As you read this we will have completed our programme for the season and I will have finished the process of updating our circulation list. Every season, there are people on the list who haven’t been able to join us for a walk so I need to double-check that they still wish to be included.
Recently, my husband and I went on a short, guided (Héctor from Caramucel) nature walk, alongside the River Segura as it passes through the village of Ojós. I mention this because it was such a lovely experience and we learned so much, that we decided to use it as the basis for a future WARM walk, so the following day, we returned to this completely different habitat from normal. Because of the forecasted high temperatures, we made an early start to allow more time for tranquil photography and I hope you enjoy the results. This is a very accessible route of only about 6km and may possibly feature in Volume 2 of the walking book if we ever get around to doing it. Off we ambled, happily pointing our cameras in completely opposite directions, following the route of some long-gone Moorish inhabitants of Spain.
I thought that I would share with you, some of the information that Héctor had shared with us the day before:
There are at least two types of Poplar Tree growing along this stretch and upriver: Alamo Blanco and Alamo Negro. The White Poplar, as well as having an almost white trunk, also has white on the underside of its leaves. From now on I shall always “… remember the Alamo …” In contrast to the Álamo, the Eucalyptus is clearly not a native tree and therefore environmentalists don’t like it. As well as being very prolific (and thirsty), the local wildlife clearly lacks the necessary centuries of evolutionary adaptation. However, there is a particularly fine old Eucalyptus that with a few of its offspring, has been saved from destruction; not only because of its statuesque beauty, but also because of a characteristic which makes it useful alongside the river. I’m referring to the shade which is cast by its enormous canopy. Apparently, along with some other fine giants, not only of Poplars, but also Elms (Olmos) and Tamarisk (Taray), their shade is intolerable to the invasive Canes. Canes have such long roots and grow so quickly, that they soon strangle the flow of the river whilst also extracting huge quantities of water. They are extremely difficult to eradicate and so, at last finding an environmentally friendly method of control, has been very welcome. Therefore, large native trees have been planted alongside the river to provide some very welcome shade for humans and cover for the raucously abundant birdlife.
That’s enough of the nature notes, but I would like to share one more historical observation. The route includes La Salta de la Novia – a place which has given rise to a local legend. Apparently, many centuries ago a heartbroken Moorish princess leapt to her death here after the demise of her beloved handsome Christian soldier. More prosaically, Héctor gave us a less romantic explanation: the Latin words Saltus Novus mean New Road!
Just one final, final anecdote before leaving the river with its mountains and giant trees; at a very narrow point in the track, a tongue-lolling dog kindly asked his master to stop the truck and give us a bag of the oranges that they’d picked together that morning. Such little random acts of generosity are another part of the irresistible charm of the people who live in this area. If you ever fancy exploring the area of Ojós, I recommend the walk very highly. I can’t promise gifts of fruit of course, but the village has a pretty historical heritage and is laced with very narrow alleyways that are lined with flowers and an interesting traditional Lavadero (communal laundry pool). The route itself includes a hanging bridge and old mill and Noria, and the orchards have citrus trees that were groaning with fruit and the perfume of the bee-bewitching Azahar. You will hear more about Ojós after the event.
Now that the increasingly hot weather has forced us to suspend activities for the summer, we have the chance to reflect on the season that has just passed and start to consider how we can make further improvements for the season ahead. We try to keep up our fitness levels, but it’s a bit of a challenge with so much delicious food and the lethargy that comes with the high temperatures. We get up at ‘silly o’clock’ when it is cooler, to pound the paths, preferably in the shade. It’s a great opportunity to relax and do some exploring for new routes such as the one near Ojós and sometimes we start so early that breakfast in a bar afterwards is just an added delight, especially if we’ve shared the recce with good friends. Whilst chatting it’s also a good chance to do some of that reflecting and planning.
I am trying to put together an easy route that would be suitable to walk at night under the light of the full moon – it’s an incredible feeling to be walking in the woods in the darkness – you should try it. Some of this month’s photos are from this ‘virgin route’. The early morning start means that you get amazing views looking down at the mists which are being gradually dispersed by the sun – incredibly atmospheric. On a recent return route where the warmth and sunlight were beginning to penetrate into a glade, it felt like we’d returned to childhood, disturbing clouds of butterflies sucking nectar from what was clearly their favourite breakfast. Our butterfly book identified them as Spanish Gatekeepers, but try as I might I still can’t identify the plant which didn’t smell very nice!
Dates for the summer diary for WARM don’t exist yet, but the AGM. It will be on Tuesday 16th July, to coincide with a yet to be finalised evening walk. Hopefully, it will entice members to attend a formal occasion that’s also designed to reflect on the past season and plan for an even more enjoyable one to come.
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Only those on the mailing list can access the closed WARM Facebook page. The majority of the outings are in NW Murcia (approximately 1½ hours’ drive from the coast).