During the last ten years, the Swedish coastal landscape has undergone a radical change. It started after the period of heavy rainfall known as the Damned Flood Years, when heavy rain and tempestuous storms caused rivers to overflow and coastal areas to become swamped in sea water. These tumultuous years resulted in the Climate Adaptation Agency, the Skåne County Administrative Board and Region Skåne deciding to move people away from large parts of the Skåne coast line, particularly the western stretch between Skanör-Falsterbo and Helsingborg.
As a consequence of new climate adaptation legislation approved by the Riksdag in 2041, these regional actors also forbade the construction of new infrastructure in western coastal areas, all in an effort to reduce the amount of climate-related deaths. This strive was also part of what led up to the recent introduction of the famed Swedish Climate Vision Zero, which made it a goal to reach zero climate-related deaths and injuries.
Nowadays, many chunks of this once heavily-populated stretch of coastline has been designated as “flexmark”, meaning that the area is open to anyone to visit while the water isn’t rising, but that it is forbidden territory once the sea or rivers start to encroach. Advanced warning systems keep track of this and send out alerts over multiple media if flooding is about to occur, so you can safely visit these areas without having to worry!
“But why would I want to do that,” you might be wondering? Well, here are just a handful of reasons:
- Visit a local festival: When the water allows for it, many types of festivals are held on the abandoned coast line. One of the recurring ones is the Still Water Festival, which is not held in a specific location. Instead many local settlements have their own take on these festivities, which you can read more about in its own entry in this guide. Other festivals worth visiting are for example the DroughtDance festival, which is hosted in the abandoned village of Sundvik north of Landskrona. For the more artistically inclined, there is the Strandbiennal art festival which takes place on the beach in the former village of Bjärred.
- Take part in a live action roleplaying (LARP) game: The planned abandonment of settlements and industrial quarters along the coast line was a dream come true for all the post-apocalyptic science fiction LARP groups. Many of them quickly made deals with various municipalities to get permission to host their games on secure but dilapidated parts of the flexmark. The most famous of these is the Gloomlands RPG group who play out an ongoing story on the island of Gråen outside Landskrona. Visit their website to learn more about how to take part.
- Burn some (sustainable) rubber at an electrical car street race: When the coastline of western Skåne was abandoned, so were many of its beautiful coastal roads. Many of these are occasionally taken over by street racing clubs who use them as racing tracks. Some may require you to bring your own electric car, but many clubs allow you to rent one for a fee. Jump behind the wheel and leave your opponents in the dust!
- Walk the Coastal History Trek: If you are a history buff, don’t miss this beautiful trek along the coastline nature reserve where you get to both see the 100 year old remains of World War II bunkers (which guarded Sweden against a Nazi German invasion from occupied Denmark) to the more recent remains of the old Barsebäck nuclear plant (though be sure to take an iodine pill after passing through here). The trail also passes through several abandoned villages and harbours. All in all, the trek paints a harsh but poetic picture of the changing ways of life along Skåne’s west coast. Definitely worth a visit!
Though the abandonment of the infrastructure along the coastline was conducted in a planned and meticulous manner, and most of the area is totally safe to visit, there are a couple of things worth knowing before journeying here.
First, just make sure that you heed these warnings and don’t sneak in after the notice has been sent. The fines for hanging around when you aren’t supposed to can be quite steep.
Second, though most of the abandoned infrastructure is repeatedly maintained in order to not be a danger to visitors, some of the old privately owned warehouses and factories might not keep the same standard and could prove harmful or potentially dangerous to visit. Use your judgement and don’t walk into a place which is obviously falling apart.
Thirdly, and similar to the last point, some of these old factories and warehouses (particularly ones located near former commercial harbours) contain remnants of harmful chemicals, and as such are still off limits to the general public. (We note, however, that this doesn’t seem to deter guerilla mural-painters and sculptors, nor the people who go in search of their strange creations.)
Finally, some of the dilapidated settlements along the northern part of the western coastline are known to be frequented by smugglers, criminals and illegal barbecue enthusiasts. Exercise your judgement when walking in these areas, and know that they technically aren’t considered part of the flexmark, and as such, that they are not under the watchful eye of the Climate Adaptation Agency and the Skåne County Administrative Board.