La Avellaneda is one of the depopulated villages in Geopark Villuercas-Ibores-Jara. It is located just by the side of the Ibor river, nine kilometres away from Castañar de Ibor, where today´s hiking route starts.
This route is part of The Jeronimos´path, the ancient trail that connected the monastery of Yuste with Guadalupe in the Middle Ages.
We started walking early in the morning from Castañar de Ibor because the aim was to get to La Avellaneda and return to Castañar de Ibor before the “cañas time”, as we call the time we spend at a bar –more often during weekends- drinking cold beers and eat “Spanish tapas” before having lunch.
If your legs are not brave enough to complete the whole route, another option is to drive down to the river, park the car and walk through the trail that go along the Ibor´s riverside.
Once we got to the riverbank, the murmuring sound of the water was what most grabbed my attention, along with the pleasure of walking among huge cork trees, ancient olive trees and enormous chestnut trees.
Ideal for those who need to recharge their batteries after a hectic week.
A bit of history.
La Avellaneda is partial refurbished. There are modest new houses next to the ruins of what were constructions for farmers and workers. The church has been completely restored.
The village exodus took place in the 18th century. It is believed the citizens abandoned La Avellaneda due to a plague of termites, but the truth is its people moved to Castañar de Ibor for other reasons, such as a better location closer to Guadalupe, the hub of Catholicism in Spain at that time.
It would be a deadly sin to be around the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark and not to visit Guadalupe. This holy village is the most important pilgrimage center of Spain, along with Santiago de Compostela in Galicia. Thousand of pilgrims get to its imposing Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe – especially on September and October- to venerate the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe.
My last visit to Guadalupe was on 8 September, day of Extremadura -the Spanish region where this village is located-. It is said that September 8th is “The Big Day” of this village due to the anual procession of the image of Santa María de Guadalupe throughout the basilica and the cloister of the Monastery of Guadalupe.
Apart from the Monastery, Guadalupe is an appealling touristic place where enjoying its picturesque streets, full of colourful plants, and its traditional food (based of pork products) with cheese and wine elaborated in the Geopark.
Finally, to complete the visit to Guadalupe, I recommend going up “La Villuerca”, the highest place of the Geopark (1.600 meters) or going for a hike to The ark of water, another geosite of wich I already wrote in this blog.
The Ark of Water is an hydraulic construction dated from the 14Th Century. It is still operated with its original pieces and works to lead water to the Monastery of Guadalupe (Extremadura, Spain).
Although this instalation is not opened to visitors yet, the council of Guadalupe has already prepared a draft report that includes a touristic route inside the Ark. However, it is worth getting there due to the amazing landscapes that surround it. In fact, this place is one of the “geosites” in the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark.
This is my report on The Ark of Water for Canal Extremadura TV, the TV station of the Spanish region of Extremadura (subtitled):
Drive along the EX 118 road until “Hermita del Humilladero” junction. Take the only rural road you come across. Drive carefully until getting to the next junction. Leave the car and keep on walking along a path for over ten minutes. The problem is that there are not any indication to locate the Ark of Water.
The explorer team: four boys and girls, from 3 to 7 years old, and 5 adults. Destiny: Guadalupejo River, nearby Alía. We had to take two 4×4 because the rural road was not suitable for my berlina. However, the path is perfect for hiking and biking. After 10 minutes driving we got to the rest area called “Molino del Guadalupejo” (Guadalupejo´s mill).
This rest area is part of the Natural path of Las Villuercas, 60 km from Logrosán to the regional border with Toledo province. That route is the reminiscence of an abandoned and never opened railway from Villanueva de la Serena (Badajoz) to Talavera de la Reina (Toledo).
After hanging out at the rest area and playing with the kids by the river, we took an old and nearly vanished path downstream that led us to a roman bridge. The bridge is partly destroyed due to its disuse; however, it is easy to cross carefully. Undoubtedly, I could catalogue this place as one of the ten must-see sites in the Villuercas-Ibores-Jara Geopark.
The roman bridge is one of the principal attractions of this place along with the old mills in ruins we came across during the route. All of them tell about of the ancient story of Alía
At last I had the opportunity of testing my brand new Kodak Pixpro AZ525 around the Villuercas-Ibores- Jara Geopark. As I am a newcomer in photography, this kind of camera “bridge” – halfway between compact and reflex- fits perfectly with my needs because enables me to practise easily with a wide range of functions (manual, automatic and Wi-Fi connection). The best of all is its price, significantly lower than the same category you can find of Canon and Nikon.
First stop, The Ibor River. I lost count the number of photos I took by focusing and defocusing. I really loved it. Focusing allow you to obtain powerful and meaningful photos, big deal better than pics with just good composition (Pic 1). Getting good results is easier with the 52x optical zoom of my camera. However, it was disappointing when I attempted the “silk effect”, which means getting the water to look misty and smooth. (Pic 2) It was impossible. A tripod is needed among others settings. I´ll keep on trying!
The following photos were taken with the automatic functions “Black and White” (pic3), the “Image color option” which emphasizes one color of the scene (Pic 4), the “Landscape mode” (pic 5) and the function “water reflections” (Pic 6)
Finally, drinking a refreshing beer at one of the bars in Castañar, in which the time seems to stand still – both for its pieces of furniture and the regulars – was the best way to finish our photography trip. Good drink, company and the Rolling Stones sounding in the radio was a good end before falling back into monotony of our day to day in the city.
Nature did a great job in the Spanish region where I live by leaving us ancestral rocks, high mountains, the deepest valleys and a wide range of minerals and fossils. The problem was that nobody had been brave enough to boost and make attractive the outstanding Villuercas-Ibores-Jara landscapes that we have always had before our eyes for thousands of years. Until now.
2011 marked a point of no return. It was when this vast area located in the province of Cáceres was declared “Geopark”. My dreams then came true because I had always been convinced that this zone needed some kind of environmental protection to have a brighter future. The Villuercas county had endured a harmful emigration by the late ´80s. Since then the increasing lack of jobs, due to many factors, has made a deep dent in the local economy. In the aftermath, my family (including myself) and all my friends had to move from Alía whose population plummeted from 5.000 inhabitants to barely 1.000 inhabitants in just one decade.
Nowadays the Villuercas Geopark is both a challenge and a chance. Tourism is predicted to become bread and butter for this area in the coming years overtaking the traditional farming sector. But at the same time, I do believe that those who will guarantee a better future for this often neglected zone in Spain are still at school. The Geopark is playing a central role at the schools of this area. I was fascinated when I visited the Cañamero local school “Fausto Maldonado” where the teachers familiarize the students with terms like “Trilobite“, “cloudina” and “cruziana“. Both students and teachers are crucial to enable this area to remain alive forever.
Without a doubt, having landscapes like “The gorge of the Ruecas river” at just a 10- minutes-walk from the school of Cañamero help the teachers succeed in their educational programs and, on the other hand, discourage the students from leaving their villages.
This place is well worth a visit, so I suggest the following route: