvidsleden is a 13km long trek which hosts an annual walking and running event. It has the reputation of a beautiful walk and passes just about past our front door. In 3 years I have never walked it. This is a perfect opportunity to do something special.

The opening part of the walk is familiar to me, as is the final part. I have no idea about the bit in the middle. A voyage of mystery.


Even when it became clear that Bornholm was not going ahead, I continued going out for a walk on Sundays, but not alone, not so early and not for so long. Elke and I walked together. She prefers her standard routes however, and that’s okay, but it’s not Strides walking.

On this much-awaited, now sadly cancelled, weekend of weekends, I was feeling a bit glum. So, both Elke and Emily urged me to get up early on Sunday morning and do what I always do. The sun was splitting Ennerich’s church steeple already and I decided to start by taking the steps up to and through our churchyard. It is really a most picturesque spot and it was looking at its best today.

The map says go straight, but I think it might be easier if I made a slight detour here. A reminder that it is not just plague and pestilence that bedevils our land. A few weeks ago we had some serious weather that took out a number of trees, obviously including this one.

The fields above Runkel were also looking pretty good.

An initiative to build a private 9-hole golf course here was successfully resisted by a group of residents this year. I was actually a bit on the fence about this. I certainly don’t need or want a golf course, but at the same time I was thinking: if you are in principle against change, any kind of change, what does that make you?

I admit my thinking on this issue was strongly influenced by a book I had enjoyed reading last year called “Unterleuten”, which sketched a fictional scenario almost exactly like the one which the golf supporters and our determined village defenders were cooking up. Spooky stuff, life following art.

I took an impulsive decision to do this walk wearing my slip on shoes. That isn't quite as bad as it sounds! These are proper walking shoes, thick and well-soled, but they have elasticated laces and the old feet just slip in. Mostly it was a good decision, but at times, such as here, it was a challenge. Three times during the walk the old feet just slipped out, each time I was just able to hold up enough and not make one further step which would have been into this stuff in my socks. Still, each time it was close enough to give me a fright. It keeps one on one's toes.

The sun shines upon both of us.
The same sun, of course, despite the distance.
Evidence is there on the ground for all to see.
Which hat would you plump for?

I take a slight detour to reach my chosen walking route, a bit further along the path than usual. Why do we decide on a walk and then immediately cheat? I shall never know. But it was nice to observe the springtime flora really starting to get a move on in these largely human-free times.

It is april, the sun shines, I am walking in Swedish skog. The nature outside your own front door can be wonderful, one must never forget. All the scare stories in the press can go hang, out here I am at one with the trees.

It turns out that the wall is superbly signposted. There are wee black and white squares on almost every other tree. In fact there is a moment of panic if, at any stage, you cannot see the next. This never lasts more than 10 paces. It is impossible to get today.

Hang on, I've just remembered that this is a Strides of March day. Better not to make ambitious claims.

My walk today is along the Oberlaach, one of the exquisite, lesser-known High Paths along the Lahn valley, just inside the edge of the woods, about a hundred feet or so above the river. One of my absolute favourite walks, the path is often only one-person wide, with a steep incline down to the river. The Oberlaach is barely frequented and, unlike the wide riverside path on the other bank, is not really at all suitable for a cycle, stroll or a dog walk.

Suffice to say, the only souls I meet today are a wifie with a dog and some eedgit on a mountain bike. We exchange the briefest of niceties and swiftly pass each other, momentarily flaunting the mandatory 2-m distance requirement, since maintaining that would have led to one or all of us tumbling down the riverbank.

I put the camera on auto for this one. This is me, hopping over the stream like a springbok. Slip on shoes still spotless.

