Even though the Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland is a World Heritage site and fundamentally different from others, it is far from a museum. On the contrary, it is the living cultural traditions in the district that are to be preserved for all time. We are therefore happy to welcome you to enjoy our district and our shared world heritage. These are a few of the things you can discover:
A line village is a typical medieval phenomenon in which all the farms are located close together in a line along the village street. The villages were formed according to the rules of the old Östgöta Law from the 13th century, with the width of each plot along the village street corresponding to the farm’s share of the village. The thing that is special about Öland’s line villages is that many of them are still intact and well preserved. Unlike in the rest of Sweden, the farms were never distributed.
Öland has always been a landscape with few trees where limestone has been an important building material. The walls on Öland look similar but they differ in age. The oldest walls date from the Middle Ages and enclose the village infields, while the bare limestone soils lack walls as they were a royal hunting park established by the King, until 1801. The walls that can be seen on Stora Alvaret today were not built until after the division of the outlying land in 1819, when the land was divided between the farms. The medieval walls are bent or slightly crooked while the redistribution walls are absolutely straight.
Stora Alvaret with unique plant and animal life
Stora Alvaret covers 260 km2 (equivalent to approx 43,300 football pitches), about a fifth of Öland. Over half of Stora Alvaret consists of thin soil or exposed rock. Bushes and forests have never been able to grow in these areas though there have been groves, at times, where the soil is thicker. The climate, bedrock and people with grazing animals have created the bare limestone soil we see today. The bare limestone soil on Öland may appear unaffected by people but the grazing animals are absolutely necessary to preserve this unique environment. Today, there are almost 40,000 grazing animals on the island. Many plants are unique to Öland, such as Helianthemum oelandicum and Siberian wormwood. There are also 35 species of orchids on the island. Despite its small size, Öland has 70 % of all Sweden’s insects, not least a completely unique butterfly fauna.
The coastlands and their birds
On Öland, the arable land rarely extends all the way down to the actual shore. The land between the cultivated land and the shoreline is used for grazing and is called coastland. As Öland actually slopes gently east, most of the coastlands are found on the east side.
These are important breeding places for birds, especially waders, ducks, gulls and terns. These birds depend on the large, open areas near the shore with close-grazed vegetation.
Forts, gravefields and churches
The Agricultural Landscape of Southern Öland has brought prosperity throughout history, which can be seen in the many forts, gravefields and churches.
The island’s location made it exposed, and people came together to build the enormous ancient forts. Eketorp Fort is an example of what these may have looked like.
The gravefields are clearly visible in the landscape, one of the biggest of which is Gettlinge. The wealth resulted in a society that was socially well founded and Christianised early. Resmo Church, one of the oldest churches in Sweden, was built at the end of the 11th century
In the 19th century, there were almost 2,000 windmills on Öland due to the increased cultivation. All the farmers wanted their own windmills to mill grain. The windmills were movable property and did not come with the farm, so the owner could take it in the event of moving away. Today, approx 350 windmills remain on Öland. Many of the windmills are owned and maintained by local heritage societies.
For suggestions on activities and accommodation on Southern Öland, see Öland.se
Link to oland.se: http://www.oland.se