Category Archives: Sierra Aracena

Feliz Navidad, Felices Fiestas a todos. Seasons Greetings from Southern Spain

Greetings to all and as many of you know it has been a busy year but we are now in the Sierra Aracena and able to have a restful Christmastide. At present we can enjoy the Andalusian blue skies in the middle of the day and log fires for the evening chill. We managed a midday walk around the pueblo of Valdelarco. Here the Sierra villages have a tradition of crochet decoration for winter. In Valdelarco the trees in the square and the benches have been given a warm covering of colourful crochet.  A great idea for the cold iron benches.

It was our intention for our walk to be circular and we headed off from the upper part of the village. It was hard to park as all the parents and local school buses were attending a festive programme for the linked primary schools of our three local villages. Rural life seems well supported in Spain and there are the local school, village pharmacies and regular GP surgeries. As we climbed up there were some good views back over the village and through to the other hills of the Sierra Morena of which our Sierra is a part of.

We followed the map and turned right before the barranco/ stream with the pilgrimage church for the romeria on the other side. The romeria is the local village festival and usually takes place on the feast day of the village saint but usually in warmer weather! I showed the major romeria for most of the local villages in September when horses, carts and the bullocks set off for the church of the ‘Queen of the Angels.(La Reina de Los Angeles.)We walked quite a way and were hoping to complete a circular route. The path was pretty but finally came to an end with an impressive locked gate and lots of notices to confirm we would not be welcome to continue. Sin pasar! A lot of the well know public paths are kept open forming a network of ‘senderos’ but most of these are long distance and there are few circular routes. There is also a local group that tries to keep paths open and this had certainly looked a very clear path on the map.

Walking back was uphill! We planned to eat by the pilgrimage church in the full sun but ended up by a signed post and opposite the red sandy banks where the bee eaters nest in the spring. They have gone for a warm respite to somewhere in Africa. These birds also feature in my novel so I am very fond of them!

Greetings to all. We are all well and Trevor managed to overcome some of his difficulties with walking. We are plodding on with finishing the house hence view of my new shelves with Christmas cards and tools. I also managed to create a festive space with some solar lights.

We will have a pot luck veggie Christmas with friends. Chestnut and Apricot nut loaf and a trifle with sherry and madroño are my offerings. I am finally finished with the chestnuts and the blisters they give me. Why such a tasty and nutritious nut should prove so difficult to peel is beyond me! I managed to complete a vegan challenge in November and certainly felt good with the diet and overcame my desire for tea with milk. I now have light black tea with ginger and/ or lemon.

I am beginning to look into how the way we eat and farm does affect the natural world and is probably one of our biggest threats and challenges for the loss of biodiversity and climate change. In the news there was a report about the scale of recent deforestation amounting to the size of Spain. Spain is huge. The views I show of the Sierra should really be covered in trees. Reforestation could halt drastic rises in world temperatures.https://www.theguardian.com/environment/radical-conservation/2017/dec/22/failing-our-forests-in-two-years-weve-lost-enough-trees-to-cover-spain?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Thanks to everyone for all the love,support, cards, messages and comments this year. This is the time of year for the Baby Jesus story so I will sign off with the first smiles of my first grandchild. Babies seem to encourage us to look after them and think about doing what we can to provide a good life, inner and outer. Here’s to our desire and hope for peace, and for a future that’s good for all living things on this beautiful planet earth. Abrazos a todos. Hugs to everyone.

Festivals in the Sierra Aracena: The Romeria of La Reina de Los Angeles

It’s the 8th of September and the day of my favourite festival in the Sierra. Its full of horses, mules, donkeys and a wonderful mix of devotion and conviviality. Today is the day where each of the surrounding villages pay homage to the Patron Saint of the Sierra Aracena, La Reina de los Angeles whose hermitage is at the Pena de Arias Montano. This is a beauty spot on a rocky outcrop overlooking the village of Alajar. It is also full of history and the extraordinary story of Arias Montano, a highly learned man of the Renaissance times.

Although in 1970 this Romeria was given a very public and national status it is truly a very local event. At least nine of the surrounding villages go on a pilgrimage to the hermitage and this includes Seville. All travel on foot, horseback or the lucky ones in a carriage. The Virgin Mary of each local village church is taken by bullocks in beautifully adorned carts. These are paraded in front of the Queen of the Angels at the hermitage. She too is then taken out of her seclusion and shown the beauty of the views.

If you live in or close to one of the villages such as Fuenteheridos and Castano de Robledo this is also the time to meet up with neighbours and share good food and drink. After the religious devotions there is time for picnic and chats. It is a balancing act of cultural traditions, religious devotion and neighbourliness which also seems to honour the natural beauty of the area and rural lives, past and present.

