Monday, 30 March 2015

A Family Bussnes

The hotel has been running for many years as a small family business.
Here is a little about the personnal that make this special place the way it is.

Joann Burch

As you walk through the main door, Joe will probably be waiting for you, ready to greet any new guest, taking pride in making sure the place looks beautiful with the help of freshly cut flowers from her garden. If you need any ideas on where to go or just want to talk about what you would like to do, Joe listens carefully and will give you advise on how to make the most of your holiday. Her many years as a chef & restaurant manager are very useful assets for the kitchen team, where she helps and shares her experience on how to make the most of the seasonal products. Her favorite place and company is when she is gardening with her cats. Her motto: Relax & enjoy every moment.

Nigel Burch

Nigel has spent many years working in food production, specifically on growing vegetables. Nowadays he makes the most of his time so that he can keep fit and have opportunities to enjoy walking and continue exploring Asturias' huge potential for walkers. This has led him to cherish in depth knowledge of what the region has to offer walkers and how to run a small scale diverse farm. His general management work in the hotel is combined with advise for guests on walking opportunities that offer unique experiences of all the different landscapes Asturias has to offer.

Samantha Burch

Sam is one the Chefs at Hotel Posada del Valle's very special Kitchen. Her mission and joy is to be able to satisfy everyones food needs. She loves experimenting, however this doesn't stop her from being very organized. She enjoys baking and preparing vegetarian and vegan meals, and all she needs to do is close her eyes and she can see what vegetables are ready to pick in the garden. When she is not in the kitchen, you will probably find her gardening, felting or working on a new DIY skill. She also loves to escape and go for a walk, admiring the countryside, making the most of the mountains and coast.

Andrés Caso

Andrés brings to the kitchen his personal take on Asturian flavors, through his playful and creative knowledge of traditional cooking. He is a perfectionist that always takes pride in the presentation of food. Cooking is not his only skill, he loves mending many things, creating things and sometimes just for fun. He loves playing mind games, solving puzzles or his favorite hobby that he recommends to all the guests; simply relaxing and having a good time.

Mari Carmen Gutierrez

Mary Carmen is quite our own Mary Poppins, she does a bit of everything and is always ready to greet guests with a huge smile. Full of energy, she is up early before breakfast and her many years taking care of the hotel give her knowledge of all the little secrets of the place. She knows every single hidden corner, how everything works and is always willing to solve anything. Whenever it is the right moment she is off dancing or spending a great time with her family. She has lived many years in Collía and is very proud of it.

Patricia Gutierrez

Patricia is cheerful and always ready for action with a gentle presence, she is happy welcoming and accommodating guests, also helping in the kitchen and taking care of the rooms. She adapts well to the unforeseen, giving welcolme support. She loves working in a friendly environment and certainly contributes to it with a smile and a joke. Her passion is her son, Carlos and she shares her free time between her hobbies: music, literature, cross-stitching and having a coffee with friends. Patricia loves the area where she was born.."sometimes you don't have to go very far to discover new places, you can just wonder around the beautiful Hotel farm"

Lidia Fanjul

Lidia's down to earth attitude to learning makes her the ideal teacher to help people discover new talents learning Spanish or new art techniques. Born in Asturias, in the city of Aviles, she now lives in the countryside, where she can develop her passion for nature and traditional culture. You can meet her in one of our Language immersions or Art workshops. She loves helping others feel comfortable while exploring and doing new things. When not at work she enjoys painting, spending time with friends and travelling. Her holiday recipe is to find the right balance between exploring new places and taking the right time for yourself.

Sebastian Burch

If there is a course going on, or you go for a walk round the farm you will probably meet Seb in one of his many versatile roles. Passionate about ecology and self sufficiency, he works part time on the farm, helping his father out with the endless tasks there always are on the land. Also a bit of an IT geek he works on the website and on-line marketing, but he is most happy when he is organizing and facilitating non formal learning experiences. A passionate believer in communities power of change he enjoys new projects and playing with ideas and solutions that care for people and planet. When it comes to discovering new places his motto is: take it slow and be mindful of how the landscape makes you feel.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

The hotel through the season

The hotel in early February with snow on the Sueve Mountains behind the hotel
Asturias (and the whole of the North of Spain) is a region where the weather changes a lot. Not only does it change according to the seasons but it can also change in a short period of time. However the seasons and the weather are what helps give Asturias that magical scenery and special feeling at any time of the year.

