Category Archives: Tourist Attractions

A Green and Pleasant Land

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I haven’t ranked green and pleasant lands, but I’m with Blake in thinking the description rather suits much of England. Green and pleasant is the payoff for rain, the dubious compensation for damp clothes, cold knees, and waylaid picnic and camping plans. Green and pleasant smells like wild garlic. And wild garlic is rural England schooldays.

That said, there are other green and pleasant lands like Uganda (smells like hot wet earth) and Costa Rica (ylang ylang) and summer time Siberia, and New Zealand, and this area here in the northwest corner of Cadiz, where the Atlantic winds run smack into the peaks of the sierras, make clouds, rain, and consequently, greenery. 

Some years, once all the litres per square metre reports have been totted up, the Sierra de Grazalema area wins the title of Spain’s rainiest place, beating the Spanish places I think of as perennially damp, on the flanks of the Pyrenees, the milk farms of Asturias, and throughout drizzly Galicia. And for around 340 days of the year this ‘fact’ seems extremely questionable. But the thing about this area is that all the rain comes at once, and it has to be a lot, because even now, after just one deluge in many dry months, somehow, everything is still green. No longer quite lush, but bearing up under the onslaught of 30 something degrees days.

Not for long, though. The fields have been ploughed, putting the wildflowers one foot under before they steal what remains of the damp in the soil from this year’s olives, or crisp up and spontaneously combust, and one day soon when I get to the crest of the hill on the way to the Our Lady of Rosario Cooperativa to buy a hose extension, I shall find myself staring into the faces of one million sunflowers – something I find most unsettling.



All The Fun of the Fair

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Horse fair that is. Jerez. Big day out for us country folk.


This Month’s Blossom

Daisies below the hen house. Eventually, I’m going to need to cut some down in order to create a space for growing lettuce, tomatoes and peppers. However, the 6ft daisies are a great cover for wildlife (including hares). There are 2 or 3 acres of daisies so plenty will be left to stand wild.
The mountains are covered in flowers and will be for the next two months, although the different species will take their turns to shine.

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Like Night and Day

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There are clouds on the horizon – fact, not metaphor. Elsewhere, January has always been an easy month to stay inside and work through. Here though, every other day this year the skies have been royal blue from horizon to horizon and temperatures hover in the low 20s during the day. The working month is now also the month for hiking along pine needle-muffled trails in the mountain forests above me and for lying with a book in the long, herby grass by the henhouse. A few days ago I pushed a kayak into the water and paddled slowly across a mirror-flat lake, only the bells of goats on the banks breaking the silence. Few people use the coast; there are dots suspended from sails above it, and dots in the dunes where you can lie hot hunkered watching the waves unfurling.

That’s day. Night and day are as different as chalk and cheese. Late afternoon the heating goes off; the sun stays up, out and bright but the temperature drops to 4 degrees. The nights then take it from there. Maybe no-one in Philadelphia or Irkutsk would sympathise but when high summer flips to midwinter and catches me hiking in shorts I feel it. 

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A Level Walking Trail

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The weather is about to change and the pressure is on to make the most of the sun while it lasts, hence I Go for a Walk. There are no end of trails hairpin bending up mountains. I can walk for hours in any direction from the farm and will probably have to once the rains start and the gullies in the track get more entrenched and the car’s sump and wheels get shredded again.

However, as well as the unmarked open rambles along rivers and lanes, and the bonafide marked trails through the natural park, there’s a 36km stretch of disused railway, possibly the only trail without a climb so steep it makes me want to bend over and be sick. I walked, and stopped to admire the views and shout in the echoing kilometre-long tunnel, admired views of farms that looked like mine, and ended a little bored halfway at an old station house, now a restaurant with yellow trim surrounded by crags and forest where I had a cold beer. When you do nothing but walk, Doing Walks isn’t so much of a thing.


October Wild Swimming


There is a reservoir that looks like a loch. It’s about 30 kilometres around and aside from two jetties and the dam, there is nothing to suggest it’s manmade. When I swim from the shore I can feel the tops of drowned trees with my feet – that’s a clue, and when the water level drops very low old walls emerge at the far end where there used to be a bakery and flour mill. This is an Indian summer or quince summer as it’s known here and I’m still swimming in the lake and still the only person swimming in the lake. There are times when I am floating on my back out in the middle when I wonder why is that? Is it because of the crocodile-headed fish that the villagers say hunts in the depths? I hope so because I’m fairly confident it does not exist, though just occasionally when something splashes behind me I do wonder.


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