Battle in the Skies

Booted Eagle, Common Kestrel. photo: Pete George, IBC

Went back to Sedella this week for another stroll above the village. Fascinated to see a Booted Eagle being attacked, repeatedly a common kestrel. This went on for a good 5 minutes or more with both birds flying right across the sky. This is probably territorial defence – the kestrel doesn’t want a big competitor clearing the area of prey – which sounds very sensible, but was shocking to see – the tiny attacking hurtling in at a much larger bird.

Field of gold: Purple Vipers Bugloss to the fore, mainly umbrella milkwort, behind

Lovely flowers in abundance too, especially Spotted Rock-Rose and fields full of Umbrella Milkwort. There were also agave cactus putting up flower spikes at about 15 at this stage with more to go, beautiful big Broom, Mallow-leaved Bindweed, Creeping Jenny, Purple Viper’s Bugloss, Wild Artichokes and much more!

Agave cactus






Wild Artichoke







There were bugs and butterflies too, including dozens more Owly Sulphers – only seen these near Sedella. I caught a couple again: the singles don’t stay still for long enough! But nothing topped the aerial display at the end of the walk!





I must add a thanks for your company to Mychaela, Pauline, Keith and especially Sybil.


Route: The Cómpeta-Canillas Goat Path

The Goat Path; click image to see full screen

Difficulty: Easy. And pretty flat. The walk runs along the contour line; part of the path is sanded, part path, part road. No steep sections.

Good Walk for: An easy stroll between villages; wonderful flowers in spring. Unusually LEVEL: good for anyone who struggles with ups and downs. If you want to make it a round trip  you can stop for a coffee then go back again or vary your route by taking the Low Road. Lovely little walk all year round.

Distance: 3 Km (about 1hr)


The starting point is the square in Cómpeta. From here go up to the street overlooking the plaza (C/ San Antonio) and passing the arts and crafts shop head left, away from the square. You pass a pharmacy, the primary school and the health centre where the road splits, but keep going in the same direction, passing the Hotel Balcon and the little San Antón shrine. After this the road swings round a corner and uphill; here, just before a house with a turret, a yellow sandy path with a wooden rail leads off to the left. Take this.

This path runs more or less on the level. You will go almost immediately past a tiny yard where, bizarrely, a local builder keeps a couple of rather sad ostriches (the female looking especially the worse for wear). Keep going. You pass some picnic tables and an enormous green watertank and go on. The path is lovely and there are beautiful views down the valley down on the left, and of Canillas ahead; there are also lovely olive groves on the right. After about 15 minutes you come to the end of the yellow sand and the path constricts into a more typical narrow footpath. You keep following this and will glimpse a road below you; in a few minutes the path leads you down to it, coming out near the metal gates of a house-drive on the right (a signal for the path if you walk the route in reverse).

Turn right and continue. You are on a quiet road above but not far now from Canillas. After about 5 minutes there is a little path leading down on the left. This is now easier to spot – there is a GR242 sign by it. Follow this little cut carefully down and it leads you over a field or two before you come out onto a gravelly track. You begin to pass houses – this is the upper end of the second village – and then come to a tarmac road. Turn left and walk downhill.

You descend towards Santa Ana (you might like to take a moment to walk up to the church to look at the contrasting views to south and north). Take the road to the left, passing the church on your right and then take the first right downhill and keep going down until you reach a little ‘plazoleta’ with a choice of 3 exits. Turn left on the only level street. This brings you out into the town’s square – if the restaurant-bar is open you might stop for a drink! When ready, keep going past the townhall and onto a narrow street; it is kinked but stays on the level. When it comes out to from between buildings a few steps down brings you to a road. You are at a taxi stop, with a shop, supermercado Andalucia ahead on your left and, opposite, the road down to Árchez. You can get a taxi from here – call Silvia (652 63 55 00) or Mari (699933026) – if you want a lift back. On the other hand, you could go down towards Árchez to start the low road – or point your nose uphill and head back to Santa Ana to do the Goat Path in reverse. Enjoy!

Goats on the goat track, spring morning.
Canillas from the goat track, winter evening.



Route: Camino de Árchez

Camino de Árchez (click image for full screen)
Camino de Árchez (click image for full screen)

Difficulty: Easy, short, though lots of uphill

Good Walk for:  All year excl. full Summer, inc. cloudy/rainy days (coffee start, winery middle, lunch end!) Birding, wildflowers and villages. Stretching your legs on the up.

