Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Valle Moro

The abandoned village of Valle Moro

Valle Moro or “Valley of the Moors” is a small abandoned village in the Ponga Mountains, not so far from the hotel. A couple of weeks ago I did a very magical walk visiting this rather remote village and thought it would be interesting to write about it.

Houses in Valle Moro

The last permanent inhabitants of Valle Moro abandoned the village almost 30 years ago, although until recently, a couple of farmers still used some of the buildings in the village during the summer whilst caring for their animals on the surrounding pastures, woods and mountains. Legend has it that the origin of the village comes from a settlement of Moors who hid in this remote place when they were being pursued by King Pelayo in the 8th century. This doesn’t appear to be true though and the village wasn’t always that isolated. Over a hundred years ago it used to be on an important route from Oviedo to Covadonga, but as easier alternative roads were built and the traditional farming passes became less used so Valle Moro slipped into isolation.

The walled cemetery just above the village.

Inside the cemetery

Looking out of the cemetery door.

Surrounded by mountains woods and river gorges, the positioning of Valle Moro is very spectacular. There are various ways to get to the village and I approached the village from the slopes and pastures of the Maoño Mountain, passing by a coppiced beach forest and traditional pastures. Great care is needed when walking in the area of Valle Moro as it is extremely easy to get lost .The easiest way to reach Valle Moro is from Taranes along a cemented agricultural track although the bridge over the river at the end of the track is broken.

Descending from the Maoño Mountain towards the Valle Moro

There is an old stone road leading to the village from the broken bridge and just to the south of the village are the best and most productive pastures. The inhabitants of this village must have had a wealth of knowledge on how to survive in such a difficult terrain and how to live and work with nature in such a sustainable way.

But there are new ideas for Valle Moro and the town hall of Ponga is looking for private capital to develop an “ecotourism project” in this abandoned village. A new road has been marked out zigzagging up through the most productive pastures, making easier access but with no respect to what was important to the former inhabitants of this village. It’s difficult to know what’s best for abandoned villages like this, but I’ve got an awful feeling that if the project goes ahead Valle Moro is more likely to become a “theme park” rather than eco tourism.

Inside an abandoned house

Restoring and developing the traditions of these mountain villages is very important and the local inhabitants and particularly the farmers need to be able to make a respectful livelihood in the process. These are the people who maintain the village, the customs and manage the surroundings. But may be where that’s not been possible, it’s best to let the village die a natural death and let the land return to its former state even though this means a loss of rural patrimony, because the alternative may mean creating something totally false in such a natural habitat.

The peaceful setting of Valle Moro

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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.