For many it is time to get out the wonderful flamenco dresses, ride your horse, sing songs and enjoy a day out. For me I relish being here as it was the one festival I always had to miss as the school term had begun. I was always given a running commentary about the horses. Perhaps one day I’ll finally get back on a horse and ride up over those hills to the Pena. I might need a little assistance too!

 

Frosty days at Navasola. Dog days and more plumbing!

Take a photo of me not those frosty plants and hurry up and get on with the walk.
Take a photo of me not those frosty plants and hurry up and get on with the walk.

When there’s a dog about, an early morning walk is required. I have just spent a week looking after my friend Ruth’s adorable Tibetan terrier Lotti. I think I do miss having a dog but this is a gentle reminder of the responsibilities. It was one of those glorious sunny early mornings. There was so much frost on the ground too. So I set off with dog and camera. At times no one believes how cold it can be here at night in Southern Spain but we are high up at 740m and on the north side of the Sierra Aracena. I have lost some good plants to the frost; an hibiscus, kalanchoe and aloe vera. However, the native plants are the survivors and the viburnum is always half in bud and flower at this time of year.

bl erafrosty days end Feb march 2016 030

Hurry up it's cold sitting here!
Hurry up it’s cold sitting here!

We walked up to the Era where the grain used to be threshed. It’s also where I have taken photographs of the butterflies in May. It was very frosty. Lotti was eager to walk on but I was busy trying some close ups of frosty plants.bl frost on leaves frosty days end Feb march 2016 037

bl frosted bracken days end Feb march 2016 058

We moved on to reach the gate. The sun was beginning to get a bit higher and warmer.

early morning sun by the entrance to Navasola
early morning sun by the entrance to Navasola
The gorse keeps flowering through the wintry frosts.
The gorse keeps flowering through the wintry frosts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Project.

Trevor has been working on a method to heat the water when the weather finally warms up in Spring and lighting a fire will no longer be necessary. Hopefully then I will also be released from the endless trips to the wood pile and the relentless work with the many branches of wood, fallen or from pruned trees. Over the last week he worked with a friend and plumber on putting a radiator, painted black, on our roof. It needs quite complicated controls and a pump. The two worked together discussing the intricacies of this system and the financial markets. Most people we encounter in the Sierra have interesting histories and ideas! Hopefully the solar radiator will add some heat to the tank. It can reach up to 100 degrees so the system has to prevent boiling.bl solar thermal radiator frosty days end Feb march 2016 097bl plumbing frosty days end Feb march 2016 068bl trev and Richard frosty days end Feb march 2016 070

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The sun has been brilliant the last few days and warm during the day. This has been welcome after quite a few cloudy and cold February days. Now with clear skies the stars are also very visible. Saturn is in the east, Sirius bright and just below Orion.  Polaris and the Great Bear as always in the North! The flowers and birds will be the subject of the next post. Although still wintry there are signs of Spring. Thanks for reading and hope Spring is soon with you if you abide in the Northern hemisphere of this amazing planet.

Quote Challenge 1: No man is an Island

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

It has taken me over a week to get round to this quote challenge and it has challenged me. Any advice on quick ways to make links to other blogs would be helpful. I was thinking about how to have links to some of the key nature blogs I follow around the world and to those who have inspired me so much when I first started blogging. Jenny in New Zealand has nominated me and it is interesting to find out so much about nature and the lives of others around the world. I first fell in love with this quote and John Donne’s poem when I was at secondary school and we had an assembly on the United Nations. It resonates with me still and the whole poem is at the bottom of this post. It also seems to speak to me about the UK referendum on  being a part of the European Union. I would rather see joined up thinking on a planet that needs some drastic action to improve the environment for all species.

The weather here in Navasola is still wintry but can be quite warm when the sun comes out. There are a few flowers about but it is the tree shapes which are so fascinating. So I am featuring some photographs taken by my friend and artist Ruth Koenigsberger. I have put my own haiku underneath as a response. I have been quite inspired to write poetry again because of DVerse poets very original ideas of a poetry bar where we can all have a poem together.

 

 

Peep through my inner trunk, all hollowed out with age Adorned with velvet
Peep through my inner
trunk, all hollowed out with age
Adorned with velvet

Young pines tall and straight Old arms embrace with kali Hug the earth with wood

Young pines tall and straight.
Old arms embrace with Kali,
Hug the earth with wood.

 

 

For this quote challenge I am going to focus on nature blogs that I like to follow . There is no compulsion to accept the challenge if I have nominated  a blog. I hope though that others might be able to explore those they haven’t come across.  There are also so many good blogs out there that I love that it is difficult to choose.  I have not chosen the ones that first inspired me but will mention these now: Donna at gardenwalkgardentalkCindy Knoke and  Steve  Schwartzman.  He has very good photographic tips and botanical skills but also has another blog on Spanish/ English etymology. Having studied linguistics and now living in Spain that find was a double treasure.

