This post is for my daughter Theodora. I cannot be with her on her birthday but can send this beautiful flower and a butterfly photo from Southern Spain. So far the sun has shone and the red admiral came out of its hideaway and posed for us. I also bought this gazania to brighten up the rock garden and on looking up its name found it was named after Theodorus Gaza, in the 15 th Century.( On Wikipedia, and he translated Theophrastus on plants)
On one of those pregnant impulses I had decided to name my baby after the Saints day she or he would be born on. Luckily she decided against Jan 6 th and Epiphany and came on the day of St Theodosius. And are those days so long ago that we didn’t know or need to know the gender. So Theo sounded like a great idea at the time! But I was pushed to make it more feminine.
For the past two years I have missed her birthday as I had never been able to see the celebrations in Spain for the feast of the Kings. ( Joy of being a teacher and the Return to School) It all happens on the eve of Jan 6 th. Last year a friend came to stay and we visited the ‘big’ one in Higuera de la Sierra. More in last year’s post. Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.
This year we went to Linares on the south side of the Sierra Aracena. Here they create scenes from the nativity story in their houses and gardens. Linares is a special village with cobblestone art work on the ground in front of many of the houses. This event is also very special and different from the processions.
I loved seeing inside some of the houses and also small stores, naves where animals would and still might be kept. It was very reminiscent of the closeness of village life over the centuries and miles to Bethlehem. Most of all I loved being able to see into the gardens and orchards. I am a little jealous because they can grow oranges on that side of the Sierra and we have to cope with chestnuts!
After this it was back to see our village procession. Although there may be many tourists here for the Los Reyes processions it is truly a local event. All the children of a village receive presents from the Three Wise Kings. First there is the procession led by the star. She must be the one who gets cold! She is followed by a variety of floats with different scenes, some biblical, some original. These may vary each year. The richness of the scenes shown really tell so many aspects of the Nativity. The final three floats are for the three wise kings who bring gifts. Balls and sweets were thrown to the crowds watching and following.The irony of the sweets were ‘love bites’ made in Hyderabad, India, where we lived some years ago. Just for trade wars, there were also some made in Córdoba, Spain.
Here in our village it was charming and very much all the local people involved with small tractors pulling brightly decorated carts.
One thing that stood out were the smiles on everyone’s faces: children and adults.
Wishing Theo and everyone who reads my blog a very happy and peaceful 2017. And in 2018 and future years Theo, Josie, family and friends can visit the Sierra to see the wise men, women and children who create this event.
This was a wonderful experience that lifted my spirits. Donna Nook is a wide mud and sand beach south of Cleethorpes where my mother’s family came from. It was named Donna after a Spanish Armada ship went aground here in the 1500s.
I had never visited here but Trevor had with his son many years ago. There was no fence then. But this fence is one of those good fences which help make good neighbours ( Robert Frost). Now humans can enjoy watching these wild animals close up and the fence prevents the seals from biting us! The mother seals are not too interested in the humans behind the fence. There are now many more seals here and it is a conservation success.Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the RAF, who have an artillery range here, and support from the EU and others have all contributed to the increase in numbers giving birth here.
Wishing you all a happy and positive 2017 and hope we can continue to create success stories for the natural world.
Some of my gloom in this ‘post truth’ world was not just the cloudy autumn weather in Cabanas, Portugal but the very intimidating fence put up to prevent locals and visitors from walking along the small cliffs at the end of the Cabanas broad walk. It took some time and discussions with some exploration to find out about this no access fence.
These are photos I found from a sunny January a few years back where there had been open access and an established path along the cliff, around the fort and down to the far end off the beach by the majestic old pine trees. We have always enjoyed taking friends along this route too. It is part of the natural beauty at the edge of eastern Cabanas.
Along the Ria Formosa it is designated a nature reserve and national park but the edges along the cliffs do seem to be privately owned. We ventured cautiously along the fence and the cliff edge and came to more space in front of the fort. Here it was the path again but just past the fort there was a fence with big signs up again restricting the route along the top path by the pines.
