I’m joining in with Jo’s Monday walk with a synopsis of a three-day trek in the Sierra de Guadarrama. Not so much dancing with wolves – though they are here – as walking with donkey.
This Spanish adventure was on my agenda a year ago, just before a back operation. Intended as a goal to healing and a certificate of recovery, it proved to be better than anticipated, although there were brief moments of a step too far.
I prepared for the trip by signing up for Spanish lessons – not only is it insulting to visit a country without bothering to learn anything of the language but also in the pueblos of Castile & Leon en route, very little English is understood. Besides I love the language and aim to be fluent before having to say my final adiós (I am trusting to longevity!) Just a month or so before, I also joined the local gym to do some leg strengthening exercises.
The travel company provided all the routes, detailed directions, hostelries and transfers and so all I needed for support were these three:
I’m not a natural-born traveller and the whirlwind of flying London to Madrid, train to Segovia and barely a glimpse of this fine city before being whisked by travel company car to Navafría is somewhat disorienting – but the contrast is well worth the loss of equilibrium. Gradually the calm and quiet tempo settle into the bones and swapping four-wheels for four furry legs is enchanting.
And so begins the journey of a thousand miles or rather 13-15 km per day unless you inadvertently stray, and approximately 5-6 hours, but only if you do not permit your donkey to dine on the wealth of verdage at each and every step.
The walks are indeed scintillating though necessarily impressionistic if one is to attend to every nuance of direction. I recall incessant bird song, rushing rivers, picturesque bridges, aromas of wildflowers and herb crushed underfoot, willow and oak, lone flocks with dogs barking at our approach, as vociferously as if we were a couple of wolves in sheeps clothing.
There are isolated churches with storks nesting in the towers, villages with every living soul seemingly engaged elsewhere, and cattle herds with menacing horns, free roaming or shielded behind stone walls. And all set in a tonal landscape of honey, lime and a brooding blue sierra.
Of course there are the ups and downs too – those that take your breath away with the view or just the sheer incline, descents into dry stream beds where only a donkey can tread daintily, and the plateaus of pastoral paths or dry, dusty roads. There is rain that drenches your directions just when you are lost so that you cannot turn the page for the next prompt, wind that drives you to take a turn off too soon and whips your map from view as you try to make sense of the landscape, and sun that beats down with just enough heat to make the grassy rests a real treat.
Every stop-over is a small town, each very different from the one before, with up-to-the-minute modernity mixed with history and hospitality. Navafría, Requijada, Pedraza, and Gallegos – the names now drop into memory as dots in the vast country that is Spain. Hasta pronto!
I do not advertise but must acknowledge the splendid organisation which made this holiday possible: Away from the Crowds
The name is as recent as 1079 when King William requisitioned this most ancient common land as a royal hunting ground. And today the New Forest is a Natural Park of open sandy heathland interspersed with boggy wetland, as well as deciduous and coniferous woodland. Still living here are a number of geriatric oak trees, 300 to 400 years old.
Before ‘forestation’, this area was managed by locals who utilised the wood, and fenced off areas for their animals. Such common grazing rights are still in place today, although commoners’ claims to the land were lost to royal acquisition.
Coppicing, grazing, and felling of decaying trees both then and now keeps the woodland light and airy enough for diverse flora and fauna to flourish.
With seductive forest pathways pulling in all directions and the gems of the forest floor distracting attention, it is not difficult to lose one’s way amongst the hundreds of acres. And of course what many visitors come in search of is one of Britain’s wildlife gems – New Forest ponies – native to the British Isles with an ancestry of 2000 years. There are several thousand of them here though locating them is not as obvious as their numbers suggest. Still, its worth the find.
1. ‘Forest’ was used to describe an area of land that had been ‘afforested’ (purchased under law) and designated as land to be used for royal privileges, ie hunting. The name, New Forest, is a direct translation from the Norman Nova Foresta. New Forest National Park
Am joining in with Michelle’s Nature Notes #309 – stop over @ramblingwoods to see wildlife from around the globe
what lover felt that landing a fish
locked for aeons
could vouchsafe the course of true love;
a creature gasping by the watery wayside
declaiming empty-mouthed without
fluidity of feeling
depths of emotion
or is it the signature of Jonah
harbinger of peril
three days and nights
engulfed in guts
to be vomited in disgust
by a sea-sick whale for the penitence of Nineveh
by the same piscine portent
likewise the time scale
came One who condensed death and restitution
love and painful passion
into an ascension for landlocked souls
at the sign of the fish
there is communion
©Laura Granby 2015
At the end of the 40 days, I was moved to write this poem in the spirit of Easter – wishing all a Happy holiday and the joys of Spring.