Abava Primeval Valley Landscape
The Landscape of Abava primeval valley is made up by natural and cultural and historical heritage characteristics, that has been developed over hundreds and thousands of years. In the scale of Latvia, it is unique due to Abava river valley’s distinct shape and structure (valley’s terraced slopes, deep valleys of its tributaries, ravines, floodplains), diversity of geological sediments, that altogether have determined people’s economical activities, which further expands in the mix of forests and fields. The vivid terrain and variety of plants creates eye-pleasing landscapes that can be seen from the valley slopes and shoreline. Ever since the river and its valley have served not only as natural obstacles, but as a “traffic road” that connects Kurzeme and Zemgale together. That left a long-lasting influence on the primeval valley and the surrounding cultural landscape, rich in many cultural-historical objects: castle mounds, ancient burial grounds, manors, taverns and churches. The primeval river valley landscape included in the Culture Canon spans from Pūre to Renda.
The beautiful, wide, and colourful perspectives served as a reason in the second half of 19th century for the river valley’s section from Kandava to Sabile to be metaphoricallly called the “Switzerland of Kurzeme”. This name of the valley became the norm in the 20th century first half in guidebooks and newspapers, which invited to travel around Abava primeval valley. Geography teacher Indriķis Sleinis (1936) in the 1930’s wrote: “What a wonderful view is this Abava primeval valley from Kandava to Renda, if only we could get rid of this clichéd comparison – the Switzerland of Kurzeme. Anyone who has been to Switzerland will agree that this is not at all Switzerland, although it does not diminish the peculiar loveliness of this area.”
Writer Imants Ziedonis in his book “Kurzemīte” (1984), on the landscapes of river Imula and Amula, writes: “How wonderfully different are these landscapes of little rivers Imula and Amula. Various: fantastic, miniature, divine and unbelievable.” He continues: “If there is an architect or a landscaper in the republic and if he has the authority to draw them as protected areas in the map, then they should go to Imula and Amula in the spring, when the leaves are beginning to leaf out, or in the autumn, when the eyes wonder.” The Abava primeval river valley is a place where “meets” the greatness and the sophistication of a landscape.
The Abava primeval valley landscape is made up by various and different landscape spaces. The uniting element of all is Abava, which flows calmly, but is interrupted by swift periods and a waterfall (Abavas Rumba). Between Pūre and Kandava the river flows in the flat part of Abava-Slocene valley, which floods every spring, creating a particularly interesting flood landscape. On the valley’s left shore there are former manors – Firksu-Pedvāle Manor and Brinķu-Pedvāle Manor lands with buildings (ruins), where, on the initiative of the sculptor Ojārs Arvīds Feldbergs (1947), an open-air art museum has been created, which preserves the historical landscape atmosphere, while creating the new landscape. This is a good example of how old historical sites acquires new function. In Kandava and its surroundings cultural-historical objects are dominant (castle mound Kuršu pilskalns, Kandava old city, Livonian Order castle ruins, bridge across Abava, the Soviet buildings etc.), which in their function and visual appearance are closely connected to the river. Between Kandava and Veģi the maximum valley depth is 45–58 meters. Thanks to the grand panorama views (Greiļu hill, Buses castle mounds, Sabile castle mound, The Swedish Hat, Drubazas botanical trail etc.) this section of the primeval valley is considered the most aesthetically pleasing. The dominant forms in the landscape are farmlands and clumps of forests, where the stand is made up by pine trees, spruce trees, oaks, and ash trees. In this part of primeval valley, the crown jewel is the landscape of Sabile, where, as a result of Latvian, German, and Romani culture interaction, the city’s cultural landscape has formed with old town’s narrow streets, castle mound and the characteristic atmosphere. Since the 14th–16th century the landscape of Sabile is decorated with vines of the Wine Hill. The view from the Sabile Wine Hill is included in the list of Latvian Landscape treasures.
Between Veģi and Renda the Abava flows through a forest landscape, where mainly lush pine forests can be seen. Canoeing down the river, travellers on this part of the river enjoy forest landscapes untouched by human.
There are a lot of oaks in stands and on the shores of Abava. Therefore, Abava primeval valley is often called “the land of oaks”. The presence of oaks can be seen in the Kandava municipality’s coat of arms and felt in “Nakts dziesma” (The song of the night), written by Raimonds Pauls (1936) and Jānis Anerauds (1924–2010).
Abava primeva valley have significant biotopes, valuable to the biological diversity: ravine and slope forests, rich in oaks and maples; dry grasslands in lime soils; park-type meadows and others, that were created in as a result of human and nature’s interaction. Abava primeval valley is rich in cultural and historical monuments: Māras kambari caves, Abava waterfall (Abavas rumba), Īvande waterfall, Sudmalu waterfall, Imula dolomite cliffs, Kalnamuižas kraujas outcrops, Čužu natural sulfur springs, Devil’s cave (Velna ala), Matkules (Buses) castle mound, castle mound Kuršu pilskalns and Kandava old town, Sabile castle mound and old town, Valgale castle mound and others.
Due to this large number of natural and cultural-historical treasures, the Abava primeval river valley and its landscapes since 1999 have been included in the nature park Abava primeval valley (before, in 1927 protected by the state is the only known area where dwarf cherry (pentaphylloides fruticosa) grows – the Čužu marsh, and in 1957 the Abava river valley area from Kandava to Renda is included in the protection) and in the Abava valley cultural-historical territory (since 1996). In 2005, the territory was included in the network of nature protection areas in the territory of the European Union Natura 2000.
Ainavu inventarizācija un priekšlikumi to aizsardzības plānošanai. (1998). Īpaši aizsargājamās kultūrvēsturiskās teritorijas „Abavas ieleja” plānojuma dabas nodaļa.
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Sleinis, I. (1936). Latvijas upes. No: Latvijas zeme, daba, un tauta. 1. sējums. Latvijas zeme (192.–339. lpp.). Rīga: Valters un Rapa.
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Ziedonis, I., Kurzemīte (361. lpp.). Rīga: Liesma.
Abavas senielejas dabasskati. Kinožurnāls „Latvijas skaņu hronika”, Nr. 381 (1936). Latvijas Nacionālā arhīva Latvijas Valsts kinofotofonodokumentu arhīva audiovizuālo, foto un skaņas dokumentu digitālā krātuve „Redzi, dzirdi Latviju!”.
Dokumentālā filma „Svētdienas dienā ziedošos Abavas līčos”, 1930–1933. Latvijas Nacionālā arhīva Latvijas Valsts kinofotofonodokumentu arhīva audiovizuālo, foto un skaņas dokumentu digitālā krātuve „Redzi, dzirdi Latviju!”.