Stenshuvud is a place of many geological contrasts and its array of plant and animal species is among the most diverse in the Swedish national park system. Ancient monuments and other interesting historical remains are to be found here as well.
The legendary mount of Stenshuvud rises to a height of 97 meters above the sea. The view from its crest is magnificent. To the south, broad heaths and dry meadows bursting with flowers stretch across the level sand flats. Where they meet the sea, the sand flats open into an inviting beach. The coastline to the east is more dramatic with sharply gouged cliffs and fields of stone rubble. Beyond lies the blue sea with its open horizon. On a clear day, the Danish island of Bornholm can be spotted to the south. During summer, the hinterland view is that over a compact carpet of broadleaf forest treetops.
Stenshuvud is located in Sweden’s southernmost province, Skåne, from which the glacier of the last ice age retreated 13,000 years ago.
The bedrock in the area consists of porphyry, a very hard volcanic rock. Stenshuvud is a porphyritic outcrop that has resisted the forces of erosion which, over millions of years, have worn away the softer surrounding rock.
Broadleaf forest and richly vegetated heath
Most of the park area is covered by broadleaf forest, where beech and hornbeam are the dominating species. In sharp contrast to the cathedral like beech woods, the mount’s east slope is strewn with low-growing oaks, their trunks and limbs twisted into fantastic patterns. In the ravine to the west there are alder swamps with ferns.
In the spring, the floor of the biologically diverse beech forest is covered by billowing carpets of wood anemones. Together with yellow wood anemones, hepatica, holewort, yellow-star-of-Bethlehem and Belgian gagea, they form a matchless floral display. Other plants characteristic of the park include yellow archangel, coral-root and early purple orchid. Ivy climbs the trees with thick vines that resemble lianas.
Contrasting sharply with the verdant forest, the sparsely scattered junipers of the broad heath stand exposed to the wind. This area is dominated by dry-soil plants such as sand sedge, grey hair-grass, Helicrysum and wild thyme. In the spring, pasque flowers bloom in abundance. In August, the heath is awash with the colours of the heather. The orchid meadow is a moist area with many species: in late spring, the early purple orchids are followed by the broad-leaved marsh orchid. Summer is the time for the spotted orchid, lesser butterfly orchid and various hybrids of the marsh orchid.
The Stenshuvud botanical hallmark is the unimposing and extremely rare barren strawberry, which grows in abundance in the dry meadows of the national park. The flora is very diverse, with approximately 600 vascular plants, as well as many interesting mosses, lichens and fungi.
The dormouse – the park’s mascot
Within the park there are many different kinds of habitats, which makes for a diverse animal life. This includes the dormouse, the park’s mascot, and there is a permanent population in the area. Active at night and extremely timid it is rarely seen.
When the leaves unfurl in May, the morning air is filled with the songs of birds such as the chiffchaff, willow and wood warblers, European robin, blackcap and various thrushes. It is also possible to hear the exotic, flute-like tune of the golden oriole. In the evening, the nightingale’s song emerges from the thickets. Among the bushes on heaths and meadows, the cuckoo, scarlet rosefinch, red-backed shrike, partridge and tawny pipit can be heard.
A landscape shaped by humans
At the beginning of the 1800 century, most of the Stenshuvud area was open grazing land. However, when the practice of letting livestock graze among the trees was discontinued during the 1900s, the forests have taken over.
Today, grazing animals have been reintroduced in much of the area – mainly on the heaths and meadows, but also in the woods. Mechanized clearing is also carried out in order to maintain the landscape’s open character.
Trails and facilities
The park includes a well-developed network of trails and facilities for the handicapped. Right in the middle of the park there is a visitor centre with permanent exhibitions. Knowledgeable staff provide information about the park and there is a kiosk. The visitor centre is the starting point for an interpreted nature trail.
At the park’s northern entrance there is an outdoor information display. Guided tours are available by special arrangement.
Stenshuvud is located just south of Kivik (15 kilometers north of Simrishamn), in the area of southern Sweden known as Österlen.
For more information, please visit the Skåne County Administrative Board website.
Stenshuvud National Park in brief
Stenshuvud National Park was founded in 1986. It covers an area of 386 hectares (954 acres). The park was established in order to preserve a natural area of special geological and biological significance, which also provides a valuable setting for outdoor recreation.