Easy Autumn Escape from City Life - Laajalahti, Espoo
Sunny and crispy autumn days are excellent time to take your bike and head for a tour around Laajalahti area following the marked route, which runs along the beach lines of both Helsinki and Espoo.
Depending on where you prefer to start, there are multiple route and length options. If you start from the city center and have time, it is worthwhile to go around the whole bay, which is around 20–24 kilometers, or choose a shorter route: City Center - Lauttasaari - Kaskisaari - Lehtisaari - Otaniemen ranta - Villa Elfvik - Munkkiniemen uimaranta - City Center.
This route has many recreational possibilities. In Munkkiniemi there's a public beach where you can take a relaxing dip in the Baltic sea. There are also diverse foraging options along the route e.g. in Kaskisaari, Otaniemen ranta and in the surroundings of Villa Elfvik.
Despite the rainy days and the disappearing light, autumn is fascinating time to harvest and observe nature preparing for winter. Sucking in the seasonal scents, colours, sounds and moods, one can recharge in a different way compared to for example summer. It's rewarding to challenge yourself to find uplifting characteristics from each and every season.
Perhaps because of the alarming hot summer we had in Finland, some of the wild herbs were still growing strong and vital at the end of September while others had started to show signs of autumn. Some plants had acquired nice autumn shades, such as the raspberry leaves, which had nice pink and yellow tones on them.
Fireweeds formed nice texture along the pathway with their white fluffy seeds and brown withered leaves. Meadow sweets that have those white fragrant flowers in the summer, were full of tiny brown seeds. Their leaves, however, still had strong green colour in them.
Dandelion was still blooming and its leaves looked deliciously green. In a way this is not a wonder, since its foraging time is one of the longest; leaves are best to be picked before its blooming time from April to June and the roots (with the permission of the land owner) before the blooming time or after it all the way until the end of October. To learn more when to pick and what, check out the well covered foraging calendar from our book Villiyrtit - Hyvinvointia kotikulmilta (WSOY) (in Finnish).
The route around Laajalahti is pleasant to bike since you constantly have the chance to stop and have a break somewhere close to the sea. Let your mind calm down while sitting on the rocks by the beaches of Otaniemi or by the fields and beach pastures of Laajaranta. Here the vegetation and scenery change along the way from lush shadowy deciduous tree forests to sunny meadows, wetlands, seaside views and beach rocks. In seconds, you can indulge in the country side and national park vibes, although the city is right next to you.
For those interested in the wildlife the Laajalahti's wetlands offer good bird watching possibilities. Here you also get in close contact with the Baltic sea, which is an extremely sensitive ecosystem due to its shallow shape and slowly changing water. Some of the bridges you cross along the way carry you almost on the level of this unique water way, opening nice views across the bay, where the city silhouette gently reminds you how close to the capital city you actually are.
The route is accessible on foot and by bike, but please pay attention to some parts of the path in Otaniemi and Laajaranta which are a bit bumpy due to rocks and tree roots. While in nature, please take into consideration the everyman's rights in Finland, leave no litter behind and respect the wildlife.
Text and photos: Aino Huotari