Amazing landscapes

PLANTS TELL US THE GREATEST LOVE STORIES

There are beautiful love stories related to the flora around us. One example of this is the story associated with Field bindweed (Calystegia sepium). Legend has it that if a couple in love drink an infusion of its leaves mixed with wine, this creates a strong liquor, considered as a love potion. If both lovers drink this concoction, this beverage preserves this love until the end of his days, providing an unshakable harmony and happiness.

Calystegia sepium

Calystegia sepium

Love stories between people have always been very present in our society. It has always existed and will always exist legends, tales and stories which are narrated potions and enchantments by using plants or other natural elements, that help us to find the true love or preserve the love that we already have. I regret to say that no, this is not this type of love that we will talk on this occasion. Because love is not only between people. Since the dawn of humanity there has always been a love, respect and care for our territory, and therefore to our nature. A special and unique relationship of unconditional love that man feels to our flora, although today seems to be undergoing a crisis, everything in life has a solution.

Let’s talk about this love story. Let’s talk about ethnobotany!

As we have discussed, since the dawn of humanity, people has used and preserved natural resources we have around us. Rocks provide us with raw materials for the construction of our houses and tools, but also wood provide us raw materiales for this activities. Water, the most precious asset we have, not only serves to quench our thirst, but is also very present in our life (for cooking and cleaning). It is always present in the livestock and agriculture too, and serves as a driving force, and is even very present in many ancient rituals. Nature provides us with services that are essential for the maintenance of life. But the most authentic and unique relationship is the great relationship that we have with plants, and this goes sometimes unnoticed.

The rural landscape in Europe has been formed by agricultural practices over the centuries and the symbiosis between farmers.

The rural landscape in Europe has been formed by agricultural practices over the centuries and the symbiosis between farmers.

The distribution of many plants and trees is not “totally innocent”. It is true that for its growth have to have optimal conditions of temperature, wind and humidity, but also the type of soil and rocks are essential for their development. For many plants, the most important for their survival and conservation is the figure of the “countryman” as a guarantor of the conservation of many species. Surely many of our grandfathers and grandmothers have prescribed us  “miraculous” natural remedies when we have colds, muscle aches or injuries. We have seen how certain plants are used as exquisite ingredients to elaborate delicious dishes worthy of a Michelin chef. All of us have seen as the countrymen maintain and care for the roads, meadows, trees and forests. This is not an innocent activity. This is an act of unconditional love. It is a covenant that trees and plants have been established with the human being from the beginning of time: “I willl take care you, but you also me. In exchange for my care, You will provide me food and medicine, for me and for my cattle. Everyone wins. “

Ethnobotany is the study of the relationship of plants with humans. Since ancient times have made lists or catalogs of plants (and trees) scoring their uses, as well as ethnographic and symbolic aspects. These knowledge has passed down from generation to generation. This type of ethnobotanical studies also value the role of plants in our own culture.

One of the greatest exponents in Asturias of this is the Yew (Taxus baccata), being the most emblematic specie of the Asturian culture. In many towns and villages a great yew acts as a mediator and guardian of life of its people. The place where these trees are located, is not a place chosen at random. They are primitive places of worship and wisdom that today, still completely unknown. Under its branches are celebrated meetings between its inhabitants where people make decisions and commitments that were agreed and accepted by the common good of the people. There are several reasons why the yew was admired. On the one hand, in addition to its appreciated wood for toolmaking, yew is a “poisonous” specie. Except in the fruit, all parts of the tree contain a poisonous substance highly toxic, deadly to humans. Legend has it that the astures always carried a yew leaves, which in the case of being caught by his enemies, they ate the leaves to commit suicide. Moreover, they also used it to impregnate its arrows or weapons to kill more quickly to their enemies. In times not so old, the high toxicity of yew was used as euthanasia, to avoid the suffering of the sick.

Yew in Teverga

Yew in Teverga

As we have also seen in the article, the relationship between plants and people is a beautiful relationship. A relationship of unconditional love. The most pure and sincere love that has existed throughout history and we must continue to care and working. The most powerful weapon we have is love, and if we work our relationship with nature, we will be able to be optimistic, and see a glimmer of hope on the horizon. Keeping in mind the notion that in order to love one must know first, we need more people who knows our history, our origins and our environment.

We promise to make a second part, and perhaps the third also, because this is a neccesary and fascinating issue.

