From Alingsås to Änglagårdsland
Our first day covers three gardens, starting with a pleasure trip on a heritage railway, with a short detour to enjoy the glory of roses and then an afternoon in a romantic park within walking distance of lovely Alingsås.
Today's first destination is reached by taking a seat on the vintage train that departs from Anten station (for departure times, prices, parking - see www.agj.net). We travel slowly alongside Lake Anten and it really feels as if we have gone back in time. On the train the engine drivers, firemen and ticket conductors are all dressed in period costume. The journey is about 12 km long and when we arrive, Gräfsnäs Castle ruins and park is only a few minutes’ walk away. Here, anyone with ants in their pants has the perfect outlet for their energy. The extensive park is well suited to activity, play and the joy of discovery. The old 18th and 19th century buildings are fascinating and we give silent thanks to Bjärke Heritage Association who look after them so well. The castle ruin is also impressive. As the sun is shining we take the opportunity to go for a swim from the nice beach. Our picnic tastes even better now, and there is both a kiosk and a restaurant in the grounds for those wanting more to eat or drink. Satisfied, we return to the steam train taking us back to Anten, where we parked the car. A half-hour drive will take us to the next stop.
Today's second destination is Västergården Garden. An eldorado for anyone who loves roses like we do. We are met by a field of roses, an enchanting sight. In the show garden, which is divided into rose families, we just walk around enjoying the fantastic scents. Closing our eyes we wonder if we haven’t been transported to paradise. In addition to organically grown roses, there are greenhouses, a pond, vegetable beds and gloriously colourful summer flowers. To our great delight we can buy a bunch of roses from the garden. We leave Västergården happy.
Today's third and final destination is Nolhaga Park, a lush oasis where there’s a lot to see and do. The park is romantic English landscape and the castle itself a patrician villa in Italian Neo-Renaissance style. We admire the beautifully planted beds, pretty wooden bridges and several ponds. Families with children seem to enjoy themselves here as there is a lovely large adventure playground, animals to see and pet and for the slightly older, a frisbee golf course. The rocky hill behind the playground is great for family-friendly "rock climbing". There is also an exciting swamp forest area called Congo. When you’re there it really feels like a Swedish rainforest! The extensive park is perfect for both activities and picnics. There are countless places to choose from when we’re ready to eat our remaining snacks . We end our wonderful excursion to Nolhaga with a delicious ice cream from the café. And it is also there and then that we decide to spend the night in Alingsås, which is only a stone's throw away from the park. For accommodation options, see vastsverige.com. Alingsås is known as the capital of fika and we like the sound of that. Low wooden buildings, quaint streets and alleyways, quite simply the perfect place to stay.
Day two is about organic gardening and local produce and ends at a manor in a place used as a film location. Last of all we hear a ghost story, but it doesn’t scare us!
We reach our first destination of the day, Grustorps Nursery, in just under an hour's drive from Alingsås. Organic and sustainable are the keywords here. We start our visit by walking around the forest garden. Walnut, chestnut, fruit trees and berry bushes share the space with edible perennials. Before we came here we didn’t know that both hostas and daylilies are edible! The greenhouse and the woodland look interesting and the free-range hens also want our attention. Their gentle clucking goes perfectly with the surroundings. In the well-stocked farm shop we find a great selection of home grown products. We take the opportunity to buy vegetables, honey, eggs and a pretty nest box that will remind us of this lovely place. We sit down for a while by the pond before we leave. We need to wait for a pre-booked picnic lunch that we will enjoy on the next stop of the day.
We drive between Old Älvsborg and Skaraborg to Wardins, today's second destination, with a show garden which is a place for enjoyment, inspiration and delight. Just as with Grustorp, everything grown here is done so according to sustainable, organic and permaculture methods. The beds have room for both traditional berries and vegetables, but also, for example, imported Saskatoon berries. A berry that tastes a bit like blueberries and can be eaten raw, cooked or dried. We learn a lot! At Wardins we enjoy getting to know the farm's animals - chickens, cats, dogs and goats. Both bees and butterflies fill the air. Our lovely pollinators really appreciate the flowers and herbs grown here. Naturally we want to buy some goodies to take home and it’s especially fun to be able to pick the berries and vegetables ourselves. Soon it's time to enjoy our pre-booked picnic and we find a wonderful secluded spot just perfect for that. Before we move on, we read about the farm’s guided walks and make a mental note, including the information that there are pitches for motorhomes or tents, if visitors want to stay a little longer.
The last destination of the trip, Årås Manor, is in an area called Änglagårdsland. We are now between lakes Jogen and Vållern in the eastern part of the municipality of Ulricehamn. The manor dates back to the 15th century and for over 200 years was owned by the Gyllenstierna family. Over time, the property fell into disrepair and the park grew wild. The adjoining mill also decayed and had it not been for the local community association, there might not have been anywhere to visit. In 1983, the association bought the mill and an extensive and demanding renovation project began, which still continues today. Nowadays the place boasts a hostel, shop and summer café, as well as conference facilities. Step by step, the former mansion and grounds are being recreated. The garden is impressive but not yet finished. It’s a hive of activity here and the garden can be visited during the café's opening hours. We enjoy the atmosphere of it all. There are lovely hiking trails on the doorstep for anyone who likes to walk and cycle. The beautiful surrounding landscapes inspired director Colin Nutley to set the popular Änglagård films there, which explains why it is called Änglagårdsland. Årås Mill is a great place to visit and anyone who dares can stay at the hostel, where legend says that a ghost haunts one of the rooms (I won’t reveal which).