One of the highpoints (literally) on this path is the peaceful, forgotten Jewish cemetery, hidden in the woods. There are very few gravestones, most are very old and largely unreadable, with a ritual pebble or two balancing on top. Another seems newer, is weirdly shaped, vandalized perhaps? and yet again, this supposition seems too grotesque, could it be some kind of artistic or political statement? I am always secretly relieved to leave this eerie copse behind me, in a sec I am out of the woods and looking down upon the familiar, unmistakable vista of Runkel, with its two fairytale castles and chocolate-box old town scenery.

Waterfall through the trees, keeping the muddy bits well lubricated. It is impossible to capture even a fraction of the beauty of a waterfall through the trees on camera. God knows I have tried through the years. Once I even had a camera with a special waterfall mode, but even that was no good.

You just have to try and imagine how beautiful this was.

I’m sure you remember the story of the Castle of Runkel and its resident Prince. His ancestors had a bitter feud leading to disinherited wee bro building his own fortress on the opposite side of the river, just to cock a snoop at big bro. Wee nyaff even gave his new fortress the name Schadeck, or Mischief Corner. Talk about upping the ante.

Today, I am skirting the town, strictly adhering to our hillwalker’s adage of never losing height unnecessarily. The path cuts along behind the castle walls, obscured by some brush and trees.

I emerge at an incongruously placed very modern housing estate. Many houses are still being built, others are recently finished and lie whitewashed in the bright Sunday sunshine. It is mid morning in the beginning of April, but already roofs are glistening in a mirage of heat. Eager to avoid the dwellers of this suburbia, I head round the back of a row of newly-built houses at the edge of the estate.

And more. You can never have enough waterfalls. Through the magic of digital photography and my digital messing about - all fingers and thumbs - you get the view in both directions from the bridge here. Incredibly though, what you see before you has barely a smidge of the superb panorama one has from this remote little crossing point.

I have been fortunate to see a few of the world's great sights: the Eifel Tower, the Kremlin, the Air and Space Museum at the Smithsonian. I really love local skog, though. There is nothing like it. All the beauty of the world can be found on the doorstep of all of us.

Unlike the fronts, which are all of a muchness, the back gardens offer me tantalizing glimpses into these people’s lives. But their lives are not normal, not at the moment, at any rate. Each family seems to be trying to outdo each other in perfection: new children’s toys, playhouses, trampolines, basketball courts, swings and chutes, each one worthy of a commendation in a public playground competition; now utterly abandoned and untouched, in the days of Corona. It is here that I quickly sneak a photo of an anonymous child’s al-fresco toy kitchen, equipped with everything you could imagine, fussily cluttering up the garden, above which a long Swedish flag is fluttering. This is one for our international blog, I decide.

We swedes take stopping points on our walking routes seriously. This is the Krusetorpet, which has a roof, benches and full barbeque pit. The cupboard at the back is properly stocked with dried firewood and kindling. It is not uncommon to see supplies of toilet paper at these places. It is one of the many ways which make Sweden invariably amongst the top of the list of the best countries to live in the world.

Krustorpet is on a slight mound over the forest. It is not stunning, just extremely attractive. It is the perfect place to stop.

Adrian makes it to a bench and viewpoint high above the river valley. Peter approaches Krusetorpet. Both reach the meeting point at exactly the right time, more by telepathy than good management.

There is a faint sense of dismay at not being together on the island we planned to visit. In the great scheme of things, not going on a walking holiday is a small price to pay, but still to us it is a sacrifice and it hurts, just a tiny bit.

We dilute the pain with beer, as we have for years. We sit, crack open a bottle and a can and chat away, a joint occasion. The sun glisters off the river quite magnificently below. We share a short but heartfelt toast and a few more slugs of beer at both ends of a telephone line. One does what one can.

Unskilled at taking selfies, I am still trying to work my phone when I realize my tinnie has been quietly knocked over by the blustery breeze, its contents seeped away into the parched earth. What would have been a medium-sized disaster on the Strides is a source of amusement, absolutely worth it, just for the story.

Here, local cows welcome us into their fields. I love walking through fields where the cows welcome you in. Its always nice to be welcome.

