Dienstag, 10. Mai 2011

Over old hills and far away: Historical Ennepetal iron trail

 Two weeks ago I set out to do the Ennepetal hike. The trail follows the lines of the Ennepetal valley, with the river, the Ennepe flowing in a somewhat deep crevice in the landscape, the valley. I like this valley, for it has dark woods and some dramatic scenery and little abundance of people;-). The valley itself is embedded in limestone rock landscape and has a history of iron mining, a regional variation of crop rotational farming (Haubergswirtschaft) for charcoaling, charcoaling and blacksmithing. You can still find slag heaps from the medieval ages in those woods, charcoaling sites, and even the flora of those woods is deeply influenced by the "Haubergswirtschaft", which meant that hardwoods for charcoaling were planted one year.
 As they grew, the woods were used to feed pigs and smaller lifestock (sheep, goats and the like), but also cattle on the underbrush vegetation. When they had reached stock height, the trees were cut, but only so that they would drive out again. Around the stumps, wheat or oat were sown, and the crops were harvested. The hardwood was used primarily for charcoaling, but also for fences, building timber and many other purposes. As the trees drove out again, it was animal farming again. The vegetation is still influenced by this crop rotational system. Mainly red beech, common oak and other hardwoods are to be found, the underbrush consisting of blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and heather, plus multiple sorts of grasses.
Of primary interest for the forager is that there are also many, many edible herbs along the way;-). That´s a butterfly, all yellow with black dots I could not make out which one it was;-).
 This is a cliff where some wild rock carvings are to be found. Yap, that, in principle, qualifies as vandalism, but most of them are extremely well made.
 A triton carving.
 That is a charcoal kiln commonly in use throughout those woods for ages up to the 20th century! In a central fire funnel out of big timbers a straw and light wood (needle wood) fire was lit. timbers were erected around this central funnel, with some tiny air channels left on the ground. Then it was covered with earth and clods of grassy soil to achieve a reducing atmosphere. One of these babies burned for about ten days. The coaler lived beside it in a coaler´s hut out of branches, birchbark and leaves, their quality ranging from mere shelters to solidly built cabins, depending on the site.
 Found some lady´s mantle (alchemilla vulgaris, in German: Frauenmantel) and took it home for tea and salad. It can be used in wound antiseption, against head- and stomach aches, menstrual problems, cramps. It was used as a magical implement, too, but I could not make out for what;-), when in doubt, take it against witches. Almost everything is against witches;-).
 And that´s some root on display. Some strange people with long hair live in a house in the neighbourhood, making fire, cropping herbs, building laavus and a sauna, and using knives in public... saw a car with a Finnish numberplate on the parking lot, a battered old camper with peace symbols on;-). Witches, if you ask me;-).
 That´s how the trail stays for kilometres on end. Love that. Love to ride it by bike, too! This one is near the Krenzer Hammer, a smithy in the Ennepetal still making tools aftter ancient patterns.
 Oh, and an assembly of goose on the way home. Found it sort of funny, how they stare in one direction. What´s missing in my opinion is a black one staring to the opposite direction;-).
I went home on foot, this is the trail leading through the hills towards my home. As usual, I was quite exhausted, but with a bag full of treasures (found the lawnmower, the herbs and loads of impressions).

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