A green zone with plenty of ancient trees and flowering herbs is found near the Cathedral in central Skara. It is a haven for bats, birds, butterflies and people. Enter it, and you will be surrounded by a green and peaceful bubble of calm.
Starting at the old cemetery, the Botanical Gardens (Botan), the Victoria Lakes and the Fornbyn open-air museum are aligned along a verdant stretch of murmuring trees. Biologists refer to the area as an “urban savannah” as the old trees, flowering herbs, shrubbery, water features and sandy soils are the home of a diverse flora and fauna. More than seven different bat species forage among the treetops at dusk, which is as many as you will find in the surrounding agrarian landscape. Botan The green heart of Skara is Botan, a botanical garden that Peter Hernqvist, a disciple of Carl Linnaeus, began to work on in 1776. Many of the old ash-trees found here were planted in his lifetime. Other 17th century features include a beech grove, an oak grove and a pasture. There was a period of decline following Hernqvist’s death in 1808, but the gardens were restored to their former glory a hundred years later. Today, stressed city dwellers and invite you to enjoy a picnic underneath them. They emit a soothing hush and birdsong despite the noise from the surrounding city. Along the western perimeter is a small herb garden with motherwort, valerian, Echinacea and other medicinal plants.
The old buildings in Fornbyn have been moved there from various locations in Skaraborg County. There is a village shop, a forge, a chapel, an inn and many small cottages. Millennia and centuries come together – from Stone Age tombs to veteran motorcars. Old-fashioned fruit trees, vegetables and flowers are cultivated in between the houses. This little shortcut to the county’s historical past doubles as a city park and cultural hub. There is always something going on in the summer: fiddlers, singalongs, dog shows, midsummer celebrations … and in the autumn the city’s seven-year-olds get to spend a day living as people did in the 19th century. Fornbyn was founded in 1921 and is now part of the Västergötland Museum. It is contemporary with the Stockholm open-air museum Skansen.
You can glimpse the mirror surface of the Victoria Lakes from the northeast corner of Botan. They form the centre of a peaceful walk. These ponds were named for Gustaf Viktor Hofling and his wife Hilda Josefina Victoria. Hofling was an industrious man who not only had the Victoria Lakes dug out, he also established Skara’s first factory (for making tiles) in 1894. From the “Victoria Falls” the water flows into one of the city’s life-giving blue veins, the river Dofsan/ Drysan. The leafy, murmuring trees continue inside the Fornbyn open-air museum with its historical stone cists, dry stone walls, wells, milestones, sawmill, belfry and lychgate.
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