Places in Castilla y León;

March 10th, 2010

The Ayoluengo petrol field

The Ayoluengo oil field (campo petrolífero de Ayoluengo) is a small petroleum deposit in Burgos. It was discovered in 1963, and for a time many believed the area would become the Spanish Texas, though yields have been small with 17 million barrels produced since its opening in 1963. Some 80 barrels are currently produced on a good day with some 80-100 million barrels left, of difficult access.

Photo from here

Not the most picturesque of sites perhaps, but when you drive past, you have to remind yourself you’re in Spain. A number of the old pumps (known locally as `caballitos´- little horses ) stand to one side, a  cemetery of dinosaurs.
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Rioseco Abbey

Rioseco Abbey (Monasterio cisterciense de Santa María de Rioseco) is a former Cistercian abbey in Rioseco, Burgos. The monastery was dispossessed in the 1820s, during the first Spanish Civil War. Most of the community’s goods were sold, but the monastery itself however found no buyer, and was left abandoned. In the 1850s the surviving buildings were stripped and reduced to ruins. There is now a campaign to save what is left of the the abbey and convert the site into a Romantic (with a capital R) botanical garden. Sounds a lovely idea to me. Continue reading

Almanzor Peak

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.

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The village of Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente

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.

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Villarcayo de Merindad de Castilla la Vieja

Villarcayo de Merindad de Castilla la Vieja has the longest placename of anywhere in Spain, as far as I can work out. It looks like a pleasent enough place to have lunch.

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The bear's paw in Navacepeda de Tormes

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.

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Lubián wolf trap

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.

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Arribes del Duero

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.

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Las Médulas

Panoramic view of Las Médulas

Las Médulas in the region of El Bierzo were once the site of the most important gold mine in the Roman Empire.  The spectacular landscape of Las Médulas resulted from the Ruina Montium, a Roman mining technique described by Pliny the Elder in 77 AD which consisted of undermining the mountain with large quantities of water supplied by at least seven long aqueducts tapping the rivers in the nearby mountains. Today the collapsed mining shafts form an eerie terrain of jagged peaks, gorges and ravines, composing one of the most beautiful post-industrial landscapes in the world. Continue reading

Calatanazor juniper forest

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

Franco yacht beached in Burgos

Franco’s yacht, El Azor (Literally, the Goshawk) was a symbol of his corrupt regime. Today it rusts away in quite corner of Burgos, as a way of attracting guests to the Azor Motel in the village of Cogollos (Burgos). The owner bought it in 1992 off the Spanish navy in a fit dubious nostalgia. Guests can visit the yacht on which, for 26 years, Franco would receive ministers and ambassadors. It was later used by the King of Spain, and somewhat polemically by Felipe Gonzalez for his holidays when he was president.

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