An idea at a birthday party was the start of Mariagillet and the restoration of St. Olavsleden for Lena Magnusson and her friends. Now, 10 years later, Lena is still very active along the route, which has grown far bigger than she had ever dared to hope for.
Ever since 2010, the Mariagillet association has been working on restoring and taking care of St Olavsleden in Jämtland. Lena Magnusson has been involved since the beginning, which actually wasn’t anything more than a vision at a party:
– One evening, a few friends had gathered to celebrate a birthday. Someone started talking about the pilgrim route in Spain, and we felt that it must be doable to get a route like that operating in Sweden. Of course, we had St Olavsleden right on our doorstep, so a vision to renovate it emerged there and then during the evening.
The start of Mariagillet
Lena, who had previously worked at the Swedish Mapping, Cadastral and Land Registration Authority, volunteered to look into things. Maps were found and contact made with landowners and rural community associations. But, to be able to apply for grants and actively do anything, they needed to be formerly organised, which was the birth of Mariagillet.
– We received grants from the municipality of Östersund and the Jämtland County Administrative Board and started by restoring the trail between Pilgrimstad and Rödösundet, explains Lena.
280 kilometers of Jämtland
They continued the work, section by section, with continued support from the County Administrative Board, and in autumn 2012 they reached the national border. By then they had restored the 280 km of the route from the county border of Västernorrland and Jämtland to the national border with Norway.
– It’s great to see how well it turned out, and it feels important for the rural communities and the county that the trail exists, says Lena.
Maintenance of the Jämtland part of the trail has continued over the years, sometimes with funding from other projects, sometimes completely voluntarily. The association, which has varied in size over the years, had led guided hikes, put out benches and signposts, and made sure that paths and roads are accessible and look nice. With help from the rural community associations they have also made information signs about historic places along the route.
Clearing the St. Olavs spring
– Today we are clearing out around the St. Olavs spring in Brunflo together with some people from the local Lions Club. It’s really going to give the place a lift, says Lena, and others agree with her.
Despite great commitment and interest in the trail from Lena, the future of Mariagillet is somewhat uncertain. But the ten years that the association has worked on improving St Olavsleden have been incredibly valuable, and Lena believes that the commitment will continue, even without the association.
– Both the network of contacts we’ve built and me as a person are still here, and we’ll continue to help out however possible. It’s a fantastic route and I believe that many people are going to discover it over the forthcoming years, says Lena, who is optimistic about the future of St. Olavsleden.