THE ORIGIN OF THE PASTURES OF PICOS DE EUROPA NATIONAL PARK

Any landscape may appear different depending on how you look at it. Some people pay more attention to flowers; trees; rocks or fossils; glaciers; and other people prefer to observe the traces and messages that other humans, who have lived in a territory along of its history, have left to us. The landscape is a book with many chapters, and each chapter has its respective interpretation: a chapter is dedicated to botany, another talks about wildlife, geology also has great importance in this book… Although there are many chapters written in the landscape, with different items, all of them are related to humans. This is the most important and extensive chapter written on the landscape. A chapter that is still being written, that remains alive, and we hope that it will never end.

Cows near The Lakes of Covadonga

Cows near The Lakes of Covadonga

This is the first article devoted to heritage interpretation and the reading of the landscape, with emphasis on the relationship between humans and nature. In this case we will talk about the importance of geology for people; to the shepherds of the Picos de Europa. Because people and nature need each other. We want also to pay a tribute to the shepherds of the Picos de Europa. Maybe some people consider it slightly bizarre, but we will try to explain it.

Have you ever wondered why Picos de Europa National Park are so important and essential to livestock? The geology has a primary and basic role in it. This article, without getting into technical or scientific details, summarizes more than 500 million years of geological history of the National Park, a history that has coexisted with the shepherds of the Picos de Europa, in many cases without realizing it.

The rocks are also very important for birds, as this is the place chosen by many species of birds to nest

The rocks are also very important for birds, as this is the place chosen by many species of birds to nest

There are various processes that result the current shape of the montains of Picos de Europa, in particular, and the Cantabrian Mountains, in general. The geological history of Picos de Europa National Park is long and complex, and dates back more than 500 million years, when there were no elevations. At that time, the territory had a tropical climate, period in which the most ancient rocks of the Park were deposited in a coastal and marine environment. In the course of more than half million of years, as a result of tectonic plates moving, changes in latitude, the processes of deformation suffered in rocks by important orogenies, changes in sea level, among others; the sediments, that subsequently formed the rocks of the Park, were accumulated in very different environments: deep marine environments, shallow marine, deltaic systems and even river systems. Although, undoubtedly, the Carboniferous limestones are the main rocks in the park. These aspects indicate that the National Park had a marine influence for many years.

Picture taken from the top of Cotalba

Picture taken from the top of Cotalba

The geological process that has contributed to provide more “personality” to the National Park has been the Alpine Orogeny. This is the stage in which the rocks that were deposited over more than 500 million years, were rose up to form the current Cantabrian Mountains. This process began about 50 million years ago, and whose result has been the formation of the mountains, with their characteristics elevations and slopes, loved by mountaineers and explorers, and the pastures in which the cattle graze in these mountains, close to their sheperds. They are people who works under extremely harsh conditions.

The geological process that has contributed to provide more “personality” to the National Park has been the Alpine Orogeny. This is the stage in which the rocks that were deposited over more than 500 million years, were rose up to form the current Cantabrian Mountains.

Picture taken from the top of Jultayu

Picture taken from the top of Jultayu

Once the raising of the Cantabrian Mountains concluded, started the configuration and modeling of the current relief, influenced by different factors such as the type of rocks or the variations in the past and present climate, among others. As an example of the climatic influence are the rest of glaciers that we can observe in the National Park. This was a phenomena that began 100,000 years ago approximately. The ice have had a determinant part on the modeling of the landscap. This episode have left us forms like glacial lakes, glacial valleys and glacial cirques, among other forms that form, undoubtedly, a stunning landscape.

Glacier forms close to The Lakes of Covadonga

Glacier forms close to The Lakes of Covadonga

We must not forget the fluvial dynamics, as a result of the erosive power of water on the limestones. The National Park is located within the watersheds of the Sella river, Deva river and Cares river. In fact, the Sella and Deva rivers mark the western and eastern boundaries, respectively, of the National Park. In addition, Cares and Duje Rivers (the last one is a tributary of Cares river) separate the National Park in three parts, that are known by the names of the Eastern Massif or Andara, Central Massif or Urrielles and Western Massif or Cornión. This important fluvial dynamics have created breathtaking forms like gorges and canyons, like the gorge of Los Beyos or Cares Gorge.