The Quote Challenge

Thank you Jenny for nominating me and we seem to be on similar journeys finding out more about the natural world but on the opposite sides of this globe!

jennylitchfield.wordpress.com

I will try and run the challenge for three days. So for this first day challenge I nominate the three blogs below from three different parts of this planet. This is all just part of a fun challenge which may bring to our attention more interesting blogs. Nominees should feel no pressure to create their own quote challenge. I have nominated them because they all have wonderful ways of exploring this wonderful world.

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

 

Sarah                                    AWildflowermelody

Julie                                       Frogpondfarm

Morgan                                Thereremouse

 

John Donne

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Peep through my inner trunk, all hollowed out with age Adorned with velvet

Ruth Koenigsberger is currently exhibiting some of her art at the ARCO  event in Madrid. She is involved in the alternative way to show art: Room Art.  Some of her art is also on the November 2015 archive on the virtual gallery Artagora. Our friend and nature artist is also currently being shown on there. Soledad Fenandez Coll.

A poem for the birds at Navasola.

Another really interesting   Dverse poetry prompt I cannot ignore. It’s worth following the link to where Abhra tells us about a famous Bengali poet and quotes some beautiful lines about the kind of bird he might like to be reborn as.

These words came to me in the early hours as the birds began to sing. Although today I should be working outside in the sun and gathering wood I cannot resist having fun with this. It’s a tribute to all the birds with the hope that they may survive the cold, the long journeys, human interference, and be with us as truly wild ones.

 

If I was reborn I would like to be a bird in the Navasola valley. They seem quite happy here, with plenty of food to eat. But which one ?

 

To the Biodiversity of Birds

 

I would love to be

A bee eater, glorious gold blue green.

But maybe not with such decline

In numbers with a risky journey South

And far too few bees to eat.

I am not a risk taker.

 

Or could I be a darting swift

Flying fast round village spires

Screaming to the God inside.

I fear I cannot go so fast.

 

To go with the warblers and the swallows south

On African plains would be a dream.

Guided by the distant stars.

But migrant birds in current climes

Travel with joy but suffer loss.

I do not want so much grief.

 

An owl gliding through the night

Silent flight now that I’d like.

But I would miss the sun.

 

A stork is not I think the best

Bringing babes frogs to the high up nest.

I think from that I need a rest!

 

So perhaps a resident is what I should be

A Mrs brown blackbird, or robin dear.

With sludgey worms slugging down my throat.

Perhaps that’s not quite my cup of tea.

 

 

A tiny wren with cracking voice

Varied tits with varying tails.

Winter cold small body fails

I like a fire to keep me warm.

 

The goldfinch flies with such glitter

A song so pretty but here so often caught

Put in a cage , no place for wings to flutter.

I like to be free.

 

From gliding vultures high above

Eagles with their boots on, ravens, jays.

Living on corpses to the end of my days.

I cannot change my vegetarian ways.

 

The woodpecker too noisy with the wood

I prefer some silence and some song.

 

Ah, there’s a bird I surely could be

When it’s cold it goes by the sea

Hovering high notes sung with joy

Up and down in perfect pitch.

A singing voice I have not had.

So I will be the lark

And sing and sing and sing.

 

Thanks for reading and I apologise that I have no photos of the birds and I do envy some of the American bloggers photos of birds in the USA; Boeta in South Africa, Simon Bowler in the UK and all others. Here in this woodland the birds are so wild and elusive. They sense binoculars and dodge between the many leaves of the evergreen oak, cork and olive. Sometimes they preen on a tall bare leaved cherry or the stag head of an ancient chestnut.  There are blackcaps and redstarts about but many warblers haven’t arrived yet and neither has the bee eater. Some storks have become resident on church towers around here but others have returned from an African sojourn. I have seen some different buntings. Cirl and Rock bunting and Wheatear but all elude my attempts to photo them! Yet!

Los Reyes Magos in the Sierra Aracena. Feast of the Kings Processions.

It has been good to have a friend to stay and we have had a busy week. However, one of the main attractions was to see the processions for the Feast of the Kings in Higuera. This procession is said to be the second biggest in Spain. This fact came from a glossy book about all the cabalgata processions in the Sierra Aracena. Each village had their own procession and timing and the Higuera one was the last. Photographs are thanks to Madeleine with her Fuji camera.  By chance in the morning we stumbled across the preparation of the floats for the main town Aracena’s procession. It was interesting to see how much work and time was involved and the workshop was near the emporium Mercedes ( a real Aladdin’s cave for the home) .

blworkshop4blworkshop3bl workshopblworkshop windmill and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here we were very specifically told that the rain which was just beginning would stop at 6 in the evening. God must have been very willing and indeed the downpours came to an end just after 6.

