Annual Meeting: Norway 1994

Lyngør and Nes Jernverk

Friday 27th of May

After a coach journey through the sparkling spring colours of Norway we arrived at Gjeving Brygge to catch the water taxi to the picturesque small town of Lyngør.

The town is built on several islands and has no cars. The town grew up as ships pilotes, and other seafaring men setteld there with their families. The houses face the water as this is their “mainstreet”. Everyone has a boat because the post-office, school, shops, and the community center are on an other island. The houses cling like barnacks to the shoreline and are full of character. They have charming details especially to their doors and windows. The houses sit in small gardens surrounded by white picker fences that were used to keep out the grasing sheeps and cows.

Today there are no longer any grasing animals, and the islands landscape is changing as scrubs and trees establish on its rocky terrain. Syringa that was introduced only 50 years ago is colonizing the island and its shades of white mauve lavender and purple add to the rich tapestry of colours.

Lyngør won the European best kept village community prize in 1991 for its architecture landscape and sense of community. This succes has brought more tourists, and illustrates the problems and tensions that arise particulary within the confires of an island, when the local population of 120 is joined by 1000 visitors. Our guide in Lyngør was Ingunn Helledal.

Our second visit loads to the site of the old iron works of Nes, and the parkland adjacent to it. Nes has been famous for hundreds of years for the manufacture of iron and steel goods. In particulare it has the distinctive iron stoves so essential to previous generation of Norwegians. Production only stopped in 1959 when its dam burst putting out of action the waterwheels that drove the massive 17th and 18th century machinery. Althoug more modern equipment had been introduced at various stages the original technology was found to be still the most satisfactory.

This site is totally unspoilt and gives the feeling that time has stood still for almost 40 years. Workmens’ shoes lie where they were left, and their jackets hang on pegs in the rest room. The visit to these old premises was a fascinating introduction to the estate and park of the foundary owners. Guided by a local landscape architect Aase Hørsdal we were invited to rediscover the “ghost” of the romantic garden that had been laid out in the middle 17th century. The local authority has recently entered into a 40 year leasing agreement with the present owners ( the family has owned the property since 1799 ) and has contracted to restore the garden to its 18th century glory for the enjoyment of local people and tourists.

It is early days, and there is still alot of research to be done, but by using old maps, diaries kept by a former gardener, and by looking for clues in the landscape, they hope to piece together this legacy of the past. There are conflicts here however, mostly about how appropriate it is to reconstruct an 18th century garden in the 21th century, particulary when the estate has just built a golf course to cater for tourist demands and local needs. The feeling within Norway is that this relic of the past, a unique romantic garden is very important as regard to the past, and that it is entirely appropiate to try and presive what is left of Nes Jernverk and peel back the vegetation and neglect of the last 100 years.

A thank you Cecilie to you and your team, for a most interesting, though provoking and well organised day.

Elizabeth (Liz) Turner

6 thoughts on “Annual Meeting: Norway 1994

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