Saturday, 26 May 2012

Enjoy The Farm

One of our horses on the farm wanting some fuss

 The 8 hectare organic farm which surrounds the hotel clings on the side of a small mountain with beautiful views.  We’ve always tried to run the farm as a commercial holding and although it doesn’t make much money it generates sufficient income to pay for its own maintenance.  We produce cider apples for juice and cider, keep sheep for breeding and meat, and produce fruit and vegetables for the hotel restaurant. 

New signs on the farm trail

But as well as being a “commercial enterprise” the farm is also there for guests to enjoy; to wander round and relax, learn about sustainable and traditional production techniques or just have contact with nature and sustainable food production. We have a farm trail which takes you round the farm and this season we have put up new signs and small information boards to help people enjoy the experience.

One of the hay meadows

Heart Flowered Serapias

There are about 1,5 Has of traditional hay meadows which at this time of year are stunning; a collage of color with so many different wild flowers (we’ve recorded over 350 species of flora on the farm.) With this diversity of flowers comes a huge variety of butterflies which are a joy to watch fluttering around in the sun.   

Marbled White butterfly

Our Xalda sheep

Then there are the black and white xalda sheep happily grazing under the apple trees and tending to their playful lambs. The higher meadows are rockier and reminiscent of a mountain farm, the lower meadows more sheltered with a small forest and stream. Whilst walking around you may also come across our two Asturcon ponies which help with the grazing and pasture maintenance

Observing the flowers from the path

Although we want guests to enjoy themselves as much as possible on the farm we also ask them to collaborate and help make it easier for us to manage the farm.  For example we cut small paths through our wild flower meadows for guests to walk along and we ask guests to keep to these paths. This is because we cut the meadows by hand and if the grass is trampled on it’s very much more difficult to cut. With our flock of xalda sheep we have a white and black sheep dog which is there to protect the sheep and their lambs from predators (mainly foxes.) If guests start to fuss the dog she will start to abandon the sheep to come to look for fuss so we ask guests to ignore the dog.

The chickens waiting for some left overs!

We do have other animals on the farm which guests can fuss; such as the chickens which follow you every where hoping to be fed some leftovers, and then there are the cats which certainly love having their tummies tickled. Of the two horses you can stroke one of them whilst the other is a little more cautious of people, but a care is needed as they are both still half wild!

Guests investigating the vegetable garden

Funnily enough the most visited place on the farm is the vegetable garden and I suppose this reflects the growing interest in home grown vegetables.  In the vegetable garden we practice a bed system with a 4 year rotation, we do as little digging as possible and mulch as much as possible. The results are there to be seen in the vegetable garden as well as to be tasted in the restaurant. Come and enjoy the farm

Information on composting

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Cuevas del Mar or Sea Caves

The beach at Cuevas del Mar
Cuevas del Mar or Sea Caves, what a name for a beach and with all its strange rock formations you can understand where the name has come from.  There is a range of caves, arches and broken cliffs around this beach and along the headland and these are the result of the waves continually bashing against the limestone  rock.

The cliff tops around Cuevas del Mar
This part of the Asturian coast line is sometimes referred to as the coast of the Picos de Europa because this is where the pure limestone that forms the geological unit of the Picos meets the sea.  In the high mountains the acid rain cuts through the limestone rock forming deep gorges and an underground network of pot holes. However at the coast its water in the form of waves which work from below beating up through the limestone rock forming all sorts of features. In some places the waves eventually break through to the rock surface making blow holes which roar like dragons as the waves swell under the cuttings in the rock. At high tide spectacular spurts of water can be seen shooting out from these blow holes.

Impressive blow hole on the head land near Cuevas del Mar
But the Sea Caves beach also has soft sands and although waves have beaten amazing features in the rocks the beach is fairly protected from the stronger currents of the Bay of Biscay and is generally safe for swimming.  In the summer months the beach is often frequented by families with children who play care free in the sand.

The sandy cove of  San Antonio close to Cuevas del Mar
There is a lovely short circular walk starting from the beach, it takes about one hour and goes along the cliff tops with stunning views along the coastline and towards the Picos The walk also passes two smaller sandy beaches the first can only be reached by boat but the second; San Antonio is easily accessible and this is another idyllic spot to stop rest and may be have a swim.  

Part of the circular walk around Cuevas del Mar
More information on the circular walk around Cuevas del Mar can be found on our walking blog

Sunday, 6 May 2012

The origins of the paths in the Picos de Europa

There is no doubt that the walking in the Picos de Europa and Asturias is lovely, with so many different paths and tracks to choose from but have you ever thought about the origin or history of these paths? The reason the inhabitants of this area built these paths can probably fall into four different categories; farming, hydroelectricity, mining and tourism. Farming and how it has adapted to make the most of this mountainous region has given rise to most of the paths and tracks.

 A farmer moving his cattle to the high summer pastures

A type of transhumance is practised in this area where the animals are kept in the lower valleys during the winter months and then when the snow melts from the mountains the animals would be moved up to the high pastures for the summer months. This movement of the cattle is what has given origin to so many of the paths and tracks in the area. Some of these high mountain pastures are in areas of difficult access where long winding tracks are needed so that the cattle can reach these pastures. Sometimes different types of “sedos” or passes” would be built to help the animals over come a difficult point in the track. Normally these tracks where the cattle passed are quite easy to walk on.

 Walking up to a high mountain pasture at Ozania

The farmers traditionally spent many months living with the animals in the high mountain settlements and often if the access for the animals was via a long winding path the farmers looked for quicker shorter ways to reach neighbouring settlements. This gave rise to some of the more dramatic “sedos” or passes where nerves of steel are needed to cross them as can be seen in the photos below.

 A "sedo" or built pass to help overcome a difficult part in the path (Culiembro)

Nerves of steel are needed whilst crossing some of these "sedos!"

Although farming has given rise to most of the paths in the Picos , the development of infrastructures along with their maintenance has also produced some spectacular paths and tracks. The path along the Carres gorge is the most famous and popular of all the routes in the Picos and this path was built to maintain a canal which brought water to the hydroelectric station in Poncebosfrom Cain. 

 The path along the Cares Gorge

But there are other hydroelectric stations in the Picos with canals and tracks which also give rise to spectacular routes such as the Jocica dam, the River Casaño or the Canal de Reñinuevo.  This last canal along with the path for its maintenance, all be it very spectacular, is extremely dangerous in parts and should not be attempted light-heartedly.

 The path down to the Jocica dam

A part of the path along the Canal de Reñinuevo

A part of the maintenance path for the Canal de Reñinuevo

The infrastructures associated with mining (which took place in the first half of the 20th century) gave rise to many tracks particularly in the Eastern massif of the Picos where there is a maize of tracks.

 A maize of mining tracks in the Eastern Massiff of the Picos

Finally there are the paths which have developed purely for tourists such as the one at the top of the cable car at Fuente De or the stone path between the two lakes of Covadonga or the paths which give access to the mountains refuges.

 Tourist path in winter at the top of the cable car in Fuente Dé

Path to the refuge at Jou de Cabrones

What ever the origin of the tracks and path in the Picos de Europa what is for certain is they give excellent possibilities for walkers though adequate care must always be taken as this can be a very abrupt and hostile terrain with a very changeable weather.

 A cow enjoying a marked path!


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.