It’s a sign: it’s time to take off down the glen. I never fail to be impressed at the solitude and natural beauty of this small side-valley of the Lahn. I have no idea what it is called; it drains several streams, meaning that it is nearly always wet underfoot, but this merely serves to make the glen fecund, special and indescribably beautiful.

Deep in skogen, having walked out from your drive that morning, now you see your hometown referenced in signposts. That is a proper walk.

I have been here in the past mainly in winter, often with snow and ice. Today, it is sunny, there has been no significant rainfall over the last month (that last month being March!) and spring is in full flourish. I stop frequently to admire the light passing through the trees, listen to the birds and take photos. Eventually, the path starts to climb once more, but this time the ascent is swift and short.

This pair of geese give me a wonderful aeronautic display as they fly hither and thither in beautiful harmony over my head. It is april so I am pretty sure this is a courtship display, as the pair plight their troth and whisper I do in between swoops. It must be a goose thing.

I can just imagine their grandmothers clicking their beaks and shaking their heads. Honestly, the young geese nowadays, right there in the middle of the sky, they have no shame, it was all different when I was a gosling.

I think it is lovely anyway. We have all been there, back in the day when our feathers were all grey and fluffy.

Having exited the glen, there is no alternative but to go back whence I came, but of course the change of walking direction means experiencing the glen’s natural beauty from a different angle. However, the day is progressing, people are up and about and I realize the glen is not as secret as I thought.

Finally I make it down to the kanal, which means it is time to turn and head for home. I have a panoramic view of the slussarna across the water. Walking around them is a favourite family walk of ours, it is familiar and comforting to see the bottom end of that walk from afar. These are still in use and occasionally boats which look too big to make it squeeze through these gates on their journey from Göteborg into central Sweden. Today, though, all is calm.

Picking up pace, I find myself still very much on my own, exactly as I like it. Stopping at a final high point, less than a kilometer from home, I realize that from where I am standing I can see and name no fewer than seven neighbouring municipalities. A mere 200 metres further on I can see only my own village and, in the far distance, the tall Autobahn and bullet-train bridges, obscuring the cathedral spires of Limburg.

More sun dappling through the trees, else skogen i solljuset in swedish, because I don't know the translation for dappling.

Of course, we never fail to have that one classic photo on the Strides. The gasp-provoking testimony to eccentricity and bad taste. Here is the one I chose. As you can see, a bunch of trees had to be chopped down in order to allow the visitor to take in the full magnificence of the view.

This is our personal family panorama. I am close to home now, walking distance for the girls, and the family walk here often. It is a stunning spot, a favourite. This meander of the river is wide enough to look like a lake from this angle. Svenska granar along the background; riverbirds calling and swooping over the water; sunlight glistening off the surface. It is home, and completes for me the wide spectrum of emotions on this extraordinary walk.

And so here I am, back in Ennerich, admiring our newly re-furbished, now re-closed, U-14s playpark, sparkling in the sunshine, in mint condition, below our ancient and bonny Kirche.

If we are looking for a pithy conclusion, dripping with symbolism, to this commentary (and I am, clearly), then the playpark offers it.

It is perfect, but deserted. A thing of joy deferred.

Nothing comes for free. I must pay a price for the forest beauty and companionship I have drunk in today. This flight of stairs is bolted onto the cliff face, rising up towards my home. There are eight of these in metal and stone for me to clamber up to get to the right level. For legs with 12 km in them it is going to hurt, but I care not. It has been worth every step.

Amid its sea of secure social distancing, Bornholm simply shrugs its shoulders, smiles and settles down again for a longer snooze. A Baltic paradise awaits better times for a couple of Scottish wanderers, ever ready to jump on its squeaky swings and plastic toy animals, to hike its cliff-top paths and sandy dunes, to toast each other with overflowing mugs of its best beer and to feast off its many culinary delicacies.

Feck Corona. Let the Strides ever continue.