Casa Rosales

Casa Rosales

Friday, 18 February 2011

Another side of Alcala

Never judge a place until you've explored it.

We were getting a bit 'underwhelmed' by the invariability of the landscape around Alcalá - probably after being wowed by the Alpujarras - and so today was a real eye-opener.
We had gone to view a property that was about 10kms outside Alcalá la Real town centre going roughly north-east to Frailes, then out another few kilometres to a little hamlet called Los Rosals. Frailes didn't seem at its best - not pretty as often described - but as we drove out to the property, the landscape and the scenery really started to change.

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For a start, there was snow on the ground. It has felt cold again this week here in town and we have had to resort to jumpers and the heating on once the sun disappears. Don't let anyone tell you that Spain is always hot! Parts of it can be very, very cold. Even in Andalucia. Specially in Alcalá la Real!

Another house not for us!

But I digress - snow was quite thick on the mountain tops and had also fallen recently on the ground around the house we went to see. (No... it wasn't what we were looking for!) But the countryside around it was glorious and wild.
A smattering of snow across the landscape

No olive groves here

Ruins of some old farm in the middle of this land
OK - it doesn't look much but we now know we need new tyres on the Volvo..

We drove on north on a road from Frailes over the top of an impressive mountain, where we saw lots of sheep and goats grazing and the odd white farmhouse dotted around. We want to come back soon with bocadillos (scrummy sandwiches made in crusty bread) and to go walking around - perhaps to find the tracks of jabali, (wild boar) but hopefully not to come face to face with one - I don't know if they are dangerous but it's as well to be careful. There are many in the hills around here.

It was a bit scary to discover that the tyres on the Volvo were definitely not up to driving on snow. Not at all. We didn't come close to having an accident, I'm glad to say, but we had to stay very securely on the clear tracks on the road - we tried getting out of the way of one car but as soon as we moved onto the snow, we just went nowhere!

Just as we were wondering how much higher the mountain went, we got to the top and started down the other side. Almost immediately, the snow disappeared and we had another view of the landscape - still minus the olive groves - and with lots of native trees around.

And we could see for miles

Eventually, we rounded another bend and met the olive groves again.
Olives are beautiful trees and their little leaves have an almost silver glittering effect. Their trunks grow gnarled and wide and the wood from an olive tree has to be the very best you can get.
Jaen produces 70% of all the olive oil in Spain and I love olives, olive oil and olive trees but I don't like what the olive growers have done to the land around here and the damage it has done to the wildlife - the intensity of the planting has driven much of the wildlife away, destroying natural habitats for many species and consuming lots and lots of water.
And I realised that I was missing the sound of different birds, evidence of small animals and seeing sheep and goats grazing on the land around. I also know that there is a slowly increasing awareness of the need for less intense production, an emphasis on organic farming and a shift in where the subsidies are being focused.
Jaen has lots of wonderful natural park and sierra to explore, most of it further east from where we are but I am so glad to have found a still wild and wonderful corner of our own that we can get to know and to watch it changing in the seasons that are to come.

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