Thursday 13 December 2012

Ammarnäs and Renforsen

         West of Ammarnäs (from

In his brilliant book Fishing in Utopia: Sweden and the Future that Disappeared, Andrew Brown writes: “......where the mountains rise out of the forests towards Ammarnäs”. It must be one of the few references in an English book to the village of Ammarnäs in Swedish Lapland. I lived there for several weeks in the summer of 1975 and it was one of those places to which I felt I must return. Fortunately, I did the following year.

They were working trips, as I had been invited to join a group of Biologists from the University of Lund in an investigation of rivers draining from lakes, trying to find out why these habitats support huge numbers of insect larvae that capture tiny particles from the water flowing over them. Those Biologists were wonderful people to work with and we enjoyed spirited conversations, and spirits, but also worked hard on the field work. They were good times, but that wasn’t the pull of Lapland for me. It was the sense that one could find areas that very few people had visited and no-one could dispute that the region has great natural beauty. If you can fall in love with a place, that’s what I did.

Bordering Ammarnäs to the east is the Vindel River, un-regulated along its length, and with some dramatic cascades. It was to the Vindel River that I returned in the late 1990s to work with Björn Malmqvist, one of my friends from the Lund group of fifteen years earlier, who was now at the University of Umeå. We were still both interested in insect larvae and travelled much of the length of the Vindel on occasions, although our main interest was in the lower reaches and in cascades and in runs between the regions of white water. So many of the locations for our work were beautiful and I developed a special fondness for one of the cascades – Renforsen.

       Renforsen (from

When winter snow and ice melts in the mountains, Renforsen is a magnificent sight and the river sometimes goes over its banks here – even carving a new channel through the forest on one occasion. It is awe-inspiring and it’s impossible not to be impressed. I found it another place to which I had to return and was fortunate that I did many times. I never tired of visiting Renforsen and always looked forward to my first trip of the year with great enthusiasm. 

After working on the river, Björn and I would buy a cup of coffee in the cafe nearby, listen to the roar of the cascade and not say very much. Very sadly, those times will never be repeated, as tragedy struck when Björn developed a brain tumour and died two years ago. So now I have memories of a very special place and a very special friend and colleague with whom I spent time there. I don’t believe in souls but, if I had one, a part would contain the powerful and emotive effects of Renforsen.

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