Category Archives: Writing

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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Our Wild and Wonderful World

The human world seems to be distracting me from blogging. But I have been out and about at Navasola and also able to try photographs with a friend’s lumix camera. It was quite disturbing at first as all I wanted was an ordinary still photo and it was set on 4K! It’s been quite a learning curve and I have also been busy in my veg plot trying to create some beds which will retain moisture. I am trying out Hugel Kultur as I have lots of wood and have laid down branches at the base. More on that another time.

April and May have seen Navasola full of wild flowers so here is a glimpse of that glory as the heat from Saharan Africa has already reached us and the Spring flowers have given way to the more drought and heat resistant scabious and mulleins.

First the peonies. There were the most I’ve seen on the Finca this year. It was hard to photograph the overall effect  so there are some close ups with the new lumix camera.

Some of my favourites here in Spring are the tassel hyacinths, palmate anemone, celandine and the knapweed.

But there’s always the Spanish broom and Spanish lavender or French unless you are in Spain! Photo angle courtesy of Steve Schwartzman’s very informative blog for photography tips and botany.

I also had difficulty cultivating one of the vegetable beds. It was full of poppies and a first for me. I couldn’t then remove these beauties! Dig up the ground and they will come!

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We have had had plenty of birds around too but it is our water bath that is the draw not any food we put out! One day red rumped swallows checked out our new porch but didn’t return. Another day the sky was full of vultures. There must have been over 30 gathering and some flew so low over us you could hear the wing beats.

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Greetings to all those bloggers out there who follow me. I have been keeping an eye on your posts but needed to get back in gear. A new blogger and follower from a place I lived in 30 odd years ago sparked me to return to share. Landscaping Nature from Hyderabad in South India. I have got further with my novel about the wild world  and hope the blog can also help inspire us with nature and it’s diverse wonders.

Photos taken with Panasonic LUMIX FZ300

100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

A Butterfly and a Flower for a Birthday. And final celebrations on the birth of Jesus. Los Reyes Magos: The Night of the Visit of the Three Kings. 

Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta
Red Admiral on footpath to Galaroza, Vanessa Atlanta

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)

A popular garden flower; a gazania
A popular garden flower; a gazania

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.

Mary's mother waiting.
Mary’s mother waiting.

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.

Wishing all the creatures of this world a successful 2017! Grey seal conservation success along Donna Nook in Lincolnshire, UK.

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A baby seal born in November and quite well fed by its mother.
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A good kind of fence ensuring the mother seals are not disturbed and the humans don’t get bitten by Mum.
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The mature seals blend in well and are very laid back.
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This is Ropeneck and her young pup. Ropeneck was rescued from some plastic strangling her neck. She made a full recovery and comes to the same place by the fence every year.
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Extraordinary mammals. The mother seals give birth to their young here and remain for two months without food. They suckle their young and fatten them up for the trip back into the sea in January.

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.

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Sunset over the flat rich lands of Lincolnshire.

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.
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Wishing you all a happy and positive 2017 and hope we can continue to create success stories for the natural world.

Foraging for food. Menu del dia. Fried green tomatoes and gallipiernas

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.


So for our meal this evening I will perhaps have the following.

Menu del dia

Primera plato Fried green tomatoes and gallipierna

Segunda plato. Chestnut loaf and salad 

Postre.  Quince tart

All in a days foraging!