Distance: 3 Km

Options: You can skip the last path by turning right then left after Bodega Jarel to get into Cómpeta by road. You can combine it, after lunch with several walks back via Canillas de Albaida to Árchez (watch this space!)

Description: The walk starts from the parking by the river in Árchez. This is actually a good spot for birding on a quiet day, as the opposite bank is thick with brambles making dozens of birds feel secure enough to fly in and out – look out for flycatchers and yellow wagtails.

Walk along the road, downstream, passing Restaurante La Peña opposite the first bridge before you cut up on the left to reach a tiny square (where you might stop for a coffee or a hot chocolate if it is a dull day).

Leaving the plaza walk out to the main road ahead (pass the traffic lights and hill). At the next junction, where there is a magnificent Algarrobo or Carob Tree, go left and continue on the road for less than 5 minutes. You see a wooden signpost to Árchez on your left just past a thin, water-eroded track, which leads up towards a house on the bank above. Take this: it is steep and poor, but only for a few yards, then runs behind the house before heading uphill. After 5 minutes you come out onto new terraces.

Turn right here and follow the track skirting the edge of the terraces uphill, pacing yourself. The terraces are being planted with avocados, which dominate as their price is good while the olive price has crashed, but as the track winds on you will pass almond trees and vines, which have a much longer history here, as well as looking back down on Árchez and back up to Canillas de Albaida. When you come to a junction with another, main track (the Camino de Árchez proper), sometimes having to step over a chain here, turn left.

Now the track passes villas and farmhouses then the “paseros” or raisin beds of Bodega Jarel, which you find just before the main road. It is properly the Bodega Almijara producing the Vinos Jarel but the sign on the road combines these. it is worth a visit – if they are open the shop is a little treasure trove of local goods – honey, avocado soap, oddities – as well as wine. Yes, they allow you to sample pre-purchase… but don’t get drunk if you are walking back!

Coming out from the Bodega go ahead to the main road and turn left, walking for about 100 metres til just before a road bridge. At this point cross the road and find a little path that cuts into the bank. This brings you to some steep stone steps: be careful but go up here and you emerge next to a large “deposito” or open air water tank. This is sometimes boringly half full but often full and rife with waterplants – weed and reeds – and walking along the track beside it may lead to dozens of ‘plops’ as frogs leap into the water at your approach. I have seen a cattle egret here and don’t blame it! At the end of the deposito the path continues on, crossing to the right and soon comes to another set of concrete steps (wider and dryer) bringing you to another path. Turn right.

The new path brings you up a pretty cobbled channel to the edge of Cómpeta town: you come out just beyond the San Anton chapel. If you head straight on and, after passing the Hotel, come to a choice of left (on the level) or right (downhill) you go left past the “Consultario” (health centre) you will emerge after a couple of minutes in Cómpeta’s main square, with its church, banks, and numerous cafe bars: perfect for a bit of lunch. Enjoy!


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Flower fiesta on the High Road to Cómpeta

Purple Viper's Bugloss
Purple Viper’s Bugloss

Great walk today: high road from Canillas to Cómpeta, low road back. Perfect day, pleasant and bright with just enough cloud to keep off the dazzle and sunburn.

Convolvulus arvensis
Convolvulus arvensis

I went out with a friend, Jill, who knows her flowers and is almost as mad as me for walking and wildlife. Coming up through Canillas we headed towards the big mast above the town and cut onto a path that leads to a track heading right of the firebreak and east. This brought us above 600m into the rock and sand tracks and hills; dry land with lack of water and hot summers the key elements the plants are adapting to. Now is the time for most to flower, before the summer heat.

The height gives you great views over the valley, from Canillas to the coast. I am forever taking views of long views and frustrated by the camera’s tendency to flatten out a landscape I see of multiple ridges and great depth. You need to be an artist to capture it.

Valley view

As we walked Jill told me the names of dozens of flowers (all of which I promptly forgot). She is better on the Latin and on some of the Spanish names; I am better on English common names but these are so variable that is almost a liability. But we agreed that the variety there to be seen is mind-boggling.

We came into the fire-zone. The hills above Cómpeta are still recovering from the fire that raged up a valley between Canillas and Cómpeta and swept across the tops in June 2014. It was terrible to see and I am still shocked both by the damage and how slowly the flora, in particular, has recovered. It still looks terribly barren.

