Away From It All – visiting the Forest Retreat in Skåne

Bob from the Nature Travels team stayed at our Forest Retreat in Skåne in May 2016

The county of Skåne, tucked away in the far south of Sweden just across the water from Copenhagen, is in many ways quite “un-Swedish”. Lush, deciduous forests, postcard-picturesque villages and rolling agricultural land dominate the landscape and visitors may be surprised that it almost feels like a different country compared to the rest of Sweden – no surprise in some ways, as Skåne was part of Denmark until 1658.

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Anyone familiar with the Wallander crime series, which is based in Ystad in the south of Skåne, or The Bridge, which is set both in Malmö and Copenhagen, may have the impression that the county lurks beneath a perpetual grey, leaden cover of cloud.

But the reality is very different! While Skåne may not have the deep snows of winter and the dramatic mountains of the north, during spring, summer and autumn it is an idyllic place bursting with flowers and greenery, with a mild climate, cool, tranquil forests and a stunning coastline.

My visit took me to Skåne in the first week of May, just as spring was exploding. Although spring certainly comes earlier to this southern tip of Sweden than further north, I was lucky enough to enjoy some exceptional weather. From the Wednesday I arrived to the Sunday I left, the sun beat down unhindered from a clear blue sky and daytime temperatures were more than 20 degrees (note: it would normally be a little cooler so early in May, and come nightfall it felt once more like early spring)!

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My first stop on the trip was at the Forest Retreat in Skåne, right in the centre of the county and just an hour from Malmö. I arrived at the small cheese factory, whose small shop serves as reception for checking in and where they sell a mouth-watering selection of cheeses both produced on the farm and sourced locally. I was shown a small, wooden disc painted blue and my instructions were “go up the track, keep walking until you see the wooden discs, then turn into the forest and follow the trail”.

Here you don’t so much “check-in” as “start off”. The intention is to walk from the farm for about 10-15 minutes to the yurt camp, though if you’ve got too much luggage, you’re also allowed to cheat a little and drive some of the way.

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So off I went in the afternoon sunshine, walking away from the farm and along a small forest road, looking out for the blue markers. Sure enough, I came across a cluster hanging from the trees and plunged into the forest along a beautiful woodland path which led me deeper into the woods until I emerged a few minutes later into a clearing – I had arrived at the yurt camp! It’s a lovely way to begin your stay, and with every step you feel that you’re leaving the modern world further and further behind.

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Skåne may not have the vast wilderness areas of the far north, but you certainly feel a good way from civilisation at the yurt camp. The forest is welcoming, airy and tranquil. If you particularly wish to explore further afield during your stay, the local area offers a host of attractions, from the nearby animal park showcasing Nordic wildlife to horse riding, canoe hire, and a beautiful old monastery – but really, why would you want to leave? There are walking trails starting right from the camp and (although it was still a bit too cold for a dip at the start of May) some lovely lakes for bathing and swimming within easy walking distance.

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While the camp may be simple, it’s hard to think of anything that’s not provided. The yurts are comfortable, spacious, and cosy. The communal kitchen yurt provides somewhere to socialise in the evening and to cook if the weather’s not cooperating. Cooking at the camp is over open fire – a real adventure that not many people in the Western world have the opportunity to indulge in these days.

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Food packages are available as an optional extra with a focus on local, organic ingredients, and I met up with Jenny from the local tourist board to spend an evening happily working together to create a wonderful meal of pasta with blue cheese sauce, with cruncy fried nettles (a lot nicer than they sound!) and an organic chocolate mousse with sea salt for dessert!  Delicious, and all the nicer for the work that it required and the stunning setting in which we ate it.

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As bedtime approached and twilight fell in the forest, it was time to round off the evening with a go in the camp’s “forest shower”, where you fill a bag with hot water from the kitchen tent, secrete yourself in a small fabric enclosure, suspend your bag above your head and bathe by the magic of gravity.

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Then it was time to retire and enjoy my yurt. It was all very romantic, but sadly on this occasion it was just myself and Elky enjoying the atmosphere! Still, we lit the candles and the lantern, and retired to bed to watch the stars come out through the yurt’s ceiling window.

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Next morning the sun was still shining as Elky and I enjoyed an organic breakfast beneath a leafy canopy. My schedule for the next few days beckoned, and all too soon my time in the forest was at an end. I packed my bags and with more than a little wistfulness, retraced my steps back through the forest, following the little blue markers in reverse. How nice it would have been to stay longer – but the impressions will remain forever!

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Best regards

Bob

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