Kõpu peninsula is full of mystery and excitement. If you have enough time, then look around, follow the nature trails and enjoy Ristna beach. If you do not have enough time, then turn back and follow the same straight road in the direction of Käina and Emmaste. Turn toward Emmaste and follow the signs.
Photo: Hanno Luukas
Vanajõe Valley (Old River Valley)
is proof that Hiiumaa is similar to
the rest of Estonia: boasting rivers,
lakes, hills and valleys. The valleys in
particular seem quite unusual in this
environment: it seems impossible to go
below sea level in this plain landscape.
Still, the valley with its high sandy
banks and mysterious brownish water
is a real pearl. The valley was made a
preservation area in 1962, but it was
already in the spotlight centuries ago.
Indeed, a water mill operated in the 16th century in the village of Õngu,
not far from this little creek, or river as the islanders call it. Supposedly
there was an argument in the 18th century between the owner, Vaemla's
landlord, and Ungern-Sternberg, who owned the land under the river.
The latter decided to exact a water tax. The Vaemla baron refusing to
pay, Ungern-Sternberg ordered the peasants to dig a canal ditch to divert
the water, and so the water mill had to find energy from other sources.
Quite rapidly, the running water shaped a deeper and more natural base
for itself, now called New River. The dry wash of the old river is still
foreseeable on the landscape.
Nature is continuing to shape the landscape here. Almost every year
some of the bigger trees fall down from the edge of the valley, breaking
the barriers and shifting the sand. When we say that Hiiumaa is a sandy
island, the Old River Valley is the most obvious sign.
Here mezereons grow, and salmon trout comes to spawn. At the
beginning of spring thousands of mosquitoes attack and the European
weasel tries to regain a foothold, the object of difficult efforts to
re-establish a species that has almost died out. Tallinn Zoo prepares the
animals for life in the wild. The first litters out of captivity have been
born, but problems still remain.
In the neighbourhood of the Old River Valley, coloured earth has
been found; dissolved in water and used in yesteryear for painting
Legends and stories
Although the place is called the Old River Valley, legends tell about the
formation of the New River. There are stories about a workman, and
sometimes about the giant Leiger, who decided to rest here one day.
Before sitting down he thrust the shovel into the earth so hard that it
went about halfway up the handle. When he continued his journey and
pulled the shovel out, a big hole had been formed. Water began to flow
from the hole and eroded paths through the sand, eventually shaping a