History of Kalbekkvika

See also the History of Bindalsbruk and Plahte’s properties.
(E-book by Arvid Sveli)

Kalbekkvika is an old name for the cove by this cabin. We know nothing about the origin of the name, but the old place names were never random. They could arise after special events, or they were descriptive of the terrain. Kalbekken is the name of the stream that flows past the cabin here and out into Kalbekkvika.

It is probably the person who gave the vika its name. The Kalbrook may have been named after a man named Karl (pronounced “Kal” in dialect). Or perhaps the name meant that the brook here has cold water. It receives its inflow from many sources – cold springs.

The surrounding hamlet is called Vassbygda. It includes the farms Søbergsli, Hammerli, Sommersetmoen, Hongbarstad, Tosaune, Barstad, Sørnskog, Sveli, Damman, Govassli, Fjellet and Vatnan. Half of these settlements are today wastelands. Vassbygda was a typical wasteland hamlet. It only got a road connection in 1913, when the road Hommelstø – Lande was completed. Before that time, all of the landlord’s traffic to and from the hamlet was relegated to footpaths that meandered over marshes and moors and through the woods. The terrain formations determined the route and no work was ever carried out to improve them. It was not possible to ride a horse in some places, except in good winter conditions. The sloughs were important traffic routes, with boats in the summer and on the ice in the winter. One of them was through Storvatn – Fjellvatn – Eidevatn and out to the sea at Sagmestereidet. Boats and goods were carried across the eid, but these were short distances. From Sagmesteriet, they had the fjord to row along, to a trading post at Fiskerosen or Terråk, to a church at Vassås, to a sheriff in Gaupen, later at Hildringen and Terråk, to a post office – which was first established at Hildringen, etc.

Another route ran through the waterways out to the Velfjorden. It required that they had access to boats in several waters, because the distance between them was too great for them to be able to transport the boats with them over land. This water bed went from Govatn, through Strauman, Sausvatn, Tveitvatn and Finnvikvatn, before they could embark on the last stretch on foot towards Nøstvik church or Hommelstø. This lease was widely used from the farms Govassli, Damman and Sveli – for a church, for a burial ground in Nøstvik, etc., even though this was in the neighboring village of Velfjord. The whole of Vassbygda was then located in Bindal. It was not until the municipal regulation in 1964 that the boundary was changed so that the farms that are still inhabited now lie in the large municipality of Brønnøy.

The shortest way to the sea was through the valley road from Barstad to Lande, but it was a rough and very windy path to follow, at least if they had anything to carry. But since a chapel was moved from Solstad and rebuilt at Lande in 1890, the footpath probably became more used. Gardens Søbergsli, Hammerli, Sommersetmoen and Hongbarstad also had their own paths across to the Tosenfjorden further out, to boat jetties and boathouses.

After the road to Lande was built, Lande became a hub with steamship calls, trade and a church. But the road also made access to the center in Velfjord easier, and it became significantly easier to get to the main church in Velfjord. The waterways became less important as traffic arteries after the road came.

But from the main roads to the farms, which did not lie next to it, there were still only footpaths. We got the first indication of road construction in outer Vassbygda and to Hongbarstad around the mid-1930s. It was almost an improvement of the old footpaths to cart roads, without any previous planning and under the labor market measures of the time – day’s work contribution with a wage of NOK 1.50 per hour. day. There were small grants, only sufficient for a few weeks’ work each year, but there was a great desire to share in this profit. During the war, road work was stopped, and it is only in the 1970s and 80s that we can say that there have been usable car roads out to the forests in Vassbygda.

For the “sea route” of the old days to the Bindalsfjord, one of the two Govassli farms had a boat and boathouse here at Kalbekkvika. It is not known to what extent other guards had berths here. The other Govassligarden had its boathouse at Fjellbukta in Fjellvatn.

The people in Vassbygda did not live in confinement as we would think. It was common for the men to be out on the big fisheries in Lofoten and other fishing villages along the coast. We include here a small episode from 1826.  A girl in Barstad noticed that she was going to have a child with a boy who was then fishing in Lofoten. One day that winter she came to a farm in Lande and asked if she could borrow a fering. She was going to row for a while, she said. The girl was allowed to borrow a boat, but weeks and months passed without them seeing any more of her or the boat, and they had to believe that she had died. She rowed alone to Kabelvåg in Lofoten, where her boyfriend was staying. She did not return until late spring. Then she had her newborn child with her, but the engagement was over.

There are many stories about strong female figures in these regions, and some of them have unmistakable features – for better or for worse – of women we meet in saga literature. After all, the women were the ones who had to bear responsibility for everything at home on the farm for large parts of the year while the men were out in the fishing villages. It gave power and authority, and we hear of women who claimed the role of ruler with a hard hand. All in all, it took strong people to be able to survive on nature’s terms in this harsh country.

From 1873 – 74, the watercourse took on a new meaning – then as a fluted watercourse for timber. That winter, timber was cut for the construction of the steam sawmill on Risøya in Harangsfjorden. The timber was cut in, among other places, Svelimarka and transported here to Kalbekkvika. Risøbruket was in operation from 1875 to 1885, and in that time large quantities of rough timber were driven out from the then pristine forests. After that, forestry was down until 1908, when Bindalsbruket was started at Terråk. Since then, there have been forestry operations and whistling through the watercourse only with short interruptions. The last hauling out to Sagmestereidet (often called Eidet) was in 1966. Since then, lorries have taken over the timber transport from Vassbygda, but from stretches around Storvatn and Fjellvatn that do not have road coverage, timber has later been hauled to Kalbekkvika and taken on trucks from there. This will probably also be necessary in the future, and thereby an opportunity to experience a small touch of the once fabled log flute life in future times as well.