The farm in March
So here are a few photos of the farm and the hotel throughout the year. 

The hotel in April 

Our wild flower meadows in May

Enjoying a drink outside the Hotel in July

Autumn at the hotel.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Visiting a Major Cider Producer

"Escanciando" or pouring cider from the vat for everyone to try
With the idea of finding new activities and experiences for our guests to enjoy whilst staying at the hotel, we’ve started visiting a lot of different places so as to be able to recommend what’s available and what each guest might enjoy best.

Cider made from 100% asturian apples
Asturias is famous for its cider; the region’s major drink. For people who want to see how it’s made traditionally we always recommend them to visit the Ruta del Sidra y Queso, a fabulous two hour tour talking about cheese and cider followed by an excellent lunch.

Walking round the instalations at Sidreria Cortina
The original wooden presses in the background have now all been replaced by hydraulic presses.
But it’s also possible to visit a larger scale producer of cider and taste the cider straight out of the vat. Last week we visited Sidrería Cortina in Villaviciosa, they are well organized and we had an interesting tour. After the tour it’s possible to have an excellent menu of the day in their restaurant next door.

Pouring cider from the vat
Explaining why asturian cider has to be drunk as soon as it is poured.
Visits to Sidreria Cortina are on a daily basis in July and August and twice a week the rest of the year. 

The original wooden Vats

Look out for our new information sheets at the hotel with all sorts of exciting activities and experiences waiting for our guests to enjoy

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Visit our vegetable garden and see how we try to work with nature

The hotel vegetable garden 
So what can you see or learn from our vegetable garden lost in the mountains of Asturias? It certainly provides the hotel with many lovely ingredients for the restaurant but is our production system for vegetables really of any relevance to those who live and grow your vegetables so far away?

So many different vegetables coming from the garden
In my earlier years I worked in different countries advising on how to grow vegetables on a large scale, but that was using “industrialised” techniques where you try and “control” everything and work against nature. In these systems you try and use a one recipe fits it all ; plant a mono-crop, use one seed variety, control the weeds with herbicide, fertilizer with inorganic fertilizer and apply pesticides as much as needed (which is normally a lot.)

No artificial fertlilzer used here! just manure and compost
Times have changed and now I am lucky enough to have a small mixed diverse farm where the vegetable garden is a very important part of the enterprise. Now I try and work with nature, looking at what’s around me, trying different things and adapting to what’s best suits our particular site. Small scale diverse farming / vegetable growing is very site specific, one recipe doesn’t fit all locations.

Different young seedlings protected from the cats.
So when you come and visit our vegetable garden as well as seeing lovely vegetables waiting to be eaten (hopefully) your see; crops, techniques and planting dates which are specific to our site but when you want to work with nature there are a lot of general principles and practices which are valid for most organic vegetable gardens.

Here are some of the principals which I think are important to nearly all sites;

Most important plant the crops and choose the varieties which are best suited to your site. Do try different crops and varieties and see which perform best for you.

The yellow plant on the right is a blueberry but our soil isnt acid enough for it so we now have stopped trying to grow bluberries

These are "caiguas" the seed came from Nepal but they grow very well in our garden and now form a part of our cropping system

This leafless plant is a gooseberry but it gets devasted by saw fly so we have stopped growing them

This is amaranthus sometimes known as chinese spinach, in the dry summer it grows like a weed on our vegetable garden so we often leave patches and harvest it as a spinach.. and it's delicious

Plant a diverse range of crops. Nature inherently dislikes mono-crops and inevitably tends towards diverse systems.

Not only do we plant different crops but we plant different varities to increase the diversity and resilience of our plot. Here are different types of lettuce.

Use organic mulches as much as possible. This is nature’s way of fertilizing the land; leaves fall on the top of the soil, animals defecate on the soil surface and then this organic matter is slowly incorporated in to the soil by an amazing array of living organisms.

We make as much compost as possible; excellent for mulching

Organic matter, the more the better!

A coarse mulch being used for the pumpkins
Plan and follow a crop rotation to prevent the build up of pests or the soil becoming “tired” of any one crop.

Avoiding standing on the soil particularly when it’s wet. The physical structure of the soil is really important for root growth and biological activity so don’t damage it by compressing it unnecessarily.

