Lake Aulangonjärvi and Aulangonvuori Hill
Lake Aulangonjärvi is the most important water system in the nature reserve. It became separated from the neighbouring Lake Vanajavesi between 1819 and 1924, when the water level in Lake Vanajavesi was lowered 3 metres. The rugged Aulangonvuori Hill rises 150 metres above the sea level and 70 metres above the water level of Lake Aulangonjärvi. From the top of Aulangonvuori Hill, you also get a great view over the national landscape in the valley of Lake Vanajavesi.
The National Landscape of the Valley of Lake Vanajavesi
The valley of Lake Vanajavesi is one of Finland's 27 national landscapes. These impressive national landscapes have been chosen to represent the Finnish natural and cultural features.
Aulanko is an essential part of the valley of Lake Vanajavesi, and the nationally valuable landscape area. For more than a century, visitors have admired the view from the scenic lookout tower of Aulankovuori Hill over Lake Aulankojärvi and its verdant eastern shore. The wilderness-like forested landscape has always inspired artists. It is believed that the famous Finnish composer Jean Sibelius was thinking about this scenery of his birthplace when he composed "Finlandia", which is probably the most widely known of all his compositions. Many other great Finnish artists, such as painter Akseli Gallen-Kallela and poet Eino Leino, spent time in the area.
Union between nature and culture in the landscape
The core of the national landscape area is Lake Vanajavesi with its bays, rocky islands and capes. The rich cultural heritage is an important part of the national landscape. The area has been continuously inhabited and cultivated from the prehistoric times until today, which has shaped the landscape: the traditional land use with the various field and meadow patterns and dwellings can still be seen in the area.
The valley of Lake Vanajavesi is full of history: the estates with their gardens and grounds, the medieval church of Hattula and the castle of Häme. The church of Hattula was built in the 1300s, at the same time as the brick walls of Häme Castle. The granite castle was originally built in the end of 1200s, to protect the region of Häme and the rest of the country. During the Catholic era in Finland, Hattula Church was one of the most important destinations for pilgrims.
The dissertation of photographer Taneli Eskola (1997), "Water Lilies and Wings of Steel - Interpreting Change in the Photographic Imagery of Aulanko Park", outlines the foundation of the identity of Finnish landscape, and the change in tourism culture. In this study, travelling and photography have intertwined.
Trees planted are thriving
The flora in Aulanko Nature Reserve has been enriched not only by the nutritious soils but also by planting different trees in the beginning of the last century. There are more than 140 species of trees and bushes in Aulanko. Specialities of the area include the small forests of foreign tree species and the Curly birch (Betula pendula var. carelica). The Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia) forest, which has naturally formed near Ruusulaakso pavilion, is also unusual because there are not many pure Rowan forests in Finland. Of the planted trees, especially the firs (Abies Mill.), the larches (Larix sp.), the Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii), the Linden (Tilia), the Norway Maple (Acer platanoides), the Common Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and the Wych Elm (Ulmus glabra) have survived well. A rare flower growing in the nature reserve is the invasive Soldanella montana, which arrived at Aulanko with the Central European saplings.
The tapping of woodpeckers, the hooting of owls
Aulanko area is located on the southern boreal forest zone, where lush and barren types of forest alternate. However, the landscape of Aulanko is exceptionally lush, and inside the nature reserve it is possible to find almost all the hardwood species naturally growing in Finland. The diverse set of bird species in the area include the Eurasian Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris), the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Picoides minor), the Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes), the Eurasian Tawny Owl (Strix aluco), the Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), and several species of titmice.
The landscape surrounding the protected area is also luxuriant. Rare and protected plants such as the European White Elm (Ulmus laevis) and the Eastern Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla patens) grow there. The Siberian Flying Squirrel (Pteromys volans) also lives in the surrounding areas.
The cedar forest at Aulanko
The cedar forest at Aulanko forest park is one of the pearls of the region. The forest where northern white-cedars (Thuja occidentalis) and western redcedars (Thuja plicata) grow creates a dusky fairy-tale atmosphere. The largest of these cedars, which grow wild in North America, have been growing here undisturbed for more than 100 years. Their large and lush branches provide shade on a sunny day. The lack of light and the cedar’s acidic plant litter prevents the emergence of almost all undergrowth, which makes the forest very cool in the summer.
A board-walk begins from Ruusulaakso and leads visitors to the fragrant cedar forest. The creek that originates from Metsälampi spring, babbles under the board-walk especially in the spring. Visitors wandering in the cedar forest get many wonderful sensory experiences.
Storm trees are a cradle for natural diversity
In November 2001, a storm felled many trees, and even an entire small forest in Aulanko. These areas are left to become reforested naturally. In Molkkarinmäki area, marks of the storm can be clearly seen. Trees were also felled on Aulangonvuori Hill and on the shore of Lake Aulangonjärvi, in Cape Aulangonniemi.