Roads from large stretches of forest in Stormarka and Svelimarka led here to Kalbekkvika. Over the years, hundreds of thousands of logs have lain in pools along the beaches here, and logs that have passed the waterway out to the Harangsfjorden can be counted in the millions.

The network of footpaths between the farms is now mostly overgrown and only partially visible as footsteps through forest and heath. A footpath from Fjellet and Vatnan passed past Kalbekkvika and branched here to Tosaune, Sørnskog and Govassli. Where possible, it was easier to follow the waterways when they were open or had navigable ice. This was often too tempting and has led to drowning accidents.

The people here lived in a distinctly natural household and the methods of farming were, so to speak, unchanged from the Viking Age until the present century. There was livestock farming and arable farming under barren conditions. Most of the winter fodder for the livestock was obtained from fells, and the tools were scythes and rakes. The fields for grain and potatoes had to receive all the manure. – We hear about many bad years in the 19th century and the grain often froze. Then hunger and crusty bread became sure guests for many. The first to grow potatoes in Vassbygda was a farmer in Damman they called Stor-Fredrik. This was in the 1820s, but potato cultivation did not become common until around 1840 – 1850. We can still find a small testimony from this time in puddles in Svarttjønnbekken not far from here – the stream that forms the border between Tosaune and Sørnskog. One winter, the bark of pine logs on the marsh there was rubbed off, and some of these logs were left on the ice on the stream and later sank to the bottom of the puddles. They are still there.

There was probably a lot of fishing in the lake in the old days too, but perhaps not as much as we might be tempted to believe. It was pure “food fishing” and with tools that gave the fastest and most yield – such as net fishing and fishing in rivers and streams in the autumn. Large quantities of sea trout and salmon went up into the waterway, and it could be easy to take large catches there, but one gets the impression that for most people herring and other sea fish were preferred to freshwater fish.

There was a lot of game in the forests, and a few preferred to hunt and trap in the winters instead of going Lofoten fishing. The noblest game of the time was the tenur, and it could appear in large herds. On cold winter days, sedges sat and grazed in the pine crowns inside all heaths, up to 4 – 5 in a single pine. What the hunters looked forward to the most was the game hunt in the spring on the tiuren’s playgrounds.

Moose were not found here until a short period just after the turn of the century. Then some animals came roaming, and they could possibly have built up a tribe if they had not been quickly exterminated by hunting. Later, stray animals occasionally passed through the area, but it was only after 1945 that a moose tribe slowly began to build up. Now the elk population here is probably one of the densest in Norway.

Until the end of the 1800s, the bear tribe was particularly numerous here, and bat bears often wreaked havoc among the domesticated animals. It could also cause great damage in corn fields in the autumn. Ripe grain must have been one of its staples. There were also large packs of wolves at one time. It was considered even worse than the bear. The fight against the predators was an essential part of the fight for survival, and their encroachment on the small but particularly vital herds of livestock could have very tragic consequences for the people who were affected. But then Helgeland got Norway’s most skilled bear hunter of all time, Sami Old Elias Thomassen (1812 – 1895). He shot well over a hundred bears in his time. At the same time, there were also several other bear hunters who each had a few bear lives on their conscience, but it is undoubtedly Ol-Tomså – as he was called in the villages – to thank for the fact that the villagers were finally freed from the scourge that the predator plague really was for a time when the struggle for food was a life and death struggle for the people in the wilderness villages. Ol-Tomså not only became a folk hero, but also surrounded by a certain mystery and fear. After all, he was Sami, and supernatural abilities were often attributed to him.

Sami and Norwegians had lived side by side in these areas from as far back as history goes. The Sámi were constantly on the move with their reindeer herds, and during the winter they often stayed for longer periods of time in individual farms. The two people groups mostly got along in peace and understanding, but they were different in culture, language and mentality and did not mix with each other.

People have probably roamed these seroks ever since the Ice Age. On the island of Vega, they left their mark over 9,000 years ago. In Vassbygda, a few years ago, a small, particularly finely processed stone ax was found that a hunter had lost between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. Who these people were by race and origin is probably something we will never know.

This was little about Kalbekkvika, which I was actually supposed to write about. It turned out to be more about the tract of which Kalbekkvika is a small part.

Strangers who have visited Vassbygda have often been captivated by the nature here, and not least this watercourse with Storvatn, Fjellvatn and Eidevatn has been described as a real natural gem. We see a bit of it from the cabin here. We look across to some of the wooded islands in Storvatn. Not least these islands help to create a picturesque landscape and the owner is to be congratulated for leaving the old spruce and pine forest that stands there untouched. Not least, it gives a unique and genuine natural atmosphere with an aura from olden times.

The view from the cabin here is roughly the same as the Stone Age man got when he came down to this beach. The forest is not the same. 4 – 5,000 years ago there was only pine forest and deciduous forest to be seen, but the rest of the land is exactly as it was. Up in the mountain band, by the way, we can still see stands of untouched pine forest with trees over 500 years old.

Whether you’re a fisherman, a hunter or you just want to be out in the open, the plains are waiting for you and can give you experiences you won’t soon forget. But also send a thought to the people who in their time lived off this land and were themselves part of nature.

Written by Arvid Sveli 1992.