Category Archives: Sierra Aracena

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!

 

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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.

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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

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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?

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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?

 

 

 

Wings of a butterfly to wildness of wild boar: Close encounters of the natural kind.

 

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What is it that makes an encounter with a wild animal so fascinating and wonderful. It seems to me like a privilege that you are able to see one and at a safe distance in the case of the more threatening ones! We know there are boar on the Finca. We see evidence of their digging, in particular around the path up to the studio.It is a rocky and grassy path and full of wild flowers such as candytuft in the summer. I also had to go to some expense to have a boar proof fence around my new Huerta or allotment patch for vegetables. Fidel who helps us with the chestnut harvest once asked if he could hunt them. Mr T rang me up and got my most adamant reply NO! So they are quite happy here being destructive with the rocky walls, digging up the earth and making it rough to walk over, clearing pathways through the undergrowth and finding enough to eat. In Spain there is a boar hunting season and we had a man chase a boar though the Finca with his dogs once. I only saw the undergrowth move fast but later a dog with a collar and bell appeared and for a while we were wondering what to do with the dog. There are No hunting signs around the campsite and these are areas where people live and walk so again the most dangerous animal is a man with a gun.

Yesterday as I got out of the car to unlock the gate, about 2 on. Rainy afternoon. I pushed the gate open on one side and looked down towards the crest of a hill dipping down the path. For me it seemed like a great big dog appeared, blackish, about the size of a German shepherd dog. I thought at first it was maybe our friend Rainers’s dog but it looked rather grey around the muzzle .
It turned up onto the path and looked to cross. I realised then it must be a boar. It stopped on the path and turned its head round. For a few moments I was staring at the boar and the boar was staring at me. I must have been very still and the boar was motionless until it turned its head agin and wandered off across the path. Mr T was quite indignant that I hadn’t told him and he got out of the car and went down the path to see if the boar was still nearby. He had never seen one on the Finca but had several years ago taken some pictures of some young ones with one of those night automatic infra red cameras. I think it must have been a male and I have twice in the past almost run over one crossing a main road. This is a reminder to me that they are big but not usually about during the daytime. I might now have to take my walks around the Finca with my Spanish boar stick and thudding the ground with it but of course that might ensure I have no more close wild encounters. Usually these wild ones keep well clear of us if we are not to be prey!

The other close encounter was with a butterfly. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just about to disappear behind the hill to the west of our small boat shaped valley. The shadows of the chestnuts in the Navasola west fields were getting longer but I saw a lump of old broken off chestnut with the sun shining fully on it. It looked like a warm place to sit and soak up the last rays of the sun. Then something fluttered by, surely not, a butterfly in January? As I tried to follow it and perhaps identify it it landed on that piece of old wood. A good spot in the sun for a butterfly to warm its wings before a cold night. I couldn’t move but just stared down at it. It’s wings were large with bright red. It stayed there quite a while. I even thought I might have been able to go back for my camera! The butterfly and I just warming ourselves in the sun. When it finally flew off I went and sat on the wood where the butterfly had warmed its wings. I stayed there until the sun dipped down enjoying a time of quiet reflection on small things and inner delight. Ahh… A red admiral, that had been hibernating over winter and had woken with the warmth of a January sunny day here in Andalucia. My photo is of one taken at the Martin Mere Wetlands centre in Lancashire in the UK. Need to go back to my iPhone in my pocket for those sudden photo opportunities when least expecting a close encounter!