At the end of the pines there is a route down to the beach area of the river lagoon and another leading back past a farmhouse. No one tends to use that path as there is a farm building and barking big dogs at the end of it! It seems it is the owner of this land who after many many years and at least 15yearsmfor us being in Cabanas, has decided to assert his territorial rights. There have been public meetings in Cabanas and there are also rights of access paths. Sadly, battle lines seem to be being drawn.
We walked by the prickly pear border and the fort and met the manager from the fort. The Cabanas fort has been renovated inside and is a delightful place to stay. We were shown around and I would recommend it as a holiday. The owner has a passion for these old buildings and it has been lovingly restored and the visitor rooms are in keeping but modern. It is also a safe place inside for children to play and have adventures.
As you walk out from the fort there is a way back along the road and back to the board walk. Here there are still the signs of the changes in Cabanas. A little old and neglected traditional house is still there. And behind it are the new but unfinished and unsold developments of a garden village. A swimming pool facility and garden was also supposed to be built. The scrub land provides some opportunities for the wildlife. This is also part of the Eco bike route from Tavira. It is worth walking or cycling from Tavira to Cabanas on this route. It then goes up and back to the main road and then back down to the coast to the charming old village of Cacela Velha.
It is also possible to walk along the beach but the closed path does mean you could get cut off when the tide is high. It seems there are some resolutions in place for this ugly and divisive fence to be moved back a bit to return access to the path in front of the Cabanas fort.
It seems a pity that the coastal cliff path has been broken up by landowners wishing to fence off to the cliff edge. Further up from the fort there are some developments with portocabins and fences to the cliff edge. It is near here that I once stood for ages watching a hoopoe preen itself. The natural world has to cope with the challenges of development, irresponsible tourism, our lovely dogs unleashed also can disturb birds and other creatures too. And the rubbish we leave behind.
Could this cliff path ever become a nature trail? Could it be looked after by conservationists and respected by walkers,dog owners, cyclists? The beach below is protected but the cliff edge awaits exploitation of varying kinds.
I have just experienced a very different kind of fence at Donna Nook in Lincolnshire in the UK and a triumph for the conservation of grey seals on the mudflats of the Humber estuary.
That’s for the next post as I arise from the gloom of wintry weather and political uncertainties for the planet. I have focused a lot of time on revising my novel and the chestnut harvest from our very fruitful old trees at Navasola.
I thought I would write a post about waiting for the rain to come. It has come with its usual torrential downpours through the night and the day. After some frantic wood pile sorting it paid off as we had our first fire. But now it is warm again and the sun is shining with that particular brightness of Anda Lucia. Land of light.
My attempt at a winter veg garden might just work. There is now so much moisture in the air. It seems Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and onions are good, and of course there’s time to grow some more lettuce. I’ve also tried some beetroot. My once hated vegetable from memories of a cold vinegary slice for school dinners. Now I like it in soups thanks to a friend’s recipes. However I am going to have to find ways of using the green tomatoes. It is too late now for this batch to ripen and the rain affects them badly. Fried green tomatoes was suggested. That was such a good film.
Today has been the first sun after the rain and I have gone out to check on everything, especially the chestnuts. Some have fallen but although it had been dry I have been able to collect some good sized ones from the ground. I have a love hate relationship with chestnuts but at first it is fun to find the bright brown shiny shapes. However I will be lucky to get a euro for a kg even though they can sell at 6 euros or more. I bought some small cooked Chinese chestnuts in the supermarket the other week; a case of coals to Newcastle or chestnuts to the Sierra Aracena. Unfortunately the phrase doesn’t work too well for Newcastle as coal there has become a product of the past.
Sometimes the joy of picking up chestnuts is the fragile Autumn crocus shining from the ground. The damp ground has also produced a lot of mushrooms. This is the time when folk come foraging for the famous wild mushroom varieties of the Sierra. These are the gallipierna, with their beautiful parasols.
Menu del dia
Primera plato Fried green tomatoes and gallipierna
Segunda plato. Chestnut loaf and salad
Postre. Quince tart
All in a days foraging!
This post is a poem in response to the prompt by Dverse poets to celebrate Bob Dylan winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. Dverse poets.com is the link to find a range of ideas about writing poetry, with good poems to read and stimulating prompts.
