In the summer of 2014 The Icelandic Forest Service assigned Iceland Travel 3 hectares of land in Haukadalur. The area , which is near the famous Geysir hot spring, is rich in folklore and history. Legend has it that the giant Bergþór of Bláfell is buried near the church of Haukadalur; the iron ring on the church door is said to be from his walking stick.
The region has been a farm since Saga times, when the family Haukdaelir, who lent their name to the area, was one of the most powerful clans in the country. It is also the site of a school founded in the 9th century that educated many learned Icelanders, most notably Ari “the Learned” Þorgilsson (1067-1148), who wrote the Book of Icelanders. The land of Haukadalur had been badly damaged by erosion when in 1938 a Danish man, Kristian Kirk, bought the farm to give it to the Icelandic Forest Service to be protected and re–forested. You can find a memorial to Kirk at the site.
Iceland Travel’s Reforestation Project has three purposes:
All of the trees planted in the grove in Haukadalur come from a local greenhouse, Kvistar. The greenhouse is located in the small village of Reykholt, 100 km from Reykjavik and only 20 km from our grove in Haukadalur. Ever since its origin, the farmers at Kvistar have specialised in cultivating trees for the Icelandic Forest Service. They also offer fresh raspberries and strawberries for sale in the summer time.
We often receive comments from our travelers about how barren Iceland is, and if this has to do with our volcanoes.
Actually, when the island was settled over 1000 years ago, birch forest and woodland covered 25-40% of Iceland's land area. But the settlers began by cutting down the forests and burning scrubland to create fields and grazing land. Then sheep grazing prevented the regeneration of the trees.
Organised forestry is considered to have started in Iceland in 1899 with the planting of the Pine Stand at Thingvellir National Park. The Iceland Forest Service (IFS) was established in 1908. At first, protection involved simply fencing areas to exclude grazing sheep, but since 1950, the emphasis has been placed on planting trees. The total area of forest and woodland in Iceland has probably doubled, possibly tripled, since 1950.
In more than a century since forestry activity began in Iceland there have been great improvements. There has been an emphasis on opening forests to the public and two areas originally cultivated on treeless land in the 1950s and ‘60s now receive over 400,000 visits annually.
Without a doubt, the most important outcome is that there has been a change in attitude of the Icelandic people. A century ago, most Icelanders had never seen a tree. Sixty years ago, few Icelanders believed that trees of any size to speak of could grow in Iceland. Today, forestry for timber production, land reclamation and amenity is being carried out by thousands of people all over Iceland. All National Forests are open to the public year-round and some are among the most visited outdoor recreation areas in Iceland.
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