Legend tells that Skogsholmen was once wooded. Today, the island has some planted trees, and lush vegetation otherwise.
Written sources say that the first people settled on Skogsholmen in the 17th century. In fairly recent times, eight farms were worked on the island and about 30 head of cattle were kept. They were forced to swim to nearby islands to graze in summer and the women used to row there in the morning and evening to milk them. Farmers from Vega have recently been grazing livestock on Skogsholmen in summer.
The farmers on Skogsholmen were also fishermen, and they kept their gear in shacks grouped around the sheltered harbour (”Sørsy’n”) in the south of the island. No-one lives permanently on Skogsholmen today, but most of the houses are used as holiday homes. The owners join forces to take care of the buildings and the land.
A school was built on the island in 1890, apparently with building materials that originated from the Belle Alliance, which was wrecked southwest of Flovær in 1886. Boarding accommodation was built at the school in 1940. The pupils, who came from the surrounding islands, started school when they were seven. The school closed in 1973, and the building has now been converted into Skogsholmen Gjestehus, which provides food and accommodation. It has a photographic exhibition showing what life on the islands used to be like.
Calcareous soils occur on the west side of the island and the hillocks on the east side, not far from the quay, and slopes and former meadows there have a great variety of plants, including several species of orchids, adder’s-tongue, fairy flax and other species that require lime. As the land has lain fallow for many years, the meadow vegetation, hayfields and arable land are considerably overgrown. This, along with some planted Sitka spruce and Swiss pine, has considerably altered the landscape and caused a loss of cultural history and biodiversity. However, trees and shrubs that have sprung up have provided a basis for richer bird life here than in many other parts of the World Heritage Area. Willow grouse are among the species nesting on the island.
Please show consideration when you are walking around. Give a thought to the plant and animal life, and respect people’s privacy. Keep to paths and marked tracks. Remember never to light a fire, stove or grill, except on the beach. Please take your litter with you and keep your dog on a lead.
Photo: Rita Johansen