A very good friend of ours had some of the lyrics below on a t shirt. We knew it was from a Bob Dylan song but which one. So we went back to our Bob Dylan lyrics book and found it. Bob Dylan’s words and music are truly everywhere even up in our Spanish Sierra on a tee shirt!
‘She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She’s got everything she needs
She’s an artist, she don’t look back
She can take the dark out of the nighttime
And paint the daytime black’. Bob Dylan
The poem I’ve written is about a very special woman; an artist, woodworker, seeker and above all friend who I have been so fortunate to meet in my life in the Sierra.
Thanks to Dverse and Bob Dylan for inspiring me to put these words together ( and perhaps the t shirt that didn’t acknowledge Bob’s words!)
Painting our lives with the colours of light
Light plays with the trees at the dawn of dusk
She plays with the light in the colours she sees
Sepia wizened trunks with wise worn faces
She’s an artist
Touch of colour at the tip of a brush blends the years
Into the tones of the falling leaves she sees
Wise eyes lighten the cares and fears.
She don’t look back.
A garden of brightness, an orchard of fruit fallness,
A home all in one and a bed built up high,
To rise up through the darkness with a calm wry smile.
She’s got everything she needs.
She’s an artist, she don’t look back.
The photographs are some of her work.
To arrive on the island of Faial in the Azores archipelago of nine islands you have to fly or take a very long boat ride.The low carbon emission way would be to sail there. For a land lubber like me who suffers from sea sickness it’s not an option. For those who live on the islands aeroplanes have brought prosperity and may just have halted total environmental degradation of the islands. Ironic , perhaps but tourism is now both important for the economy and for the natural protections needed. Marine research is also based here.
Whale watching instead of whale hunting brings a different kind of work. EU support for restoration of biodiversity has also brought an end to the total decline of the very special island flora and fauna. It’s a fascinating place for botanists, marine biologists, and all those who love the sea, islands and the power of nature. To be honest, nature needs us to visit and help nurture all these projects as well as the people on these far off islands.
In the mid Atlantic these islands have been formed from activity deep within the earth along the tectonic plates of the American and European continents. The last volcanic eruption on Faial was in 1958 and there was an earthquake in 1998 which caused damage. On our first full day on Faial and staying in the main town and trans Atlantic sailing harbour of Horta we were taken on a tour of the island by Alda from a local travel firm. As we had not hired a car we took a tour with her. She had grown up in the valley of Flamengos and showed us the local church that had been finally rebuilt after the earthquake. Her mother remembered the volcanic explosions in 1958. We visited the new volcanic land of Capellinos with her.
We also met an American Azorean whose family had left because of the destruction of their town on the North West of the island. His father had hunted whales and it had been the main industry there. 50 years or more later, his son, who was two when the volcano erupted,has returned. He helps tourists understand some of the many innovative projects that have been a part of Faial’s history; such as the transatlantic cables laid down across the ocean.
The capital Horta has been a very cosmopolitan place and welcoming port. Sailing and Peter’s cafe are part of the maritime history as well as the whaling museums of the whale hunting past.
The colonisation of these islands by the Portuguese navigators and explorers means that we were welcomed to Europe on one of its furthest points west. For me the islands are a microcosm of our recent colonial histories. All nine islands were discovered by the Portuguese from the 1400s. All were forested and had probably been undisturbed for millenia.
The birds, wind and sea had brought plant and other forms of life to these islands. Human beings brought axes and civilisation.The native forests were cut back and the rich brought exotic plants such as hydrangeas which were used as new hedges. Many types of farming have been tried.
Monoculture farming has had and is having its impact. There have been orange plantations but a disease destroyed those and at present it is mainly dairy! There have been changes and for many of the islands it has been tough surviving in these island paradises. But it has also been tough on the unique plants and creatures that first inhabited these islands and evolved here.
Can responsible tourism help restore the biodiversity and be sustainable? I think those who live on the islands would welcome this. Certainly we found everyone there very welcoming.
I shall try and create a series of posts about our trip to Faial and link in with our visit to San Miguel from last January . It was certainly a very welcome break and the beauty of Pico and Faial haunt us. We would like to return.