Back to one’s roots

Buckelwiesen in Mittenwald

Back to one’s roots

Buckelwiesen in Mittenwald

It’s 5 o’clock in the morning. Dew lies heavy on the Buckelwiese meadows near the small town of Wallgau, covering flowers, herbs and grass with a thousand tiny droplets. It’s the perfect time to mow.

Manfred Schmidt treads carefully through the damp grass. He swings his scythe through the stalks – a labour of love aimed at preserving the Buckelwiesen: A special cultural landscape that has left its mark on the local population since the 8th century. Again and again, the 76-year-old stops work, pulls his whetstone from his bag and calmly sharpens his blade. “Otherwise I don’t enjoy the mowing”, he says.

The sun slowly rises over this part of the beautiful Mittenwald region and bathes the Alpenwelt Karwendel in a special light. Total peace - the silence is only broken by the swishing noise of the scythe. It is moments like this that Manfred Schmidt cherishes more than anything.

Buckelwiesen: A rare cultural landscape with a huge diversity of species

Here in the small town of Wallgau – situated between Krün and Mittenwald – the retired heating engineer is fulfilling a lifelong dream, in the form of his own 15,000 m2 Buckelwiese meadow. In acquiring this property he has also gained a precious cultural asset: The Buckelwiesen - meadows characterised by a mass of small humps - in the region around Mittenwald are listed as conservation areas. The aim is to preserve their diversity of species.

Dating back to the end of the Würm ice age, these natural formations of humps and hollows are a special feature that only exist in this form in the Alpine region. In those distant times, the action of frost and erosion on the chalk-rich subsoil resulted in a mass of individual hummocks measuring 50 to 100 centimetres in height. To this day they form a habitat for many, in some cases severely endangered species of butterflies, insects and plants.

Gentian, thyme, yarrow, arnica, ribwort, mountain clover, eyebright and cat’s foot: More than 200 different herbs that no longer exist in other meadows still grow on the acid soil of the Buckelwiesen in the Mittenwald region. This is because the Buckelwiesen have never been treated with fertiliser - and are regularly mown.

Buckelwiesen in der Alpenwelt Karwendel

Laborious manual labour for nature conservation in Mittenwald

A task that Manfred Schmidt has embraced with a passion: He mows the Buckelwiesen in the traditional way with a scythe – once a year, and always in the middle of July. His dedication is making an important contribution to the preservation of the cultural landscape in the Alpenwelt Karwendel. If the meadows were not mown, they would soon be overgrown with shrubs. That is why many former meadows are now areas of woodland.

In addition, farmers deliberately flattened many of the meadows in the 1920s to make the land easier to manage. Nowadays that is strictly forbidden, with a view to protecting the remaining Buckelwiese meadows in the area around Mittenwald.

Manfred Schmidt bei der Arbeit in den Buckelwiesen

It’s now 9 o’clock in Wallgau. Manfred Schmidt has been swinging his scythe for hours - physical drudgery, he admits, but one that brings him a great sense of satisfaction. “Because I love nature and the manual labour brings me closer to it.” He would never dream of using a machine to mow the Buckelwiesen. “For one thing it makes a terrible noise, and for another I would miss all the good plants”, he explains. His wife, Inge Schmidt, uses the special hay flowers to make fragrant herbal cushions, which are sold in a couple of shops in the district, and naturally by the Schmidts themselves.

Each of the little hay cushions contains a bit of Buckelwiese meadow – and thus a piece of the valuable cultural landscape in Mittenwald, which Manfred Schmidt intends to look after for as long as he can. He is always open to offers of help: “Everyone with a love of the great outdoors is welcome to come and get involved.” Guests can even stay with him – Manfred Schmidt owns three holiday homes in Waldau, which are available all the year round. “The local area is wonderful. You can keep coming back for 20 years and always discover something new”, he states with warm enthusiasm.

Kirche von Wallgau

Alpenwelt Karwendel

address: Dammkarstraße 3, 82481 Mittenwald
Tel: +49 (0)8823 33 981
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