The Landscape and culture heritage
of the Nærøyfjord area
Western Norway offers the most distinctive Fjord scenery in the world. The Nærøyfjord, as well as the Geirangerfjord, are amongst the best available examples of the fjord phenomenon, thus making the area an invaluable point of reference.
The landscape is rich in contrasts, forming a unique marriage between the natural and cultural landscape. The area has seen hardly any modern technological intervention. The area between the fjords and the mountains are vast, showcasing an extensive picture of the distinguishing features of the fjord phenomenon and ongoing geological processes, as well as the contrasts of the mild climate of the shoreline and the high mountains with their glaciers and eternal snowdrifts.
The Nærøyfjord and its surrounding areas offer several areas that are untouched and characterised as wilderness. An untouched area is defined as an area that is more than 1km (0.6sq mi) from severe technological intervention (e.g. powerlines, roads or buildings). An area is characterised as wilderness if situated more than 5km (3.1sq mi) from such interventions.
The mountainous area between the Nærøyfjord and the Aurlandsfjord is the largest continuous area of nature that is characterised as wilderness with just under 60km² (23.2sq mi), all more than 5km away from technological interventions. There is a smaller notable wilderness area southeast of the mountain Bleia (approximately 3km²/1.2mi²), and approximately 1km² (0.4sq mi) of ground next to the river of Sagelvi that flows into the Nærøyfjord is also defined as wilderness.
The high mountains contain the remnants of hunting contraptions that show that the hunting of wild reindeer has always been an important part of the lives of the inhabitants of the Nærøyfjord area. Many of these contraptions are most likely automatically protected by Norwegian law due to being built before the Protestant Reformation (1537). The most recognisable hunting contraption area is around the glacier Fresvikbreen. In this area you can find large sections made up for hunting on four mountain ridges, starting at the most northern mountain of Tuftafjellet, travelling south and ending up at the mountain of Handalseggi. These ridges contain several contraptions such as “bogastille”, man built hiding places of stone, “ledergjerde”, built up borders of stone that formed a path the animal would follow into a trap and “dyrestup”, steep slopes where the animals would fall to their deaths, or be killed by the hunters.
Roads and paths of travel are important parts of the cultural heritage in the Nærøyfjord area. One of the oldest roads is the trail that runs from Fronnes up through the valley of Frondalen and over the mountain to the valley of Raundalen. According to legend this trail was travelled by King Sverre, whose rule was at the end of the 12th century. He is most famous for being excommunicated by the Roman Catholic Church for giving little credence to the wishes of Rome. There are several examples of old summer farm trails that went from the farms to the seasonal farms up in the high mountains, something of which the Rimstigen trail beside the hamlet of Bakka is a good example. The Stalheimskleivi path was expanded to a road suitable for carts in the 1840s, something which made it possible to transport tourists from Gudvangen up to Stalheim hotel. This road is considered an item of cultural heritage that is of national value and it has been suggested that it should be listed as protected under the Norwegian Cultural Heritage Act. The old postal route between Bleiklindi and Styvi was built around 1660 as an alternative to travelling over the treacherous ice that lay on the fjord during the winters; the post would then go on from Styvi via boat. This road is still travel worthy today and is a popular path for walks. The postal route between Bleiklindi and Styvi is a part of the old royal postal route between Bergen and Oslo of which you can also find remnants of in the valley of Nærøydalen and leading to the hamlet of Bakka. of national value and it has been suggested that it should be promountains.
The valley of Nærøydalen offers some great examples of safety measures against rockslides, some of which are modern, machine built contraptions and some that that are man built and date back as far as a hundred years. A good example, that is very much visible in the terrain, is the brick wall past the yard of the Gudvangen farm. This wall was erected around the year 1900 to protect the buildings from the air pressure of the large avalanches that occur in the avalanche path on the other side of the valley.
The Nærøyfjord is one of 104 areas that have been appointed a cultural landscape area of national importance in connection with the national registration of cultural landscapes (National registration of valuable cultural landscapes, 1994). Agriculture has throughout time left its mark on the scenery. The traditional cultural landscape is a mosaic of crops, mowing fields, pastures and areas that contain the traces of trees utilised for leaf-hay through a practice akin to pollarding, seasonal farms and farmyards. The agricultural community remain responsible for a large part of the upkeep of the cultural landscape even today, although many areas are now disused and thus overgrowing. The areas of cultural landscapes and buildings are very much an important part of the visual aspect when viewed from the fjord, amongst other things because of the perspective it gives to the dramatic scenery of the fjords.