Vester Veng, Bornholm – Friday 21st April to Saturday 29th April
We stepped off the bus on Bornholm out into sideways rain. Fortunately, as the bus pulled away we saw a woman stepping out of a little blue Suzuki, waving frenetically across the road. This turned out to be Lisbeth, our host for the week. A short drive later we pulled up to the red walls of the farm and through the arch into the courtyard.
We headed in, straight up to our own upstairs flat. Luxury! A few minutes later we met Alan, Lisbeth’s partner, who, to our surprise, spoke with a South London lilt.
We immediately warmed to Lisbeth and Alan. They were both true adventurers in their own right. Both were great ocean-going sailors, with many crossings of the Atlantic and Pacific bagged between them; a strong independent streak keeping them away from a mainstream lifestyle. Lisbeth had bought the farm on a whim on a weekend trip to Bornholm in 2002 (it was crazy cheap, apparently), and had met Alan in Portugal a few years later, where he had been living on his boat. After a few years at sea, crossing the Atlantic together to the Caribbean, and setting up a little place off-grid in Portugal, they returned to Bornholm to stay on the farm together. They welcomed us to Bornholm with a lovely dinner, before, travel weary, we headed to bed.
Our Bornholme WWOOF-ing hosts, Alan and Lisbeth:
When we woke on Saturday the rain had abated. The wind, however, had been howling all night (it sounded like the roof was going to come off!). Thankfully Alan had some winter overalls we could wear, so we headed out and set upon our first tasks for the week. Lisbeth and Alan run their little organic farm as a guesthouse through the summer months, and part of their offering is their huge organic vegetable garden, from which guests are welcome to help themselves to produce (see their website for more info: www.holidaysonbornholm.com). This year they were adding a couple of greenhouses to the mix, so our first task was laying the foundations for these in the vegetable garden.
The greenhouses, foundations expertly laid by us:
This task took us through to Sunday (we were only working four hours a day). Frames up and in place, we then had to clean all of the glass. Perhaps this kind of work isn’t for some, but for us this was perfect. We do a task, work together, and see instant results. It’s lovely.
On Monday we woke to a cats and dogs rain situation. Fortunately, our hosts were mid-refurbishment on the house, so there was indoor work to be done. They had knocked down a wall and were installing a new kitchen, and upstairs they had bought a new shower for the holiday apartment. Hannah set about painting the ceiling in the kitchen, dressed in a paper suit. This was the first time she’d ever used a paint roller, but handled it like a pro.
Phil was upstairs with Alan in the bathroom, wrestling with a new shower cubicle that didn’t quite fit! This is another great thing about WWOOF-ing: you are always learning new skills. Now we can add plumbing, painting, and foundation laying to our portfolio.
We ended up working the whole day (the usual WWOOF agreement is for four hours per day), on the offer of the next day off and a car to explore the island. Phil continued shower-wrangling duties; Hannah, by now, was pulling up the kitchen floor with a crowbar and a hammer.
The farm from above:
We decided to start our day off with a much-needed lie-in. It was so nice to be able to relax into the day and take our time over things. In Denmark, it’s the car, not the driver, that is insured, so we’re able to borrow their little blue Suzuki Swift and head for the hills. Our first stop is the Bornholm Bison Park. In 2012, the powers that be decided to import some Bison onto Bornholm in a bid to control sapling growth, and hopefully boost tourism. They started with just six animals, but now have a whole herd just five years later. We weren’t optimistic about spotting them (the forest is huge), but it made for a lovely walk, so we headed into the woods.
The forest was pulled straight from a fairy tale; the leaves lush and trees dense; the floor carpeted with wildflowers; small brooks babbling gently beneath tree-bough bridges. After a time, still on the hunt for the elusive bison, we reached a split in the forest path. Naturally we chose the path less trodden. Up ahead, the canopy surged forward, caught us in a gust of wind. It was perfect.
A few minutes later, as we strolled along a graded track, both of us stopped suddenly, grabbing each other by the arm: Bison! We had spotted two grazing in the woods right beside us. We crept as close as we dared, treading on moss to soften our footsteps. The great beasts accepted our presence unperturbed, and continued their woodland feasts. What an amazing find! We left them be, and immediately spotted another.
We only noticed the ‘Keep 100m from the bison at all times’ rule when we got back to the car…
Further down the path Hannah tried her hand at a bit of duck herding (think ‘Danny the Champion of the World’), as we’d spotted a brace of them with ducklings in tow. She was not successful. When we hit the main road in the park we found a guided tour group watching a twenty-strong herd of bison in a field by the road. We felt our find was definitely the more legit one.
We moved on, heading to the castle ruins at Hammershus, stopping for an ice-cream by the sea at Gudhjem.
Finally, after a disappointing failure to find a reasonably priced restaurant that was actually open, we headed back to the farm with a supermarket pizza in the boot.
Thursday and Friday passed surprisingly quickly. We worked together cleaning more glass; came up with a stellar method for lifting kitchen floor vinyl together; Phil fixed the mower with Alan, and Hannah cleaned the holiday apartment. Then on Friday evening we joined Lisbeth and Alan on a short trip up to Tejn to watch the Bornholm Trolling Master competition. Last year the winner brought in a 20kg salmon! Sadly we arrived too early to see any of the fish, and instead decided to head for dinner together after a couple of beers in a smoky locals bodega.
Searching for salmon at Tejn Harbour:
Then it was home to packing and bed; ready for the next leg of our adventure to continue on Saturday.
After our stay on the island we really could see why the Danes hold Bornholm in such high regard. It is a truly lovely island. Unspoilt by overdevelopment, and with a really apparent sense of community; quaint seaside towns dot the coast; while inland beautiful forests and farmland fill the undulating landscape. Many of the farmers even plough a strip on the edge of their fields to plant flowers for passersby to pick! Perhaps this was just looking through the rose-tinted lenses of the traveller, but nevertheless, it has found a small place in our hearts, too.
Hannah and Phil x