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Getting back to nature and ‘everyman’s rights’ to live off the land

People often ask me ‘what’s your favourite things about living in Finland’? I always reply that, as someone who grew up in the suburbs of London, the thing I appreciate the most is being outdoors, surrounded by nature. Although summer is now behind us, there is still plenty of opportunities to make the most of the outdoors…

image: Timo Aalto

Nature Trails

In my first Summer tips article, I list five of the best luontopolut (nature trails) in Seinäjoki. This is a great way to lose yourself in nature for hours and, while some of them remain pretty close to civilisation, you soon find that all you can hear is the wind blowing through the trees or the waves of the lake lapping at the shore. These tracks are generally level but their form can change regularly, from a gravel path through woods to a wooden walkway across a meadow to narrow duckboards over a swamp. It’s a great way to get the kids away from their electronic devices and they soon forget they’re annoyed and start to enjoy a trek through the wilderness.

Running Tracks

If you are feeling more energetic, you will find a selection of kuntoradat (jogging tracks) which can be used all year long for cross-country skiing, when there is snow, naturally, or for running and cycling when there isn’t. Wherever you are staying in Seinäjoki, there is probably a kuntorata nearby. You might be lucky enough to have one backing on to your garden. If you notice street lights that seem to disappear into the forest, they are illuminating the track as it goes snaking through the trees. Some of these tracks are maintained for the skiiers in winter time, so I always take care to avoid trampling over the ski tracks – the ‘snow season’ can be pretty short some years, so it’s only fair.

image: Hannu Salo

image: Tuula Lahti

Foraging in the Woods

While I’m out in the forest, I always keep my eyes open for what Mother Nature has provided down on the ground. From late-July onwards, it is possible to find blueberries, lingonberries, chanterelles and many other types of mushroom. There are even wild strawberries and raspberries, if you know where to look. The real beauty is that you are allowed to pick them. This is known as jokamiehenoikeudet (Everyman’s right) and there are plenty of opportunities in Seinäjoki to exercise your rights. My suggestion is to ask you friends or family, they will probably be able to point you in the right direction, and lend you a bucket to collect your berries in. What you do with them after that is completely up to you but, in the past year, I’ve had jam, quiches and soup made from ingredients I’ve collected from the forest floor. Just be sure to share your bounty when you get home.

Everyman’s Right

The following information is taken from the Finnish Ministry for the Environment:

“Everyone is basically entitled to walk, ski, cycle or ride freely in natural areas, as long as this causes no damage or no more than minor harm to property or nature…. As long as they are not protected species, flowers, wild berries and mushrooms may be picked freely wherever everyman’s right applies… Some restrictions apply to the collection of naturally growing products in nature conservation areas. Mosses and lichens must not be collected from other people’s property without the landowner’s permission.”

image: Timo Aalto

“Everyman’s right in a nutshell:

  • Applies to anyone living or staying in Finland
  • No need to obtain a permit or permission to enjoy everyman’s right
  • Cannot be prevented without just cause
  • Always free of charge
  • Exercising the right must not cause more than minor damage or disturbance
  • Using an area based on everyman’s right is not affected by land ownership
  • Does not cover yards, cultivated fields and other areas under special use.“

Everyman’s right allows angling and ice fishing with a hook & line free of charge in most inland waters and the sea. Lure fishing requires a licence which can be purchased from the State Fisheries website http://www.eraluvat.fi/en

If you are in a National Park (Kansallispuisto) check the local rules, as they can differ from park-to-park.

Additional reading:
Welcome to Hell (A Day at Hell’s Lake/Helvetinjärvi)
[Photo blog] Magic Mushrooms

Ministry for the Environment: Everyman’s right page
Everyman’s right in Finland (PDF download)

Additional Listening:
Foraging for Mushrooms in Finland’s Forests

This post’s title song:
In The Country by Cliff Richard & the Shadows

Mark Wiltshear
Explore Finland Radio Show

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