Fresh boreo-nemoral forests and cultural landscapes of Vooremaa

Vooremaa provided favourable conditions for the development of species-rich boreo-nemoral broad-leaved forests during the Atlantic climate period. Under the lush vegetation and on the chemically rich parent material, various types of brown soils typical of the broad-leaved forest zone formed. Some time later, spruce supplemented the tree layer of the forests and became dominant in the course of time. In connection with the development of human population and slash-and-burn agriculture, the vegetation of Vooremaa began to change considerably at the beginning of our era. The different ages of the abandoned slash-and-burn fields lying next to each other allowed the growth of species with different requirements for light, and the overall species richness of the vegetation in Vooremaa increased further. With the transition to the system of long-cultivated fields, open landscape began to develop, boreo-nemoral forests gradually disappeared from the tops and slopes of drumlins and grasslands developed in the depressions.

About three quarters of the present territory of Vooremaa is cultivated and natural vegetation is preserved only in small areas. Larger forests can be found on the marginal areas of the region between Vaimastvere and Laiuse, in the surroundings of Kassinurme and Kaarepere, on the eastern slope of the Vooremaa region — mainly near Roela and on the kame fields. In the central part of Vooremaa, in the vicinity of Luua, boreo-nemoral forest is still preserved, as an exceptional relic of the former large forests. The tree layer of this forest is dominated by spruces, but there are also aspens, limes, oaks and elms growing beside them. Both the shrub layer (hazelnut, honeysuckle, alpine currant, etc.) and the herb layer (hepatica, woodruff, yellow archangel, dog’s mercury, hazelwort, baneberry, wood millet, etc.) are lush and rich in species. In the depressions, mainly paludified grasslands and birch forests and alder brush occur. The Roela forest expanse near Voore and Levala has become an important study area of forest ecology and production biology.

In Vooremaa, numerous old fields, barrows and ancient stronghold hills of the type of “the bed of Kalevipoeg” bear witness to ancient settlements. A characteristic pattern of settlements developed here in the course of time, with chain villages located at the foot or on the slopes of drumlins. Further uphill from these there are usually crop fields, and further down, meadows and pastures. Also roads run along the slopes and tops of drumlins, making rectangular turns from one drumlin to another at places.

The most typical part of Vooremaa, reaching from the southern end of Lake Saadjärv to the northern ends of Lakes Prossa and Kaarepere, has been designated as a landscape reserve. With its slightly more than 100-km² territory, it is one of the largest protected areas in Estonia. In addition, a number of protected parks are located here, including the park, oak alleys and Douglas fir stand at Luua. Forest parks of Kaiavere and Elistvere are also worth mentioning. In the latter there is the Elistvere Wildlife Park. Numerous manor houses, pubs, water mills and parish churches also add attraction to the landscapes of Vooremaa. Palamuse Village is known as setting for the popular Estonian novel Kevade (Spring) by Oskar Luts.

Many lakes in Vooremaa are connected with folk legends about Kalevipoeg and Vanapagan (“the Old Evil”). For instance in Lake Saadjärv, on its shores and in its near vicinity there are several erratic boulders mentioned in legends, including the “sling stones of Kalevipoeg”.

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