Cares river

Cares river

If there is a really important process for cattle, it is the solution of the limestone, known as karstification, and they still continue until the present day. This process, produced by water action on limestone, has become National Park in one of the karst landscapes most important in the world. The karstification process has created forms such as surface cracks on the rocks, depressions or sinkholes, poljes (depressions of considerable size) or blind valleys. The limestones are composed of calcium carbonate, but also contain insoluble materials such as clays. When limestone is dissolve by water action, this process generate decalcification clays which are accumulated on the limestone and it causes the formation of soils. Although this process is also the cause of numerous livestock losses, because the cattle can fall inside the sinkholes that connect with the underground cavities. Asturias, in general, and the Picos de Europa, in particular, is like a big gruyère cheese, because under the soil there are hidden great treasures, which only the most intrepid speleologists have managed to discover, being considered this territory as the Himalayas of cavers. Some of its main sinkholes are considered between the deepest caves in the world.

If there is a really important process for cattle, it is the solution of the limestone, known as karstification, and they still continue until the present day.

Poljé de Comeya

Poljé de Comeya

The Picos de Europa National Park is considered as the Himalayas to speleologists.  Some of its main sinkholes are considered between the deepest caves in the world.

As we have seen, this complex territory is the landscape that our countrymen and countrywomen observe daily, their home, their workplace, a place that they adore, care, admire and respect, and a landscape in which sheperds have written. Geology has had a great importance in this story, in their story. Because the geology is necessary for these people, as well as to generate the pasture where the cattle are fed, the elevations to which they have to face to develop their noble work; the geology also provides them the necessary resources to build their cabins. We must protect this endangered work, the sheperds of Picos de Europa, but we must also protect, preserve and maintain our environment, our home, because the landscapes we see are a process that takes millions of years in nature, and we should not spoil because of our misunderstanding and misconceptions.

Bull and cows graze close to the Lakes of  Covadonga, where we can see the impressive slopes of the highest mountains, the glacier valleys and glacier cirques and the limestone solution process.

Bull and cows graze close to the Lakes of Covadonga, where we can see the impressive slopes of the highest mountains, the glacier valleys and glacier cirques and the limestone solution process.

We must protect this endangered work, the sheperds of Picos de Europa, but we must also protect, preserve and maintain our environment, our home, because the landscapes we see are a process that takes millions of years in nature, and we should not spoil because of our misunderstanding and misconceptions.

THE CHESTNUT TREES

I am now at home, but that means that I am in the place where I grew up. I am not alone, I am next to my grandmother, my grandfather, my father and my mother, and from whom I learned to love my land and never forget my origin and, above all, to feel proud of growing up in a rural area. I’m writing this blog post under an apple tree, while I admire the cloudy landscape of Sierra del Aramu and the Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve Ubiñas-La Mesa, and while I am watching the chestnut tree in full bloom of the Fonte’l Molín forest. This landscape carries me to a time when it all began, without my knowledge. Yes, this week I am going to talk about feelings, but the Heritage Interpretation is also based on interpreting our feelings about a particular interpretive resource.

Fuente'l molín

How many memories! Many experiences! Chestnut trees as witnesses of local history, and also my story. The first memory I have of the chestnut trees are the stories of my grandmother, about those chestnuts that had feeded to her family at times of greatest hardship. Each tree belonged to a family, but in times of great need the chestnut were distributed among all neighbours, and were stored in a traditional construction, corras, and helped them to endure the long winter, and feed the animals.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

Later these trees were also mine, and not as my property, but as part of my personal testimony, like when I went with my grandfather to see ours cows, sheep and horses. We spend all afternoon sitting under its shade, while we talked about the importance of maintaining the forest, to take care the landscape and how people were ashamed about their origins and the houses fell down, because they prefer spend their leisure time in cities, not in rural forgotten areas. How important were chestnut and hazelnut in the Asturian peasant economy. We cannot imagine it.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

The chestnut or Castanea sativa is a deciduous tree of the Fagaceae family. It blooms in late May and this month we can be see it in full bloom. It is believed that this trees came to Spain with the Romans, although there are studies that confirm that was here before the conquest, anyhow, this is a tree that takes many years between us, which has been a silent witness to history of the villages, and that has helped us and accompanied on the journey of our life.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

The chestnut not only provided food to people in rural areas, but also helped us to develop and evolve us. One of the nicest memories which I remember, and not long time ago that it happened, is going with my father to the forest to cut down branches of chestnut tree. He searches, selects and studies, in great detail and with love, the best branches to make their own tools. As I accompanied him, we talked at length about the importance of a good forest management, and about the sadness he feels that nobody really minds to pick up chestnuts, and the chestnut trees, possibly by thw sadness of no one values them and their daughters (chestnuts), are dying of grief. And this is literal, because chestnut trees are drying or sick from chancre or other diseases, and we do not realize that we are losing our cultural and natural heritage, but also our memory.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

During this month, flowering chestnut and the smell of grass, it brings me memories impossible to erase of my childhood, and I am proud to have lived.