We were able to see our local one  in Fuenteheridos, which was lovely and very community based with children on the floats. It started from the local school and ended at the church. We were showered with sweets and footballs. There seems to be a tradition for a float with a windmill. I wonder why?

blfuente windmill

bl fuente star

 

 

 

 

 

Onto Higuera, with some good parking advice from a friend in the village, we were able to dive into one of the local museums about the distilling of liquor. There was still time for a free offering of the local chestnut liquor. This warmed us up because now the night was very cold and starry. Orion seemed to be doing a break dance position over the small town of Higuera.

blhig star

blhig star 2blhigjesusblhigstillness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We now realised why this was the second biggest procession in Spain. Gone were the small tractors pulling the beautifully decorated floats and young people of Fuenteheridos. Gone were the bigger tractors and more stylised floats of Aracena. Here in Higuera were the juggernauts of engines with their long trailers. All of the areas big lorries were probably here tonight. And their trailers all dressed up very realistically with scenes from the bible story surrounding the birth of Christ and the the three wise men or kings as the Spanish tells us. Los Reyes Magos.  Here we were lucky to see the Guiding Star getting into position. There was a real baby for Jesus, Several brass bands. Fireworks at the start. There was such a stillness in the tableaux as many familiar scenes passed by and some unfamiliar. There was no hiding the horror of Herod and the slaughter of innocent new born babies.

And the cold! How did they all keep so still in the cold January night? My iphone photo of the Angel’s feet is my own symbolic gesture to the devotion and effort which goes into this night. And then the sweets! In the villages the local children are also given presents from the community later on towards the end of the procession.blhig slaughter

blhigsweets

 

 

 

 

 

All through the Sierra Aracena in each of each village or towns there is a  distinct tradition for celebrating the arrival of the Three Wise Kings. Here no camel was in sight!  The other floats showed scenes based on the Holy Land with goats, wells and sheep. Real ones and all quite still!  I am so pleased I have finally been in Spain for Christmas and this time. Have usually had to go back to work by the 5th and 6th of January!  I’d certainly recommend it and to wrap up warm. And if you want to be involved don’t offer to be an angel with bare feet!

blhig cold feetimage

 

 

 

Clear Skies, Bright Stars. Advent and Hope for Peace.

Here is a seasonal post inspired by  Dverse Poets and the stars.

We are now back at Navasola and although the stars and the sun do shine very brightly here I will miss being with my daughters this Christmas. It will be our first Christmas outside the UK and our first at Navasola. We were first greeted in Seville with grey and overcast skies; same as in London and other parts of the UK over the past month.Today the sun has come out bright,warm and strong and with the clearer skies the stars too are shining bright in the very dark skies we have here in the Sierra Aracena.  The viburnum tinus berries are metallic and bright. A Sardinian warbler, great tit and jays were gathering food by the house and now and again a butterfly flies by! The vultures also enjoyed the thermals when I was out on a walk with Lotti and Ruth. See post on Autumn for Ruth’s photography and links to her art work. She inspires me to draw!

We are looking forward to finding out more about how Christmas is celebrated here and in particular the Feast of the Kings on the 5th and 6th of January. Here there are processions showing this part of the Nativity story and children get presents.

It is the end of another blogging year and I have been inspired by so many of the links made to Navasola through nature blogs and many others now. I have managed to read some books by Opher Goodwin and in particular Anthropocene Apocalypse and Ebola in the Garden of Eden. Both very good reads and with current concerns about the future of our planet. Opher Goodwin

 

I am also glad to be linked to Dverse poets who have managed to spark some poetic muse in me. The poem below is inspired by poems by Victoria Slotto and Bjorn Rudberg  about the stars. I have also linked to another poet Malcolm Guite and bought his book with poetry for Advent. These have inspired me to write this poem about the stars I saw above Navasola in the summer months.

Stars over Navasola

Above the silhouette of trees appear a clarity of stars
Numinous and numerous I search for one.
The childhood star my father saw I saw.
The Pole star’s perfect North still guiding some.

 

The wizened faces of the chestnut trees with me stare,
Abandoned olive branches touch the sky I seek to name,
With virtual app- titude we see the lights of Vega and Altair,
Bright threesome pulse with Deneb and the flighty swan.

 

An owl sounds out from Navasola East.

The moon still hides behind the hill.

Through the dark of earth and sky, wander many a beast.

Summer sounds and warmth surround me still.

 

 

Now in December’s dark chill drawn days,
Advent’s hope casts doubts on the prophecies of stars.
What and where is that bright star, the magi say?
How much to know, how far to go, to go, how far?