24 Sep 2011

September already 5


September 25th 2011 50-61F, 10-16C, sunny periods, mostly light winds. 37 miles.

At first I was heading for a distant village. Just to put some miles in. While taking a different route along the narrow rural lanes I saw an enticing turning. Almost immediately I came across an amazing old timber-framed range of buildings set back from the road. There was the typical leaning archway leading into the cobbled yard of what looked like a typical, four-sided, Danish farm.

No sooner had I raised my camera than a gentleman appeared through the archway. Naturally I asked if I might take a photograph. Before I knew it I had been invited in to see the yard, the unspoilt buildings and the remains of the old mill and its pond.

Walking through the arched entrance to the yard was like stepping back in time.

The mill pond lay beyond the house but was much shrunken from its former glory. The remains of the waterwheel shaft were visible and even an old sawmill standing next door.

The archway itself is wonderfully misshapen and sagging in all directions.

The building shown is the stampemølle. (stamping or fulling mill) A belt was driven by the waterwheel which carried the drive to this building. Where large beams were lifted and dropped like oversized hammers. The stampers were used to crush grain and to work cloth. Newly woven wool needed to be beaten to remove oil and to close the weave. Wool cloth would be almost like sackcloth before fulling. It would also be unable to accept dyes until the sheep's natural grease was beaten out of it.

The beautiful old house has an imposing façade. The offset gable is slightly unusual. A central gable façade was almost a standard design for Danish houses of the time. (1830 and later)

I lack a formal name for this style of façade. Too large for a dormer. Too modest for a portico. They are extremely commonplace in Denmark on all styles of building. Both in rural settings and towns.

All the buildings are clearly dated from the same period. Each having beautifully inscribed external beams. 

There is not much to see of the original waterwheel than its axle. Originally a belt would have passed to the right of the picture. The large millpond is beyond and to the left. A stream runs nearby.

Presumably there was status to be had from having upstairs bedrooms. Many timber-framed houses had rows of front and back rooms which were all connected in series. Escaping from the hustle and bustle of the household would have given the master and lady of the house some peace. There would usually have been large numbers of staff in such rural enterprises.

An original date carved into the door lintel of one of the buildings.

The original house windows with their beautifully slender glazing bars. Modern double glazing needs heavier timbers to support the weighty glazing units. The difference is immediately obvious to the discerning eye. Once lost the original windows cannot be replaced except at considerable cost.

Mr Higgins waits patiently for me to finish taking photographs.

I was shown some early photographs of all of these buildings. The tiled roof on the right was originally thatched with eyebrow dormers.

Only the house seems to have been tiled from new. Again a considerable but expensive status symbol. No doubt the house was much colder and less comfortable for it. Certainly worse than the more agricultural and industrial buildings of the group.

The miller's house from the rear. This side faces the pond.  

 It was wonderfully peaceful in the garden beside the pond. With woods of mature trees on all sides it was a wildlife haven.

My guide was in perfect harmony with the natural surroundings and fully aware of the benefits he enjoyed.

A glimpse of the wonderfully secluded garden looking back over part of the millpond.

The timber yard is on the right in this picture. With a slightly incongruous hunter's lodge sandwiched in between. 

A fascinating detail is seen in every corner of all four buildings. Suggesting a common joiner-carpenter to all of them. Look at the bracing diagonals and the unique way the horizontal and vertical timbers are arranged. They are all identical! All the buildings were built over a 3-4 year period starting in 1829.

An old bicycle trailer guards the entrance. Mr Higgins snorted disparagingly as we passed. Obviously trying hard to ignore the possibility of being further burdened. :-)

Seven more miles in the pm for 39 miles total today.

I hope those who came here to read about tricycling will forgive my indulgence. I love the old buildings of Denmark. They seem to connect so directly with a simpler age. The scenery is very hard to dislike here on the island of Fyn. (the Danish "y" has no English equivalent and is pronounced rather like a thin "eu" as in Europe)

The quiet roads and lanes have their own atmosphere provided you stay away from the main routes. Half an hour without seeing a single moving car is not very unusual. Unless you have experienced this unique environment yourself. Either on a bicycle or on foot. It is difficult to share the delights of its peace, its abundant wildlife and its constantly changing scenery.

Even when enjoyed full screen my humble attempts at photography do not really capture the sense of "being there". They cannot share the wonderful silence broken only by birdsong or an alarm call. Or a distant tractor dragging the slow, recalcitrant seasons from the multicoloured, chocolate soil.

The emptiness extends to the buildings and villages themselves. Only rarely do I ever see more than an occasional jogger. The lack of local work means commuting is essential. The absence of children playing is notable. Many local and village schools have been closed. All thanks to "efficiency and savings" drives. As central government increasingly makes local government a mere talking-shop irrelevance.

My rides are mostly in the mornings. Which seems to coincide with an absence of characters to people this endlessly beautiful countryside. The countless rural villages, usually separated by only three or four miles, remain static, full sized models. Many larger villages have a supermarket. Few seem to walk or cycle to them. Usually the parked cars are the only sign of human activity. It is as if the rural Danes have entirely stopped all outside activity. Except occasional grass cutting. Using ride-on tractor mowers for even the smallest lawn. 

I found a fairly new, proofed nylon, cycling cape in a distant charity shop.  With a posh label and shaped shoulders it is a vast improvement on the flapping PVC thing I had previously. It is blue and very long. I probably look like Cousin It from the Addams Family TV series when not on the trike. My wife thought I looked hilarious dancing around the garden in it. I'll see if I can get her to take a picture of me in it. :-)

Click on any image for an enlargement.



  1. I've enjoyed your very well presented blog for a couple of weeks now and learned a great deal about tricycles. My own arrived on Friday.


  2. Hi there Patrick

    Thanks for the kind words and for sharing a link to the picture of your trike.

    Who could ask for a more enjoyable means of transport? Plus you get the superb carrying capacity without the wobbles of a bike. With a ready seat always available when you feel like a rest. The ideal viewing and photography platform for the world at large.

    I hope you enjoy many happy miles together.

    Best regards