Ecoturismo en Asturias

In September, we will dedicate several heritage interpretation activities in Asturias to this tree, my friend, my good fellow. I would like honour him, because he gave me the most beautiful moments of my life.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES OF ASTURIAS: Chapter 1

EL MOFRECHU

The Mofrechu is the highest point of Ribadesella (891 meters), and a perfect track to admire the landscape of Asturias. It is an excellent viewpoint of the coast and mountains of the Eastern part of Asturias, and also offers a panoramic view of the Picos de Europa.

The path starts near the town of Igena, which along a comfortable track to almost the top, we could admire the rich grazing, the landscape of Sueve and Cuera Range, the mountains of Cangas de Onis, the Tiatordos, and even in clear days, the mountais rangue of Aramo, the Biosphere Reserve and Natural Park of Ubiñas and Mesa and Pajares area.

Comfortable shoes, water, sun cream and a hat are the requirements for this excursion, just 2 hours (round trip). A privileged place in the eastern part of Asturias, whose views we magnify Ribadesella.

We recommend going with time, sandwich and camera, as we will want to be there for hours and hours delighting the impressive view of Asturias.

El Mofrechu

LES FOCES DEL PINO

This place is located in the city council of Aller, in the Montaña Central of Asturias. This Natural Monument is a small gorge carved by the action of water on limestone rock in the middle stretch of the Pine River. It is a narrow sickle with a vertical walls that in some points is only 6 meters wide, and whose bed running water breaking on numerous rapids and waterfalls

The Pine River is a mountain stream that it has only 6 km length. This watercourse born in Peña Redonda and it flows into San Isidro river in the town of El Pino, the place from the path to Foces del Pino starts. The route roams through a forest where we can see yew, oak, beech, chestnut, hazel and heather, among others, but also mountain pastures, which it is not uncommon in our journey to meet a farmer who covers daily the way to meet his cattle, and he will greet us kindly.

It is a perfect route for any period of the year. It looks spectacular in the winter, to observe the snowy peaks, or spring, where we could see the trees and fields full of flowers, but also during the summer, where the forest will allow us to escape the unbearable heat from other areas of Asturias. But, without any doubt, in autumn it is the most beautiful period, because the forest, with its characteristic colors, makes this a magical and wonderful area to get lost for a few hours.

Foces del Pino

LAGO DEL VALLE

The Lago del Valle, with a size of 24 hectares, is the largest lake of all lakes existing in Asturias, although its size is the result of the construction of the dam that was made to exploit its water at the hydroelectric power station of the Malva.

The lake is located in the Natural Park of Somiedo. To get to the lake you can take a path at the end of the village of Valle del Lago, near Pola de Somiedo. The lake is situated in a glacial cirque and the glacial valley, with a typical U-shaped glacial which offers us an idea of the dimensions that the glacier had.

This is also a special area to practice Birdwatching: grey partridge, wallcreeper, griffon vulture, Egyptian vulture, european short-toed eagle, golden eagle, snowfinch, yellow-billedchough, are some of the birds that we could see on our visit. We can also see traces of wolves and bears (hopefully even sighting) and chamois in the surrounding peaks.

Apart from its natural interest, this area retains (with great difficulty) a major rural culture focused on livestock. This can be seen by the extraordinary set of ancient cottages. Their roofs are covered with broom (a wild shrub that grows in the area). These cabins are used by the shepherds, called vaqueiros in Asturias, as lodgings, straw lofts or stables during the summer periods.

Our thanks and appreciation to the people who fought to maintain and preserve the landscape, biodiversity and culture of this forgotten and abused rural area.

 

BRAÑA BUXANA

At the foot of the mountain range of Aramo in area also known as “Aramo garden” is located the Braña Buxana. This is an old stone square cottage, with a grass roof. This cabin is also known as Villanueva cottage, since it was used by the residents of the city council of Santo Adriano in their pastoral work. In the area there are remains of other cabins as well as a possible field of dolmens.

The path to this place starts in the town of La Rebollada, in the city council of Quiros. The path an old medieval road that still preserves the original cobblestones, and through which we can see a typical farmer landscape. Flying over the surrounding peaks we can recognize numerous specimens of griffon vulture and even Egyptian.

A spectacular place, practically unknown and 100% recommended its visit.

