|Skåne in Sweden|
In spring and autumn thousands of cranes pass overhead and it's not unusual to see hundreds in the sky at the same time.
One of our local birds cruises over the garden.
We love being in Southern Sweden and stay in a small village called Röddinge. It's located in the centre of the southern region of Skåne, more or less equidistant from the west and southern coasts. Skåne is mainly agricultural but has a varied landscape of beech forests, conifers, lakes, sea-cliffs, sandy beaches and rolling hills. There is about 400Km of coastline and the region is unique in Sweden. In fact, the whole region is more like Denmark than the rest of Sweden. Winters are often mild here but the past two years have been long and cold; snow arrived for Christmas in mid-December in 2009 and in November this year. At times it was over a metre deep and temperatures went down to -17C. That really does feel cold. In contrast, we experienced temperatures of 33C in the shade last summer, but that is unusual.
The area is rich in wildlife; a short walk from the garden can - and does - provide views of elk, three types of deer, wild boar and a wide variety of birds including eagles. Our 'local' bird, the Red Kite, is common here and is seen drifting through the garden all day. Cranes migrate overhead in thousands; wild flowers and butterflies occur in huge numbers and variety. I've seen tracks of lynx in the snow and, in November last year, confronted a wolf just west of the village. It was radio-collared so we don't know if it was wild or an escapee but it was big anyway. There are about 200 living wild in Sweden. They're located north of us but one or two wander down our way each winter.
Skåne enjoys a cultural richness that manifests itself in art, ceramics, sculpture and other handiwork. There are any number of locally-based craftsmen who work with their hands and actually make things. It can all seem a bit old-fashioned and rural but it's not difficult to find qualities in life that have long-since passed in more 'sophisticated' parts.
For people like us that love food there is a surprisingly good network of restaurants, both in the outlying areas as well as the main towns. Local organic produce with game and fish, in particular, are often excellent.
The eastern part of the region, known as Österlen, has a special quality of light and a significant and impressive community of artists, sculptors and craftsmen. Over the Easter weekend as many as 300 studios, workshops and ateliers are opened to the public and we embark on the 'art round'. Studios and workshops are thrown open and the winter's body of work is exhibited in purpose-built studios, old outbuildings or converted chicken-houses. It's quite a treat - as much for the variety in anoraks and dodgy driving as for the art.
But perhaps the most special quality is the dearth of people. There's hardly anyone here and Skåne provides for long walks along deserted beaches, through forests or to the top of wooded hills without having to rub shoulders with wilderness-seeking crowds. Add to this long summer days when it is light until nearly midnight and you have a very special place.
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The migration this year has brought a huge number of Robins to the garden and the local area.