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A Christmas walk in the mountains

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Offline Sue

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« on: December 25, 2007, 19:30 PM »
Christmas day started out clear with big fluffy clouds over the next range of mountains. So with a picnic all packed up we headed off to the highest point our local road could take us too (1300m above sea level) and from there began walking up a steep, rocky climb through junipers, gorse and woolly lavender.

For the first part we were accompanied by a dozen or so Ring ouzels (a black bird with a white crescent shaped bib) that arrive here for winter. They were chattering and flying just ahead, alighting in small oak trees or on boulders. Stone chats and Black redstarts tutted at us as we passed.

Once at the top we followed a fire break to enjoy the view down into the valley from whence we came. 20 or so Griffon vultures spiralled above and below. A small group of wild mountain goats grazed along a distant ridge. The famous Abies Pinsapar trees drape darkly across the steep white, northern slopes of the highest ridge, giving way to deciduous oaks cloaking the valley floor still holding on to their yellowing leaves.

A snow well, long ago abandoned, demonstrates that this mountain used to see more snow. The side walls are falling in and ferns have now established. Cobbled pathways and stone walls now in decay show how important the mountain top winter industry used to be.

There were two more mountain goats, one browsing the dwarfed oaks, the other lazing on a rock in the now intermittent sun, but no sighting of the  Red deer that have striped the bark from the occasional pine tree, even killing some.

A large cow showed us the way onto a path through the pine woods that would lead to the quiet road. The path cushioned with pine needles took us in a winding manner to a water trough where we again saw the dappled brown and white cow. A fig tree has encroached upon the trough making access difficult. plastic tubes are scattered and broken, twigs float in the muddy water. Chain-sawed trunks litter the path. Perhaps an area dug into the ground and lined with rocks may have been more beneficial and served a longer term. Although the original plan may have looked good on paper, it will not suffice without maintenance. The Fuente below at the road side long ago ran dry, now we know why.

Once onto the road we headed uphill back towards our start point. A female and this summer’s young mountain goat observed us with curiosity as we strolled along. The wind rattled through the wings of a vulture above us, its bill crammed with grasses for a lining nest. Forty more wheeled and turned in the grey sky.

Once back at the car Clive collected litter before we headed home to citrus meringue pie and red wine by the woodburner! :santa_smiley:
« Last Edit: December 25, 2007, 19:36 PM by Wildside »
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Offline lucy

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« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2007, 19:52 PM »
Hi Sue,
Lovely description of your Christmas Day walk – and some birds already thinking ahead to spring.  I saw a magpie couple today, busy shaping up an old nest, like your vulture.

Offline John C

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« Reply #2 on: December 26, 2007, 11:16 AM »
A terrific word-picture and some evocative photos too!  Thanks,

John

Offline murciamujer

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« Reply #3 on: December 26, 2007, 16:47 PM »
 :clapping: now thats why we live in Spain  :clapping: what a wonderful way to spend some time on Christmas day ! thanks for sharing  :clapping:

Offline Jill

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« Reply #4 on: December 26, 2007, 19:50 PM »
Hullo Sue

I wish there were somewhere here where we could take a walk like that... Walking on the beach gets a bit repetitive, and there is seldom much to see.

What is a "snow well"? And what do you mean when you say "the mountain top winter industry"?

Offline Clive

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« Reply #5 on: December 26, 2007, 21:52 PM »
Hi Jill (and all)

The name snow well or "pozo de nieves" refers to the winter snow which was an important commodity. Snow wells can still be seen on the exposed high areas but all are abandoned and in ruin now. The snow would be collected by workers, deposited in hand built, stone faced wells about 6 to 8 metres in diameter and 6 or 8 metres deep. The snow was compacted, creating ice to be removed later. Cut into in blocks and delivered to the coast on mule or donkey trains the "pozos de nieves" of Grazalema and the nearby Sierra de las Nieves provided the ice for the fish industry as far away as Malaga and Cadiz.

They wouldn't work now because there is hardly any snow in wintertime... Global warming....

But can you imagine climbing to the mountain peaks to collect snow? It must have been a hard way to make a living...

Clive
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Offline Jill

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« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2007, 22:16 PM »
Just beside the fishing port in Cartagena, just outside the city walls, there is a stone-built, dome-shaped hut. Somebody once told me that it was an ice-house. (And somebody else has told me that it wasn't...) Maybe it was used to store the ice brought down from the mountains?

Offline Clive

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« Reply #7 on: December 26, 2007, 23:07 PM »
Does the hut have a name?

If its something like "La Neveria" or "nivera" or anything like that then it is probably the place the ice got delivered to to be stored and sold from.....

But where were the pozos de nieves inland from Cartagena? Maybe they made the ice in the Sierra de Espuña?

I need to find some old people but I fear that around here there is no one alive who can tell me about working the snow wells....

Clive
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2007, 13:59 PM »
Greetings Sue,
Thanx for the Xmas Day outing account and pics. - lovely!

Clive, tried to find references to pozos de nieve (and variations on the theme) using the iberianatureforum search option - am sure that you or Nick or Simon had posted some pics and description here earlier this year - but drew a blank.