Cabaña con el techo de hierba en la braña

TRABÁU

If there is any place in Asturias that claims to be the unexplored paradise is Degaña, specially the town of Trabáu or Tablado. This territory, that includes Sistierna, El Bao and El Corralín, belongs to the land of cunqueiros or tixileiros. The cunqueiros are artisan who were responsible of woodcarving, with which elaborated the wooden crockery: horns for wine, plates, cups, and other miscellaneous pieces, which then this will be sold. When autumn came they went to the south, Extremadura and Andalusia, where they sold their production, and they returned in spring with oil and other products. The inhabitants of these areas have their own language: the Tixileira or Tixileiro. El Rincón del Cunqueiru in Trabáu, still retains this office, and part of their job is to show it to any traveler who wants to get to know the culture.

This area is also an idyllic setting for observing the brown bear, astronomy activities (It is the area of Asturias that enjoys the best weather of Asturias), or interpretation of the landscape. Forests, valleys and glacial lakes (like the Trabáu’s lakes) form an breathtaking landscape. Surely, the unexplored paradise.

Cunqueiru. Degaña

Do you like these retreats of Asturias? We will continue expanding the information in upcoming updates with new areas of Asturias that are worth discovering, exploring and experimenting.

More information info@llascara.es

MONTAÑA CENTRAL: THE HEART OF ASTURIAS

The “Montaña Central” is located in the municipalities of Aller, Morcín, Riosa, Mieres, La Ribera and Lena. It is a small treasure which is located in the center-south of the province of Asturias. It is ideal for all kinds of travellers. Adventure tourism, ecotourism, family tourism, cultural tourism, couples, etc, with any activities suitable for any audience We have already told you everything in this post so you can discover the Montaña Central.

Reserva Biosfera Ubiñas-La Mesa

First of all, adventure tourism. There is no doubt that it is a great place to practice any mountain sport (hiking, climbing, Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, caving, cycling, climbing…). In this area there are the Natural Park and Biosphere Reserve of Las Ubiñas-La Mesa with peaks over 2,000 meters and vertical slopes There are two ski resorts: Valgrande-Pajares in Lena, and Fuentes de Invierno in Aller.

Currently, It is has been added another reference to this kind of tourism: the Cycle Loop of the Montaña Central, a route for MTB. It was, approved by the Federation of Mountaineering, Climbing and Hiking of Asturias, under the name of GR-208. In its 8 stages, you can practice mountain biking or hiking. The Montaña Central has a breathtaking landscape!

Peña Ubiña

Moreover, adventure tourism can be perfectly complemented with the observation of natural heritage. This area has many important resources, such as the ancient yew of Santibañez, the gorges of river Pino and Aller, spectacular geological interest points, observation of flora and fauna, great places to practice birding and astonishing native forests.

Foces del Pino

Aditionally, this territory has an important cultural heritage, too. Its only 1000 km2 may summarize the history of Asturias. Such as the archaeological site of the Via Carisa, or the Romanesque church of Santa Cristina de Lena, which UNESCO declared World Heritage Site in December of 1985. The Montaña Central has two medieval chapels on the top of a mountain of 1000 meters altitude in the heart of the breathtaking limestone mountain of Aramu. They were protagonists of a part of the Muslim invasion suffered in the Peninsula as it was the place where the Holy Ark and other relics from Jerusalem were safeguarded, including multiple cultural resources from all historical periods.

Picu Polio

The Montaña Central is also an area with a unique ethnography: granaries and bread baskets, or even mills, witnesses in which the grain of spelt dominated in the region. There is also a large intangible heritage formed by traditional asturian songs and dances as Xota Payares or Muñeira Carcarosa. This traditional story began to live with the mining history in the nineteenth century. Currently it is only a memento in the memory of its inhabitants or in the museums network of the area. In the Interpretation Centre of Granary will tell us all the details of the Asturian ethnography. In the mining town of Bustiello we will discover the exciting mining history of the Montaña Central, which began in 2500 BC with the copper mines of Sierra del Aramu. A journey for all audiences will pleasantly surprise us.

Hórreo Güeñu

Finally, we should talk about gastronomy, because there is always a culinary journey or excuse to eat fancy. There are two typical cheeses in this área: Afuega’l Pitu cheese and Urbiés cheese that is seriously endangered. In the área of Aller the most typical dessert is called panchón, made with spelt and it is delicious.

Turón

You already do not have any excuses. When do you come to visit this treasure of the Montaña Central?

Contact with me and I will make you a tailor travel!

info@llascara.es