Friday, 26 February 2010

Early Spring Flora on the Farm

Lesser Celendine
We have had a lot of snow this winter, but now warmer weather has come, the snow is melting and the days are getting longer. The mistletoe no longer has any berries, the birds have eaten them all. Yes it feels like we are saying goodbye to winter and spring is coming and with the beginning of spring there are more and more flowers to be seen on the farm.

The Lesser Celendine is one of the earliest spring flowers and gives a lovely splash of gold. It is more common in the damper shadier areas of the farm.

Dog's Tooth Erythronium

The Dog’s Tooth Erythronium grows in the shady and humid mountain areas of Southern Europe. It’s not so common on the farm, but there were a couple of examples flowering in the wooded areas last week. It’s much easier to find in the higher mountains where the marginal pastures can sometimes have a pinkish tinge due to the large numbers of this flowering plant.

Stinking Hellibore

Green Hellibore

There are two types of Hellibore found on the farm; the Stinking Hellibore and the Green Hellibore. The Stinking Hellibore has drooping cup-shaped flowers which are yellowish-green, often with a purple edge to the five petal-like sepals. The Green Hellibore is slightly smaller than the Stinking Hellibore and dies down in the autumn so in the spring all the visible growth is new. Hellibores like lime rich soil and are very common on the farm. All parts of the plant are poisonous and none of the animals eat them.

The Common Dog Violet

The Common Dog Violet is most often found on short, grazed calcareous turf and limestone scree. We have a lot of that type of habitat on the farm and at this time of year there are a lot of Common Dog Violets in flower to be seen. This plant is an early nectar source for butterflies and is the larval host plant for a range of Fritillary butterflies.


Another very common flower to be seen on the farm is Lungwort which flowers over quite a long period of time. The scientific name Pulmonaria is derived from Latin pulmo (the lung). In the times of sympathetic magic the spotted oval leaves of P. officinalis were thought to symbolize diseased, ulcerated lungs, and so were used to treat pulmonary infections. The common name in many languages also refers to lungs, as in English "lungwort" and German "Lungenkraut".


The primroses are also starting to flower on the farm and when the first primroses start to bloom its said they herald the arrival of spring and warmer days to come.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Walks From The Hotel

Scenery whilst walking straight from the hotel to the Pico Moro

Over the years we have developed a number of walks which can be done starting straight from the hotel. These walks are ideal for guests who come with out a car or for those who just don’t want to worry about using their car. Just recently I’ve been doing some of these walks and checking the self guided walking notes we produce. Many of these walks go on tracks which are used and maintained by farmers so occasionally there can be changes, hence the need to revise the notes now and again.

Although you can’t get into the very high mountains (such as the Picos) walking straight from the hotel there are some very lovely walks you can do which still give you that mountain feeling as the photos show.
Up on the Sueve mountains (three weeks ago)

The Sueve mountain range just behind the hotel with its summit the Pico Pienzu (1050 m.) provides for stunning walking. Depending on your fitness level you can walk to the cross straight from the hotel or get a taxi (5.00 Euros) to the Fito viewing point (to save some of the climb) and then walk up to the cross and/or back to the hotel. This really is a lovely walk and one I do various times over the winter months.

The viewing point "El Mirador del Fito"

Looking towards the coast in the Sueve mountains (about a month ago)

Pico Moro is a lower mountain (556m) which also has a cross on its summit, and can be incorporated in to a circular walk starting directly from the hotel. There are fantastic views along the walk over the Sella valley and to all the surrounding mountain ranges.

Goats on Pico Moro

The summit of Pico Moro (last week)

.There are two shorter circular walks from the hotel “The Green Path” and the walk to the Santa Marina chapel. The Green Path takes you along a lovely path to the village of Pendas where there are excellent views over the River Sella and to the Picos de Europa. You can then walk down a small road into Arriondas or back to the hotel. The route to the Santa Marina Chapel takes you to an isolated chapel and then follows a small stream through woodland back to the hotel.

The woodland path back to the hotel from the Santa marina Chapel

Approaching Arriondas from the Green Path

A very popular and different walk is one from the village of Sevares to the hotel. Normally people walk along the green path in to Arriondas where they catch the narrow gauge railway to Sevares and then walk back to the hotel. This route takes you along quiet tracks and minor roads through small villages and delightful rural scenery. It also gives you a good insight in to the traditional farming life of the area.

Walking from Sevares to the Hotel on a frosty morning (a couple of days ago)

The working water mill close to the hotel (on the Sevares walk)

It’s also possible to walk from the hotel to the coast (Playa La Vega) along the Fito foothills. This walk takes about four and half hours so most people who do this walk return either by taxi or walk on into the coastal town of Ribadesella (another two hours walking) where it is possible to get a train or bus back to the hotel.

The Fito hills walking to the coast from the Hotel

The sea in sight whilst walking to Playa La Vega

Playa La Vega

There are also plenty of other walks which can be done using public transport which we haven’t mentioned in this blog entrance. However public transport isn’t always that frequent so train and bus times need to be checked first. We are also in the process of developing a couple of new walks which can be done straight from the hotel (but more on those soon.)

More rewarding scenery walking from the hotel; the cross on the summit of Pico Moro

So I’ll just carry on enjoying myself walking from the hotel, revising the walking notes to have them ready for when our guests come.

More information on the walks that can be done around the hotel

Monday, 1 February 2010

Lots of Lambs

Newly born lamb with its mother

Nature often follows cycles that in modern life we aren’t tuned in to. For example the sheep’s readiness for conception is related to both the lunar cycle and change in day length. This combination of cycles can give very precise results, as seen this year when 75% of our flock has given birth to their lambs in the last four days, so we now have 24 new born lambs running around the farm.

Group of Xalda sheep tuned in with nature.

We are particularly pleased to see all the lambs this year as the father is a new ram that was rather young at the time he was introduced to the flock.

The new young ram

Two young Xalda lambs (the new ram is their father.)

Last May we exchanged the old ram which had been with the flock for the last 4 years for this younger ram.

The old ram (photo taken 1 year ago)

Two lambs born July last year whose father was the old ram.

Normally we would only keep the same ram with the flock for a maximum of 2 years so as to prevent problems of inbreeding. However due to a variety of reasons we had not been able to change the old ram the two previous seasons, so despite being and excellent ram we were ready for him to go.

The meadow beneath the hotel being grazed by mothers with their lambs.

With in our flock of Xalda sheep (the Asturian indigenous breed of sheep) we want a diverse range of types as possible. We want to avoid selecting exclusively for one particular characteristic with the inherent danger of narrowing down the gene pool. With in the xalada race of sheep there are both white and black sheep, as well as black sheep with patches of white on their forehead. There are also sheep with slightly longer wool and sheep with different nose lengths etc. Then there are variations in characteristics which are not necessarily visible but also important, such as resistance to scrappy or tolerance to other diseases. We’ve made a decision that in our flock of traditional xalda sheep we want as much variation as possible. Variation and diversity means resilience, and for us that’s important.

Our flock with all different types of Xalda sheep and lambs just behind the hotel.

More information on Xalda sheep


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.