Blog 9 Lake Viken July - 2015
Forsvik - lake Viken - Tåtorp - Töreboda - Nörrkvarn -
And so at Forsvik we reach a milestone in the journey. The final rising lock after which all locks fall eventually to the sea at Gothenberg. Very few settlements along the canal are of any size, usually no more than a handful of houses, a remote controlled road bridge and a lock or two. Forsvik is different having been an ancient centre of industry in one way or another since the 15th century. Still only a few houses now but several attractive large buildings, some brick, some wooden, and a fast running stream preserve its history - a flour mill, a vast timber yard stacked high with huge cut planks each separated with pegs like some child's game, a heat raising building for paper making, an iron foundry as familiar to me as those working foundries I visited in Wallingford not many years ago, small gauge railway lines to the harbour side, a machinery workshop with that smell of lubricant you will only know if you have worked in a factory as I have and an area where metal boat were built. A fascinating discovery set within the glory of Sweden's forested lakeland.
Families of sparrows visited the boat wherever we stopped and I observed yesterday that one had a chestnut brown head and a white collar which was significant. A family of Tree Sparrows which I have never seen before to my knowledge - what a delight - and during breakfast yesterday morning one flew down the companionway into the saloon, landed on the carpet, assessed we were not messy eaters and flew out again with a whirr - such simple pleasures.
If any of the canal passages are likely to test the nervous sailor, then Lake Viken would be near the top of the list. A haven of nature, it takes a tortured rock infested route through some of the most beautiful scenery which more than compensates for the hazards. The route is so shallow in parts - almost reverting to lily ponds in places that stone walls emerge from the lake from time to time and follow a serpentine course for hundreds of metres as the only sensible means of marking a safe passage to be followed. Our wake rolls languorously along the walls like an undulating bridal veil following astern and lifts and lowers lily leaves which glisten at the rim in the afternoon sun. Absorbing the warmth of a stone wall we saw a smooth snake, black and sleek, laying in total silence among the ferns and lichen, it moved its head, testing the air as we passed and below, on a moss covered stone a lizard sunbathed motionlessly.
The lake took an acute turn both in direction and character, opening out to as much as a mile wide and deeper safe water but still lined by mature mixed forest. It was then that an osprey began to circle the boat, a great fish eating bird of prey not unlike an eagle. It came closer with each pirouette until it was clear above our heads, sunlight passing through its primaries and its snow white breast and throat lit blue by reflected light from the lake.
At the eastern end of the lake there is an obelisk which marks the highest point reached by the canal at over 91 mtrs above sea level and remarkable since this section of the man made canal is at its shallowest and narrowest in order to reduce the amount of work necessary where it was cut through solid bed rock. The fight against solid rock is not better seen anywhere than on the raw rock walls of the lock, drilled and blasted into submission, yet still jagged and broken, not smooth like quarried stone.
On to Töreboda, a sizeable town - you could use the number of supermarkets as an order of magnitude, this one had three and for some reason we were about to discover, was full to bursting with visiting boats. A vast rock concert is held every three years with 30,000 people expected and this was the year to be somewhere else. Unclimbable fencing had been erected around a large area of the town centre, leaving official entrances in only one or two streets. Inside, colossal black stage sets had been constructed at several locations - tier upon tier of powerful stage lights hung from gantries like massive black bats and loudspeakers the size of refrigerators towered one upon the other convincing me that we would move on in the morning.
The water in the canal at Norrkvarn was so tempting. The instruments confirmed the water temperature at 24.2 degs C - which I was later told by a friend in the Med that it is warmer than the sea in Greece at the moment - and it was too hot to resist.- what a way to cool off and reassuring to see how hard the Swedes work to ensure the water is kept very clean and healthy.
There is an American artist who paints isolated low farm houses way out on the horizon with vast fields spread out before them like a tablecloth. The colour, style and character of the farmsteads we passed along the canal were his subject to perfection, I am inspired. Most of the farmland we have seen is down to cereal crops or grass for hay and silage and consequently gigantic red barns house the livestock for much of the year. This would be the last of the rural life we would see for a while as the great Lake Vanern was our next point of call and would occupy us for some time.