Tag Archives: forest

The Great Icelandic Forest Renewal Project

100 years ago there was scarcely a tree here. Then Jónas Hallgrimmson wrote a poem asking Icelanders to throw off the chains of Danish domination and go back to their roots.

Syðra-Miðgil, Looking South towards the Jökullsá à Follum and Vigabjargsfoss. Dettifoss is further upstream, but without trees.

When you want something done, find a poet. Thanks, Jónas.

The Path Through the Trees, Before and After the Pandemic

Once, these birch forests were burned to smelt iron, then they were nibbled to naught by sheep.

A thousand years of erosion later, they became symbols of Iceland’s independence, and were carefully grown up from their sheep-nibbled stubs.

Ásbyrgi, 2011

Then Iceland got to work hosting tourists. The north, and its tourists, were left behind, so tourists were brought on busses as late as 2019. They had 30 minutes to walk through the trails, without history, and then were off to think whatever they might think.

The Icelanders weren’t going there themselves in 2019. They were going here, upriver, by horse expedition:

Now what? The forests wait.

Two Kinds of Icelandic Forests, Both Magical

There are tall, soaring birch forests, like these in Ásbyrgi, some five metres tall, that shelter sheep…

…and their are small, intimate forests you have to lie down in a pasture to see, which shelter flies. The forest below in Neskaupstaðir might be short, and might fade and rise annually with the sun, but its trees are surely exotic and wondrous. Some of the trees are even copses of flowers.

They offer different kinds of intimacy and bring you differently into the land. In both cases, when you look up again, or step out, you are a different person. That’s because forests are persons. You become them.

Woodworking in Iceland

Forests are a new thing in Iceland, and must all be planted by hand, just as this group of Siberian larch at Gunnar’s birthplace above the Jokulsá.

And no-one’s quite sure what to do with them. At the moment, they are chopped up into that staple of all harbour cities, shipping palettes, and then reassembled in familiar forms from there. It’s a little wobbly, but all shipping palette construction is.


But there’s definitely a keen-ness in the air. All the tools of the trade are readily available for working out the kinks at home or in the woods.

You did spot Thor’s battle axe there on the wall, right?