Central Park – green urban oasis
Espoo Central Park is located in the middle of the city and consists of natural forests, meadows, cliffs and wetlands. It is 880 hectares is size and an important outdoor and recreational area for everyone in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. It is the second largest contiguous nature area in Espoo after Nuuksio National Park, and an important wildlife corridor from the sea all the way to highland lakes in Nuuksio
Finnoontie splits the park in two. The eastern side, more familiar to Espoo residents, homes the most popular outdoor exercise routes from Suvela and Kuuriinniitty to Puolarmetsä, Olari and Henttaa. West of Finnoontie, the route between Vanttila and Latokaski is considered the most important one.
Shape-wise, Central Park resembles a bow: Söderskog fields next to Finnoontie represent the knot of the bow, while the parks to the east and the west are the loops. Over the years, however, construction in the vicinity of the park has reduced its size and distorted its shape.
Varied terrain and plenty of Finnish forest species
Espoo Central Park is large enough to cover varied terrain. The majority is coniferous forest rich in blueberry, more arid rock pine stands or ridges separated by grove-like heaths or lush herb-rich forests or wildwoods
Common flora includes horsetails, ferns, anemones, wintergreens, loosestrifes and orchids. Trees range from large spruce copses to sunny silver birch or black alder stands. There are also meadows, overgrown fields and a few wetlands.
The fauna is a representation of typical Finnish forest species. Visitors may see hares, raccoon dogs, squirrels and roes, and sometimes elks, foxes and badgers. Birds living in the area include the Chaffinch, the Willow warbler, the Tree pipit, the Robin, the Wren, different thrushes and tits, and more rarely, the Red-breasted flycatcher. The Hazelhen, the Eurasian woodcock and the Black woodpecker are also known to visit the park.
Get to know and explore the different parts of Espoo Central Park's nature:
Suurpelto, Olari and Puolarmaari
Henttaa grove, or the Vassholmsberget grove, and the nearby Orrbergen are known for their hillside hazels. Orrbergen has some of the most imposing old-growth forests in central park with shady spruce copses standing over heather- or lichen-covered heaths and seasonal streams. To the south, there is a small stream valley in Henttaanoja surrounded by steep hills and their primeval forest type coniferous stands.
The Soldatängen herb-rich forest and the Henttaanpuro area are popular bird nesting sites, where you can spot stock doves and blackcaps busy at work. Near Suurpelto, visitors can see and hear the Black woodpecker, the Lapwing, the Mockingbird and the Skylark. Kokinmetsä is another important bird area enjoyed by the Wren, the Wood warbler and the Treecreeper.
Friisinkallio is a rocky ridge next to central park, south of Puolarmaari, and well worth a visit before entering the park. The view from the top all the way to Haukilahti water tower and the sea is quite spectacular. Friisinkallio supports a wide range of habitats from herb-rich forests to open cliffs. It is particularly interesting because of the traces of ice age, including the ancient shoreline some 30 metres above sea level, and the marks left by the retreating continental ice sheet. On cliff-top, in the middle of the forest, there is a fen with a stream running down the steep slope. Visitors can also admire many boulders and a small spring to the north of the area. In autumn, Friisinkallio is occupied by blueberries, which can be picked straight off the bush.
Suomenojanlaakso, one of the most significant river valleys in Espoo, and an important green corridor between central park and the coast, begins from Puolarmaari. Puolarmaari also houses two of the valuable geological sites in Espoo: the 3 m high rough red granite Central Park Boulder, and the 2 m high rough red granite Malminmäki Boulder.
Boulders are evidence of glacial transportation because, based on research, the boulders presently in Finland originate from Vyborg. The vicinity of the Puolarmetsä hospital is inhabited by northern bats.
Suna, Kuurinniitty and Lillhemt
Ritva's Forest, situated between Suna and Mössenkärr residential areas, allows visitors to marvel at over 100-year old trees growing in green herb-rich, coniferous and wildwood forests. Ritva's Forest is a 27-hectare heritage forest established to commemorate the late Ritva Veijonen, Director of Environmental Affairs. The forest is protected under the agreement between the City of Espoo and the WWF.
The pond in Mössenkärr is the home of the red-eyed Slavonian grebe, while the nearby fields are populated by the Meadow buttercup, the Melancholy thistle, the Yarrow and the many butterflies they attract. The two symmetric, smooth-edged potholes in the area were formed by the action of a large stone turning and spinning under the pressure of ice age meltwater.
Next to the potholes, there is a 1 metre tall boulder. Rönnängen traditional meadow is a perfect place to sniff the sweet scent of the Meadowsweet or to taste wild strawberries. The Majkärr wetland harbours many beautiful, natural mire habitats, which can be explored by following the adjacent trail. In summer, the mires are taken over by white bogbean flowers followed by cloudberries towards the end of the season.
