Standing on a small natural mound, rising like an upturned boat above a stream which cuts its way through the flat agricultural land, Gårdlösa (literally the ‘loose gravel mound’) draws the eye as you approach. Following the directions in the papery TME we spotted the ridge from route 11 just after passing Smedstorp, and a small lay-by, along with information sign and stile allowed access to the site.
Also known as the Alnabjar skibbstaetning, it was excavated in 1972. The hill was found to contain graves and dommarings as well as the stone ship setting itself.
Only four stones remain of the ancient skibbsaetning which was obviously placed high on the ridge to be easily visible. Just to the south of the stones on the ridge are two dommarings. These are kerb circles dating from the Vendel period of Scandinavian history (550-800CE), which were used for legal pronouncements in the Viking times.
It is still gloriously hot as we watch a group of hikers making their way back down the hill from the monument, and Ellen scans the field for signs of cows. Seeing that a large herd of the bovine beasties are separated from us by the river we climb the stile and make our way to the hill. The walk is pleasant, and not too steep, as we reach the stones shaded by the surrounding trees. After a few minutes of photographing the site though we are disturbed by an ominous mooing, and look around to find that the whole of the nearby herd of cows, accompanied by a rather large bull, and several calves, are now wading across the river into our field, and heading for the monument! Within a couple of minutes the herd had surrounded the base of the hill, cutting off our path back to the car unless we wanted to run the gauntlet of prime beef blocking our way. Now I’m not concerned by cattle, but even I didn’t fancy pushing my way past a group of protective mother cows, and the rather intimidating bull, and as Ellen was by now getting greatly freaked out we looked for another avenue of escape.
Following the ridge along we skirted the herd and headed for a fence dividing the neighbouring field, hoping to head through it and rejoin the road leading to the car further down the lane. All well and good apart from the fact that most fences hereabouts in Sweden tend to be electrified, a fact we confirmed when Linda, who was with us, got a nasty jolt on the arm as we tried to limbo our way under! Eventually we rejoined the lane and headed back to the car to find the cows had now all congregated around the stile that lead to the site, curiously observing us as we took our leave.
So overall Gårdlösa is a lovely site, although on the surface much less impressive than many of the other skibbstaetnings nearby in Skane, there is a real sense of place here, I’ll always remember the visit, although not quite for the nice relaxing experience I would have hoped for! Gårdlösa is one of those places which has obviously been a sacred place for a long time, and so definitely warrants a visit, just to be sure to take a stout walking stick with you in case you need to fend off the cows!