Autumn Walks in the Sierra Aracena

Autumn in the Sierra Aracena is a must.The autumn colours start with the poplar trees by the rivers, the fruit trees and finally all the chestnut orchards bring those northern forest changes to the southern part of Spain in our mountains. By the end of November the chestnut harvest is over and this year it has been poor due to a longer drought than usual. We have also just managed with our well but only about 100 litres a day coming up from the water table.We took a brief respite in Portugal to use a washing machine. We didn’t dare risk the amount of water our machine takes even though our solar power makes for a carbon neutral wash. Without water it is very difficult to be comfortable. I could have walked a kilometre to the local village where the springs are still flowing in Fuenteheridos as many women in other countries have to walk long distances. The Castano village spring was still dry too.

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Autumn brings a lot of business as local farmers collect their chestnuts, tourists come to visit and enjoy walks and foraging. The foraging for chestnuts and mushrooms often creates disputes because most of the land in the Natural Park of the Sierra Aracena is privately owned and farmers need the income from their chestnuts but key footpaths are open. Some tourists come in coach loads to see the change of leaves against the bright blue skies. But thankfully it has been cloudier and some rain has fallen. Those of us who live there cannot complain as the rain is desperately needed. So for once I have had almost three months of grey skies with my time in the UK and now back at Navasola.

Organic growers’ market at the Matronal campsite between Fuenteheridos and Castano del Robledo.

Autumn also brings the harvest of other fruits such as quince which must be cooked. I cook it whole and then cut it up and add half sugar to the amount to make the famous membrillo paste. It is delicious with the hard mature cheeses of the Sierra. Below are some other fruit in a friend’s orchard; persimmon or caqui in Spanish. These need to be eaten when very overripe.

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Persimmons in Ruth’s orchard.

I have also spent a lot of time peeling and preparing chestnuts for rissoles and stews.I have a love hate relationship with these amazingly difficult nuts, their harsh husks which spike you, their outer shell which goes quite tough if not knifed into when fresh from the ground, and the awful tannin bitter inner coat which refuses to be removed.

Here are photos from one of our favourite walks above the village of Castano, especially in the evening in order to capture the setting sun. Just before the village of Castano from the road there is a large green structure and a path starts from there. Following along the path from the village you can also reach this track. These are some of the views as the sun came out making it a glorious golden walk.

Lotte my favourite Tibetan terrier at the start of the track
Views of the village of Castano del Robledo

Chestnuts are the planted orchard trees here but robles are the oaks and there are a few different kinds that grow wild here as well as the Cork Oak and Holm Oak. I was delighted to find theresagreen’s post on Chestnut trees. Its very detailed and informative about the whole years cycle. Here is the link but I might try and reblog too. https://theresagreen.me/2019/12/06/sweet-chestnut/

There’s always an old chestnut. In middle of path.
Cork trees
Rocky stone walls typical of the Sierra Aracena
A new oak forest growing.

The walk along this track or sendero from Castano del Robledo finally ends up at La Pena, a rocky outcrop overlooking the Sierra village of Alajar.Here in the renaissance times Arias Montano had a sanctuary and place of learning.Today there is the church hermitage of ‘The Queen of the Angels’ and this is where the romeria in September ends too. All the local villages walk, ride horses, or are pulled in fancy carts by horses or tractors to honour the most important saint of the Sierra. It is a magical place with tremendous views and from there you can walk the path to Castano. There are not many circular walks in the Sierra as the public paths were the old camino reals, or royal paths from village to village for trade. Perhaps the King came that way once.

La Pena, Alajar, Sierra Aracena

I have voted in the British Election, with a heavy heart as I could not vote Green as my party stood down in my northern hill town constituency. There is a weariness of the spirit but there is so much at stake. Even though there was finally a climate leaders debate on TV the ideas of a Green New Deal have not been publicised much by the media or dare I say the Labour Party.

I love that all the political parties are announcing planting tree programmes but my mantra for the New Year will be

‘ We need forests not just trees so keep our forests and make more please.’
‘It takes lots of trees of different ages to make a forest.’

I am struggling without a good wifi connection and also if there are any hints about keeping the blog going without using too many gigabytes as I am running out again on my current plan. I think I need to reduce photo size. However I hope everyone will have a very happy festive time and I am hoping my next post will be more about the animals that have visited Navasola in the past year!

Will also try and link this with Restless Jo and her Monday Walks and encourage her to leave the sea and come to our mountains. We are only about 2 to 3 hours drive from Tavira, Portugal.
Jo’s Monday walk