Sustainable Cities™

Aalestrup/Himmerland: on the right track – towards connectivity and healthiness

The former 69 km railway running from Aalestrup to Viborg in the north-western part of Jutland has recently undergone a fitting from a postindustrial track into a scenic hiking and bicycle path. Full-grown apple trees grow along the path. The story tells that train passengers used to throw their natural waste like apple cores out the vindow along the way, resulting in this magnificent passage of apple trees that hikers and bicyclist can enjoy the sight, smell, and taste of whenever they like.

Himmerlandstien. Foto: venligst udlånt af Aalestrup Turistkontor

Less than 50 years ago a large network of railtracks covered the entire landscape of Denmark. Yet, even though the majority of the tracks are gone today, few have been preserved either in their original form or reconstructed in order to fit today's needs and demands environmentally and socially. Today the former railway from Løgstør through Aalestrup to Hobro and Viborg is changed into a cycling trail the 'Himmerland path' which passes no less than 12 former station cities on its way through the scenic landscape.  
The recently 'fitted' trail entitles 'Himmerlandstien' and runs through the unique terrain of north-western part of Himmerland 69 km from Aalestrup to Viborg. The re-opening of the railway took place in 2007 and looking at the path today it offers a characteristic and most importantly an accessible track for hikers, joggers and bicyclists in all ages. Accessibility, utility, and safety were highly prioritized in the reconstruction of the trail, and it still is, which makes the trail imply for both families, adventures, and walking-impaired citizens.

The trail runs through various types of vegetation from hills to meadowland. On its way through the curvy landscape of the north-western part of Himmerland, the trail runs from Aalestrup and passes several cities like Oestrup, Hornum og Gatten. Aalstrup is a typical station city from 1893, the same year as the construction and opening of the railway. In 1960 when the public station closed the city gradually declined. Local buisnesses and citizens moved to larger provincial cities in the region. Today the remaining inhabitans in Aalestrup blame the demographic and economic downturn on the city's lack of transport options. Due to the closure of the train station Aalestrup and the local communites in the area lost both its main transport connection, the local connectivity and the overall feeling of belonging.

However, Himmerlandstien might not sole the demographic and economic challenges that Aalestrup like several of the other former station cities are facing at the moment. Yet, by reconnecting the station cities in the area, the trail reestablishes the connectivity between the local population, the cities and the area at large. The trail connects the area, the cities and the local population structurally, historically, and socially. Besides that the path increases social activities while genrating more healthy ways of living, which both are two major themes due to create sustainble growth socially and locally.  

Politicians, city officiels, planners and landscapearchitects can learn from the initiative in Aalestrup and north-western Himmerland about revitalizing the local history in a way that increases connectivity structurally and socially in the area. Today locals and visitors use the path for different purposes such daytrips on bikes, but also as a concrete transport connection between the now reconnected cities along the trail. 

However, the path may not generate growth on a short term basis, but it makes people gather in new ways that are benefitting both the locals personally and socially while benefitting the envirionment, the locality and the area at large. One could say that Himmerlandstien is a  platform from where the local citizens can meet and interact as one unit, aiming to regain their lost territory, connectivity and thier feeling of belonging. Thus, the Himmerlandstien not only represents a revitalization of a local industrial history in north-western Himmerland. The path also facilitate a walkway and a guideline - "the right track" - from where the locals can move together in order to regain lost connectivity while the area at large regenerates itself in a fare more sustainable and healthy way.  

Last updated Tuesday, January 21, 2014