The Lillträskberget nature reserve, east of Majkärr, encompasses lichen- and moss-covered cliffs as well as forests rich in deadwood and decayed wood. To the north, there is the Lillträsk fen, also known as Henttaansuo, which was formed some 3,000 years ago when an ancient bay enclosed to a lake and become swampy.
In the 1900s, the lake became overgrown and covered by different mire and fen habitats. Henttaansuo is a preferred habitat for the Carnation sedge, the Marsh fern and the Crested wood fern, all rare inside the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Many bog mosses are also unique to the area, including 18 different sphagnum-moss species.
More than half of the Lillträsk fen is still in its natural state. Together with Majkärr and Lillträskberget, it forms one of the most prestigious nature sites in Central Park.
Areas around Lillhemt are enjoyed by bats, of which the Northern bat and the Whiskered bat are often seen at dusk flying about their urban homes. In Kuurinmetsä, there have been Flying squirrel sightings. Suna, Kuurinniitty and Lillhemt also support a rich birdlife with 48 different species.
The Creeping lady's tresses, rare in Southern Finland, and its white flowers can be admired in July.
Tillinmäki, Vanttila, Kaupunginkallio and Latokaski
The nature trail circling around the Suomenoja basin has two bird watching towers. Suomenoja or Finnoo basin is an excellent location for seeing the many birds in the area from up close. The most important species nesting in the area include the Moorhen and the Slavonian grebe. The basin is encircled by a nature trail accessed from the parking area east of Hyljeluodontie.
Harmaakallio and its surroundings are popular nesting and feeding areas for the Flying squirrel. The natural Harmaakallio fen and its small open bog provide a habitat for many sphagnum-moss species, of which the Slender cow-horn bog-moss, the Sphagnum centrale and the Spiky bog-moss are rare in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. Otherwise, the vegetation in Harmaakallio is dominated by the Bottle sedge, the Water horsetail and the Marsh cinquefoil.
In Tillinmäki, visitors can admire the geologically valuable, weathering rough red granite boulder, and the nearby open and grassy Harmaakorpi bog. In Latokaski, west of Finnoontie and 100 metres north of Lehdeskuja, there is a place where a younger, reddish granite stripe cuts through darker gneissic amphibolite as a manifestation of tectonic forces. Gneissic amphibolite is the regional rock of Uusimaa.
Vanttila meadow is an old sheep pasture and field, which has overgrown and turned into a kingdom of meadow foxtails, creeping wheats, wild chervils and dandelions. The field has a few rock denudations, which are favoured by the Field pansy, the Smooth tare, the Orpine and the Mousetail. In summer, part of the field turns into a wet meadow with a flourishing Meadowsweet population. The white, blue and yellow flowers of the Thyme-leaved sandwort, the Strict forget-me-not and the Lady's bedstraw add to the blaze of colours.
The meadow also supports a number of different butterflies. Of the wet meadow species, the Essex skipper, the Chestnut heath, the Ringlet and the Burnet companion moth inhabit the area in great numbers. The more tree-dominated part of the meadow shelters the endangered Purple emperor and Dark crimson underwing. Other noteworthy species include the Northern brown argus and the New forest burnet.
Nissinmäki and Gråbergsbacken are dominated by birches, goat willows, spruces, maples, bird cherries, alders, aspens and rowan trees, which in turn provide a home for the Nightingale, the Blackbird, the Wood pigeon, the Wren, the Blackcap, the Wood warbler and the Treecreeper. Nissinmäki houses the most significant sloped herb-rich forest in Central Park with a lot of hazels.
The forests in Hakokorpi and Vantinkorpi are in their natural state and popular among birds. In Hakokorpi, you can see at least the Red-breasted flycatcher, the Treecreeper, the Wren and the Blackcap. Birdlife in Vantinkorpi is among the busiest in central park, with stock doves and black woodpeckers inhabiting the area in addition to the species living in Hakokorpi. The forests in the area are lush and dominated by old aspens and spruces. Old spruce stands provide a perfect habitat for the Creeping lady's tresses, while the Alternate-leaved golden saxifrage enjoys the steamsides. In Finnkärr valley, there are several mire and open bog patches.
Latokaski north of Lillängen, near Finnoontie, and its many aspens of different sizes and ages provide a perfect home for a nesting Flying squirrel female. Finnoonpuro, or Finnobäcken, flowing through Central Park, supports a notable trout population.
Söderskog, extending on both sides of Finnoontie, represents a traditional rural environment. The eastern side of Finnoontie is dominated by Söderskog fields, which are still cultivated. The edges of Finnoontie grow maiden pinks, clustered bellflowers, harebells and the rare Spiked sedge. The rural landscape is also enjoyed by the Barn swallow, the Whinchat, the Linnet, the Scarlet grosbeak and the Ortolan bunting.
Exercise and enjoy outdoor activities throughout the year
In addition to the many nature experiences, Central Park offers a great place for outdoor activities and exercise. It is ideal for walking, jogging, biking, cross-country skiing and orienteering. In autumn, you can go mushrooming or berry picking with the whole family.