Guldheden’s Valley: Guldhedsdalen – Home of Threatened ‘Lesser Spotted Woodpecker’


In the heart of Gothenburg aka Göteborg is a valley: Guldheden’s valley. One can access the valley from Sahlgrenska Hospital or from the bus- and tram-stop of Medicinaregatan or from Dr Fries Torg. The valley is a microcosm of a forest: deciduous trees, swamps, streams, small ponds, fauna and birds. The valley is an unusual piece of nature in the middle of the central parts of Gothenburg where nature is mostly manages by itself, and it is a habitat that provides a living space for a large number of plants and animals.


Dalen in Swedish means: the Valley (dalen – definite singular noun of ‘dal’ and dalens is the definite possessive singular of dal).

One of the threatened bird species lives here: the ‘lesser spotted woodpecker’. It needs dead trees and branches to hack out its nest and find food, therefore some dead trees are left as they are by the City of Gothenburg’s Park- och naturförvaltningen.

In the season of spring, one can find Anemone nemrosa (vitsippor) adorning the floors of the valley; the white flowers also give the valley a nickname – vitsippsdalen or the valley of wood anemones.


Most of the land in today district of Guldheden was previously part of Stora Änggården. In the early 1900s, there were only a few small wooden houses in the southeastern part of the area, and archaeologist have found traces of a settlement from the Bronze or Iron Age.

In 1949 Södra Guldheden began to be built with houses: high-rise apartments, and till to this day this area in Gothenburg reflects the architecture idealism and the vision of the 1950s. The area was adapted to the needs of residents and architecture was blended with the hilly terrain so that there is considerable green space between buildings. The city plan is an early example of continuous green lanes that are completely separate from traffic, where the lanes were laid inside the green area. Because of this area’s proximity to Sahlgrenska Hospital, many doctors and nurses lived in the area, and streets and lanes reflect their names.


The Right of Public Access is asserted by residents and visitors in the area like in the Swedish countryside. A notice informs, ‘For everyone to be able to enjoy the countryside, we need to take proper care of it and the wildlife it supports and to show consideration for landowners and other visitors. This can be summed up in the phrase: ‘Don’t disturb – don’t destroy’.’


Swamp forests are a unique environment for many animals and plants, and Guldheden’s Valley has swamps. Swamps usually contain more species than other forests because of the wide variety of habitats formed by the different humidity conditions. Some of the trees in the swamp forest risk dying because they get no air when the water covers the entire root system. But the dead trees attract living insects that eat and build nests in the wood. Birds also benefit from the swamp forest as they are easy to makes holes for nests.


Dendrocopos minor is the scientific name of the woodpecker that is found in Guldheden’s Valley, and the common name is ‘lesser spotted woodpecker’.

Woodpeckers are seen in Guldheden’s valley as there is no shortage of food for the birds, in food for them is in the form of insects. So, the nesting birds like woodpeckers thrive in the swamp forest. The humid areas that already exist are usually allowed to develop freely.

In Guldhedsdalen or Guldheden’s Valley, a new swamp forest has been created by creating a small dam over the stream at the bottom of the valley. The small dam was built to prevent flooding in the area and also helps to have a breeding ground for woodpeckers. The woodpeckers found in the valley are the smallest woodpeckers; they grown about 15 cm long. Their back side is black with white cross straps over the wings and back, the front is white with thin dark longitudinal lines. The male birds have red spot or red speck on their heads unlike the female woodpeckers. The woodpeckers live in the mixed woods, feed on insects and are dependent on dead or dying trees.

Deciduous forests and mixed forests have declined sharply in the southern Sweden, so are the numbers of old deciduous trees. The direct impact of this is that the number of ‘lesser spotted woodpeckers’ have shrunk, and they are rare birds. But Guldhedsdalen provides a habitat for the birds to survive and therefore it is important to have deciduous forests and older deciduous trees.


Guldheden’s Valley has some dead trees. A dead tree is immediately filled with new life. Animals, plants and fungi thrive in the dead trees. They are used as food, housing, for defence and protection, and as a breeding ground for various animals and fungi such as wood beetles, ants, fungi and moss.

It may take a hundred years for the dead tree to completely disappear, but since many of the species thrive in the dead trees during a certain part of the degradation, newly-dead trees are allowed to remain as they are. A natural forest should look a bit messy with dead trees: young, old and dead trees are needed to promote biodiversity.

The valley also has hazelnut trees. The branches of the trees are used to make baskets for their wood is smooth and tough. Corylys avellana or the hazelnut tree usually grows as a bush and grows from 3 to meters in height. The hazelnut tree can grow up to 10 meters. The hazel bush population can be several hundred years. The hazelnuts are popular to consume for both humans and animals. They are easy to store and have been found at many archaeological sites because the hard shell is well preserved.

Note: Hazelnuts are not included in the public right and must not be picked from the bushes by anyone other than the landowner!