Wild Spain;June 2nd, 2010
Route up Peña Maín here “From the summit of Peña Main there are spectacular views of the whole of the central massif. This is a lovely route taking you over the Peña Main range and through the farming pastures above Tielve. Care is needed as the paths are not well defined in the higher section of this walk.”
Las Hoces de Rio Piedra is a delighful verdant gorge running through the sparce uplaods of Daroca in south-eastern Zaragoza near the Castilla-La Mancha border. Griffon vultures soar above the canyon. Makes a nice trip from Gallocanta or Daroca. Continue reading
On Mt Gorbea in the Basque Country is a monument to a young shepherdess who was allegedly devoured by wolves in 1308. She became lost in the fog. The next day the only all her family could find were some strands of her hair. The only photo I could find is from this nice cycle blog blog.
The granite peak of Almanzor (2592 m) is the highest mountain in the Sistema Central, the range that cuts the great Meseta of Spain in two. It crowns an immense glacial cirque in the Sierra de Gredos, known as the Circo de Gredos (read about legend below). The mountain is also known as Pico de Almanzor and Moro Almanzor.
Almanzor takes its name from Al-Mansur (the victorious), the de facto Moorish ruler of Al-Andalus during the late 10th-early 11th centuries. His rule marked what was probably the peak of Islamic power in Spain. Legend has it that Al-Mansur passed by here after a terrible battle with the Christians. He was taken by the beauty of the mountains which at the time functioned as a frontier between Islamic Spain and the Christian lands, and so he decided to set up camp for the night. Under the stars, he was captivated by the stories of shepherds from the area. They told him than in the heart of these mountains, terrible noises could be heard that would echo along the gullies and ravines, and which would shake the very hearts of the people of these parts. The next day, the Moorish king bade the shepherds to lead him to the place they spoke of: a magnificent cirque in centre of the Gredos mountains. When the company reached the place, they were greeted by a deafening silence. Fearful of the Kings reaction, they began to shout his name, which the mountain duly returned amplified as an echo.
The great Spanish naturalist Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente was born in the village of Poza de la Sal. He described the village of his birth as a “human community” in “harmonious coexistence with the landscapes” which formed a “zoomorphic universe”. As a child he began to explore the natural area, watching and learning about the wildlife of area, which would later greatly influence his vision of the world. One day he saw a peregrine catch a duck here which led him to the world of falconry and then into natural history film making.
There are a number of blowholes known as bufones along the Asturian coast, the best of which is perhaps the Bufones de Arenillas near the village of Puertas de Vidiago. Closeby is the similarly spectacular Bufón de Santiuste. Both of these blowholes are capable with the right tide of throwing up noisy shoots of water as high as 40 metres. They were formed by karstic and wave action. Bracing stuff. Continue reading
A bear’s claw is nailed to a church in the village of Navacepeda de Tormes in the Sierra de Gredos. The old people say a man had been attacked by a bear and had defended himself with scythe. Bears became extinct in Gredos at some point in the 16th century.
This video poetically tells the story. Kindly sent to me by Claire of Gredosvivo, bird watching tours in central-western Spain.The video was researched and made by Enrique Sacristán. Also available in Spanish.
The Mallos de Riglos are remarkable, almost sheer rock formations in Huesca, forming part of the foothills of the Pyrenees. The rocks are conglomerates and were formed during the Miocene.
Unsurprisingly, these 300-high cliffs are a Mecca for climbers from around the world, and the little village of Riglós nestled improbably below the rocks does a very nice business in accommodating them. However, some of the most demanding routes require spending a free night in a tiny tent strapped to the bare rock face. I suffer from a degree of vertigo and the idea of waking up half way up the sheer face of Los Mallos is one of my all-time favourite nightmares, though I do get a frisson (and a stiff neck) watching those who dare to climb these looming beasts, each of which has its own name; El Puro, El Pisón, Castilla, Volaos, Cuchillo, Frenchín, Visera and Fire.
The wolf trap just outside Lubián is a remarkable piece of popular architecture designed to capture wolves. It was in operation until the mid-1960s. It is doubtful whether it was ever an efficient way of capturing them, and it must have involved a huge effort on the part of the local population to build and maintain it. Whataver the case, whenever a wolf was found to be killing local sheep, a goat or sheep would be tethered inside the trap. When, an unfortunate wolf jumped in. the high walls prevented it from jumping out and it would be trapped. The church bells in Lubián would rang. The animal would be caught, caged and paraded around the local villages, who would give presents to the Lubians in thanks, as they tormented the condemned animal.
The Arribes del Duero is a stunning gorge separating Spain and Portugal. The gorge cuts through granite rock and runs some eighty kilometres, of which fifty run alongside the Portuguese border, with cliffs rising to more than 200 metres in places. The cliffs support superb birdlife including griffon vultures, golden eagles and black storks are overs. Boat trips starting at Fronteira de Zamora can be arranged. There are also several hydroelectricity dams along the river. Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno described Arribes del Duero as “One of the most beautiful and impressive landscapes in Spain.”
Arribes del Duero is also a natural park, covering 106.105 ha. Portuguese natural park lies alongside Arribes del Duero. Taking the two parks together, Douro Internacional covers 191.255 ha making it one of the largest protected areas in Europe.
The Tejeda del Sueve in the Sierra de Sueve is probably the largest yew forest in Europe, and one of the oldest forests in the continent. There are some 8,000 yews, many of which are more than 1000 years old, covering some 80 hectars. El Mundo newspaper considered it one of the eight most important forests in Spain.
The Sabinar de Calatanazor is a remarkable forest of Spanish juniper (Juniperus thurifera) in Soria near the village of Calatanazor. Read The Sabinar de Calatanazor is a remarkable forest of Spanish juniper (sabina albar – Juniperus thurifera) in Soria near the village of Calatanazor. The forest is a fenced dehesa grazed by cows preventing undergrowth from developing. Some of these ancient junipers are 20 metres high, and the Sabinar de Calatanazor is, I believe, the largest Juniperus thurifera forest in the world, covering 22ha. More information here
The Spanish juniper is found in Spain, France, Morocco and Algeria, and is Continue reading