Good soil structure prodces good crops
Use cover crops and avoid leaving the soil bare. Bare soil doesn’t exist in nature and is prone to leaching

We use oats as a cover crop in the winter
Look and learn from your own crop experiences and learn to understand what plants are saying to you. This takes practise but for example look how plant's appearances change according to different circumstances eg. how dry they are, time of day, how close they planted, when growing with lots of manure etc.

Two courgettes of the same variety; one is a lighter green than the other, what is it trying to tell you?
Also have a good long look at your site and try and understand any minor differences there may be; different amounts of shade, soil types, orientation, frost pockets etc. And take this into consideration when thinking about the positioning or suitability of any crop on your site.

Part of our vegetable garden gets more shade than the rest, here we tend to plant summer fruiting raspberries which dont llike it too hot.

Working with nature.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Inntravel Discovery Day 2014

All ready with the stand prepared and ready for the people to enter
I got back from the UK yesterday where Sam, Andres, Joe and I had been to exhibit at the Inntravel Discovery day. Inntravel is the major travel agent with whom we work and they specialise in independent holidays, with a bias towards people who are interested in walking, good food and authentic accommodation.

At the end of the day once it was quieter
Every three years they organise a travel fair where all their suppliers (destinations and hotels) are invited to exhibit their products. This year they celebrated it at the Harrogate International Centre on Saturday the 6th.

Our own apple juice and Cabrales cheese for the people to sample
In total there were about 70 stands (including ourselves) and it was attended by over 1,400 people, not bad considering entrance is by invitation only. The hotels supply information about what they have to offer; the accommodation, destination, activities etc. and normally have some products for the people to sample. This year we took our own apple juice and some local blue Cabrales cheese and homemade apple jelly for people to try.

The gala dinner in the evening
All in all I think it was a very successful event, with lots of interest being shown by people about Asturias and what we are doing. In the evening there was a gala dinner with music by the excellent New York Brass Band (from York) and all in all we had an enjoyable, if not tiring, time.

The New York Brass Band

Thursday, 23 October 2014

The 3 Senses Gathering

Satish and Ignacio talk for the guests and the radio at the 3 Senses Gathering
Last week we celebrated a most amazing event at the hotel; the 3 Senses Gathering with Satish Kumar. This multi-lingual and intercultural gathering was organized by our son; Sebastian and his partner; Lidia and inspired by Satish Kumar’s life journey and his grand new book; “Soil, Soul and Society.”

Relaxing and talking around the hotel

Relaxing and talking around the hotel

There were various activities for the participants including walks through some of the beautiful Asturian Landscape, creating art, helping with the cooking and in the vegetable garden, as well as meditation and yoga and not to forget, enjoying lots of lovely food.

Eating and talking over the evening meal

Open circle under an ancient yew tree a short walk from the hotel

The major message from Satish is that we are members of a one earth society and caring for the earth and the soul is interrelated.

Ignacio Abella leading an inspiring walk in a beech forest

Ignacio Abella a local author whose works embrace many books on trees including “The Magic Life of trees” accompanied us some of the time and also led an inspiring walk in a local beech forest.

Playing "games" in the forest

At the train station ready to start the pilgrimage to La Ventuca

The culmination of the gathering was on the Saturday with a full day event for all the public at La Ventuca in Coya and included talks by Satish Kumar, Ignacio Abella and Gustavo Duch a writer on food sovereignty. There was also an eco espicha where everyone brought along some food and shared it at lunch time.

Satish talking at the gathering at La Ventuca

Pouring cider at the eco espicha

With over 170 people attending the event on Saturday it was a great success and everyone appeared to enjoy the gathering.

Enjoying the eco espicha 

The National radio programme El Bosque Habitado (The Inhabited Forest) was covering most of the events with different bilingual interviews and talks.

Time to enjoy the coast

We hope to be able to repeat the event, may be next year and bring together again so many wonderful people to share their love and care for the earth.

The participants of the 3 Senses Gathering outside the hotel
For more information on our son's company Gaia Y Sofia which specialises in non formal education click here.


Hotel Posada del Valle is a small hotel in Asturias Northern Spain surrounded by its own organic farm and where we are passionate about organic farming, food, and sustainable livelihoods. In this Blog those of us who live and work at Hotel Posada del Valle open a door to share with all of you who are interested in what we are doing.