Nature reserve near Hälla
The nature reserve Hälla Naturreservat is located in a large contiguous forest area at the edge of the hamlet Hälla, about 15 km southeast of Söderköping.
Hälla Naturreservat is a unique nature reserve, a 98 hectare, untouched piece of nature in the midst of an environment with otherwise intensive use for agriculture. The nature reserve is located in a rocky hilly landscape with a constant alternation between higher parts with sometimes steep rock walls and slopes as well as lower areas.
Although the area was only declared a nature reserve in 2013, there are no cleared areas or plantations of young trees. However, the coniferous mixed forest consisting of pines and spruces shows clear differences in age, which is due to the fact that whole areas were never cut down, but the trees were felled selectively in the past and the forest was also used for grazing.
Meanwhile the rows of trees and the undergrowth are tightly closed, so that almost nothing of human influences can be seen anymore. All in all, pines dominate the tree population. On the higher rocky parts and also in the few swampy areas they are almost the only represented conifer species – in the other areas they appear together with spruces. Deciduous trees can only be found within a small piece of mixed forest on the south-western edge of the nature reserve.
Hiking and discovering the nature
A characteristic of the Hälla Naturreservat is the presence of the very rare shrub-like lichen species Evernia divaricata. This highly endangered lichen occurs almost exclusively in protected mountain forests in northern Sweden and forms one of the last occurrences in Östergötland in the forest near Hälla, where it grows on a rocky steep slope in the south-western part of the nature reserve.
The nature reserve is crossed by a marked trail that runs for a little more than two kilometres between the northern and southern parking lots – partly along the route of the supra-regional hiking trail Östgötaleden. There are three rest areas with fireplaces along the route and there is a beautiful vantage point about 500 metres in front of the southern parking lot. In order not to use the same path in the opposite direction for the way back to the parking lot, you can also follow the narrow gravel road that runs along the western edge of the forest.