B. that as it m., here's an interesting Spanish Wikipedia article - no English version .

I remember when in the village, until relatively recently, they still sold huge - and heavy - yard metre-long blocks of ice to take away. Now it's sold by the bag at gasolineras. Do any of you lucky rural iberianatureforumers still have a local fábrica de hielo?

Very-worried-'cos-of-extremely-mild-Xmas-temps.-in-what-has-always-been-cold-part-of-the-country regs.,
Technopat
« Last Edit: December 27, 2007, 15:11 PM by Technopat »
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Dave

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« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2007, 17:03 PM »
hi Everyone
True story from the LOG regarding pozos de Nieve.
My maternal grandmother was in service at Malvern Hall in Solihull, nr. Birmingham, in the early part of the 20th Century. In the grounds they had an Ice house, which still exists today, although blocked off because of the danger of the building collapsing. Gran has been dead for some years, but often used to tell us stories of how the ice was cut into blocks, and used in a type of refrigerator, the top of which was used to accept the lumps of ice, so that the whole chamber was kept cool. The Ice house itself, used to provide ice all summer, and of course was topped up in winter from snow and ice blocks from the surface of the nearby lake.
regards
Dave

Offline murciamujer

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« Reply #10 on: December 27, 2007, 20:44 PM »
Does the hut have a name?

If its something like "La Neveria" or "nivera" or anything like that then it is probably the place the ice got delivered to to be stored and sold from.....

But where were the pozos de nieves inland from Cartagena? Maybe they made the ice in the Sierra de Espuña?

I need to find some old people but I fear that around here there is no one alive who can tell me about working the snow wells....

Clive

there are some good examples of these in the Espuña !

Offline Technopat

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« Reply #11 on: December 27, 2007, 22:41 PM »
Greetings Dave and All,
Great LOG story - had been toying with the idea of asking 'bout pre-fridge days back 'ome, but decided against it for fear of being accused of ir por las ramas (En. anyone?), for a change (Sp. anyone?).

Will try to remember to ask f.-in-law 'bout ice back in days of yore - his mother was a Whitebait Wizard, Mackerel Monarch or Sardine Sultan* down Málaga way and maybe if I show a bit more interest in his life (más allá de Real Madrid, that is) I can get into his good books ... :santa_undecided:

* references anybody?

Not-very-chilly-up/down-here-in-Madrid regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266

Offline Sue

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« Reply #12 on: December 28, 2007, 10:49 AM »
Hi All,

The only fábrica de hielo that I recall seeing is down on the coast, a very large affair and on last passing it was still standing, now being used to sell antiques.

A book on our local area of Grazalema mentions that the first snow well here came into use in 1635. It also says that ice was taken to Coto Doñana, Écija and Sevilla.

Thank you for the wiki link Technopat, it has some good info on the snow wells

Regards,
Sue
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Offline John C

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« Reply #13 on: December 28, 2007, 11:57 AM »
I think that the small museum/visitors' centre on the Coto Donana in Sanlucar de Barrameda was once an 'ice house' for the local fishing industry.   I'm less sure about this, but since I know I've seen a small exhibition on the industry it may well have been here,

John

Offline Clive

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« Reply #14 on: December 28, 2007, 14:19 PM »
Careful not to mix up the ages of these "ice houses"... The one that Sue mentions down on the coast was powered by electricity and they actually made the ice there to be sold and distributed...

The snow wells up in the mountains pre-date these modern fangled "Fabrica de hielos" by many years...

:)
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Offline John C

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« Reply #15 on: December 28, 2007, 14:38 PM »
Point taken regarding the distinction over different kinds of 'ice houses'.  It's just that I'm sure I've seen an exhibition which included photos of the old ice pit  industry.  If it wasn't at Sanlucar I wonder if it was at the visitor's centre for the Alcornocales (off the Benalup road near Alcala de los Gazules) - either way I'd highly recommend a visit to the latter,

John   

Offline Sue

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« Reply #16 on: December 28, 2007, 16:45 PM »
Making use of the old ice factory...

FABRICA DE HIELO VISITOR'S CENTRE
Sanlucar de Barrameda (Cadiz-Spain)

John perhaps there is an exhibition of the history of ice collection/storage and later fabrication ?
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Offline Clive

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« Reply #17 on: December 28, 2007, 17:11 PM »
I have started a new topic over at the climate board on the fascinating subject of Pozos de Nieves and the "little ice age"
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,1052.0.html
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Offline nick

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« Reply #18 on: December 28, 2007, 18:26 PM »
Excellent posting everybody and great entry/ photos by Sue and Clive
Nick
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Offline Technopat

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« Reply #19 on: December 29, 2007, 11:13 AM »
Greetings All,
Just a thought - and aimed at the Catalán-speakers out there - wouldn't the term cava de neu also be descriptive of a sorbet  :santa_rolleyes:
Regs.,
Technopat
Technopat's disclaimer: If this posting seems over the top and/or gets your goat (Sp. anyone?), please accept my apologies and don't take it personally - it's just my instinctive tendency to put my foot in it whenever/wherever possible. See also:
http://www.iberianatureforum.com/index.php/topic,266