Styvi is one of the four hamlets, or main farms, in the Nærøyfjord, and consists of two separate farms and the spring farm of Holmo. In addition Styvi has the right to have seasonal farms on Hjølmo and Vassete in Dyrdal, on the other side of the fjord. Before the Nærøyfjord area was given world heritage status, a landscape conservation area was created for Styvi to Holmo in 1991.
the farm name of styvi
From the publication «Norwegian Farm Names» by Oluf Rygh we learn that Styvi has been written in many different ways throughout the times: Styffuenn in 1563, Stiffum in 1603, Stiffuenn in 1611, Stiffue in 1667 and Stive in 1723. Rygh’s interpretation is that the name is put together by stúfr- (meaning stump) and -vin (meaning grass plains) which collectively means “The stump of a tree”. Other name researches hold the opinion that the name reflects the topography of the farm, and its long, narrow fields.
the prehistoric times on the farm
The farm museum has prehistoric axes on display, both one made from stone and one made of iron. There is also an ancient monument on the farms which speaks to a prehistoric period on the farm. This monument is a large cairn with a diameter of 15 metres (49.2ft) and a height of 1.5-2 metres (4.9-6.6ft) with a ditch in the middle caused by digging. One of the local stories claims that the farm of Tufto got its riches from this cairn, but it’s unlikely that it has any truth to it. The cairn is in a highly exposed location, with a good view across the fjord on the flat headland of Holmo. The location may indicate a wish to gain control of the fjord inlet, and is characteristic of cairns that were built in the Bronze Age (1800-500BC). As the only items preserved from the dig is a few lumps of rust, it is impossible to accurately date the cairn, but it certainly indicates a settlement either during the Bronze Age or the Iron Age.
from one to two farms
There are reasons to believe that Styvi was populated prior to the Black Death, and that the farm was cleared by people from Dyrdal, which may explain why Styvi has the right to keep seasonal farms on the Dyrdal side of the fjord. After the plague the farm was once again cleared for use in the 1530s-40s. From this point and until the 18th century the farm cultivated larger and larger areas, which lead to an increase in the yearly fee paid on the leasehold, which is how the size of a farm used to be measured. In 1763 the farm was split in two, most likely due to the farming conditions being good enough to feed two separate families.
the post farmers
When the postal services in Norway were initiated in the 1660s, a postal route was created between Bergen and Oslo, which pretty much followed the same route as the main road today, bar the tunnels between Lærdal and Gudvangen. If the ice settled on the fjord, the route would change and go along the road from Gudvangen to Bakka, over the ice from Bakka to Bleiklindi, and from there along the postal route to Styvi. A special type of vehicle from those days has been preserved; a mixture between a boat and a sledge, and this vehicle can be found at Styvi farm museum. The change of route during icy months led to the 5.5km (3.4miles) long road as a result becoming a central part of the postal route between Bergen and Oslo. The road is still preserved today, and is suitable for walking on whether you have feet or hoofs. The road has undergone some restoration and is a popular trail for walking.
the landscape conservation area
The directorate now known as the Norwegian Environment Agency established the conservation area of Styvi-Holmo, based on the distinctive and the well preserved cultural landscape, the vegetation and the old postal route. The area around Holmo is seen as being of an especially high value, containing “lauvenger”, so called leaf meadows which are natural hayfields where both grass and leaves for fodder are harvested, pollard trees and a seasonal farm scene with buildings. The old postal road is also an important element of the conservation area. The road follows the shoreline along the fjord, and is built up with the support of stone walls and bolt. The walls look good from the water, but they are under a constant threat of being washed away due to the big waves caused by the large boats that travel the fjord. This means they need yearly upkeep. To reduce the risk of walls and beaches in general getting washed out, there is an upper speed limit when traveling on the fjord. Within the conservation area you also find the river of Nisedalselvi, which is protected against any hydro power development.
the farm museum
The conservation of the area was of great frustration to the owners of the farm, Botolv and Kjellaug Hov, who were planning to continue running the farm. Whilst the conservation order put restraints on how to run the farm, there were no arrangements to compensate for any loss of earnings. Thankfully, they didn’t give up!
After the establishment of the conservation area, the use of the old post road as a hiking route increased a lot and a much larger number of tourists came to visit Styvi. In 1993 the farmers opened their own farm museum and café. In the café visitors can amongst other things taste Kjellaug Hov’s now famous waffles. The museum contains a large collection of tools and objects that tell the story of life on the farm in the old days. Botolv Hov himself can master the old crafts, such as the spinning of rope from the bast fibre of linden trees, producing spoons from animal horns and forging bells for livestock. Botolv feels very strongly about passing on these old hand crafting traditions.