But, as Jill pointed out, the track edge was absurdly rich with wildflowers, perhaps as a result of the extra nutrients from the ash, while parts of the stony dry gullies looked like a gardener’s rockery dreams come true.

In among all this foliage I did see some active wildlife: goldfinches, serins, butterflies. I did not manage to get many shots though – even the bugs I couldn’t get good focus on today…

Pepe riding Cordero
Pepe riding Cordero

Just as we got to Cómpeta we saw our first company of the day; Pepe riding Cordero (which means lamb!) to give this beautiful horse some exercise on the high road and, he planned, round the back towards Gávilan.

The path comes down beside the football ground which is at the top of the town and the connecting path, though only a few years long is poor – steep, narrow and badly eroded. Given that the town is encouraging walkers and walking and this is the main connection between town and hills this is something they should really take a look at.

How close the fire came
How close the fire came

We made it down, however, stopped for a coffee in El Recreo (one of many bars) and then set out to walk back. The low road!

Past San Anton and down the stony gully with high banks, overflowing with … more flowers!

The path opens up to run alongside beautiful terraces with glorious verges, passing behind one or two houses before heading down to the road. One of the houses had a rather overgrown flowering tree and neither of us knew it but it buzzed with wildlife, bees and butterflies intoxicated by the smell.

At the road we emerged just beside a bridge over a dry valley and Jill said, “I think of this as Nightingale Valley. Listen!” And sure enough, a nightingale was singing from deep in the cover given by the overgrown poplar copse beyond the bridge. “That’s where we go next,” I said.

The path down is steep but quite visible in winter – now it is about as over grown as it gets with tides of periwinkles, and prickly with brambles, but once you have got to the valley bottom you are through.  This is a wonderful spot for sitting and birding – as well as the nightingale there were blackbirds and dozens of tiny movements within the overgrowth.


From here we walked along terrace ages through farmland, with avocados dominating and wonderful views of the lower valley. We saw a couple of lads clearing the ground with hoes – this is crazily hard work, which might be why they invited us to join them! – and past the foundations of a big new water tank, probably to supply the latest plantings (avocados are very thirsty trees). And still more flowers – the variety is absurd.

The path, after crossing one track then another – you actually have a choice of about five different routes – finally brought us back into Canillas de Albaida. The whole thing took us about 5 hours including a half hour coffee break. To be honest though it is only about a 3 hours walk … if you leave your camera at home and don’t waste all that time looking at flowers!!! Thanks, Jill, for joining me on this one.

On the high road
On the high road

To see another story on the low road walk go to Cómpeta-Canillas Loop





After getting Soggy in Sayalonga a sunny walk across two towns’ bridges


I was out again with the Cheshire Amateur Ramblers (pictured on another bridge, above) but, in spite of Jaz emphasizing the “amateur” they walked like professionals, strolling up hill and down at a very good pace and mucking up my timings, which are based on less sturdy folk.


Well kept terrace
View from Sedella
Well-kept terrace

We went from Sedella, walking through the town and out past terraces and open views (right), and rough banks and a goat farm (left). The stone-built goat shed, which has slots in the foot of the wall, is above the track. Below the track is its owner’s terrace, which means that in winter, when the herd is home, the slurry empties onto the field. Auto-manure! Happily for us the goats were off grazing somewhere. We walked on with clean boots.

Close to the river the landscape is dramatic, rising steeply on the right, with the rock showing streaked diagonal lines. “Imagine the forces involved,” a geologist once commented, her eyes agleam, “to push these rocks up to these angles!” I think I only replied with “Watch your feet!” (the path is steep), but she was right, it’s incredible.

Sedella's Roman bridge
Sedella’s Roman bridge

The bridge itself is absurdly picturesque and we went so far as to pose upon (most unusually I’d put my camera away) before heading on up. The path is a difficult to find because there are dozens: this route has been used by walkers, goats and hunters till there is no “right” path. It is steep, but not brutal and every glance back reveals a new view of the bridge or the town. Up we went.

Half way is at the abandoned terraces of the long-ruined Cortijo Herreriza and can be a good spot for a snack. You can head up to La Maroma from here. Instead, we skipped over to a single big walnut tree growing beyond the building, (starkly leafless but in bud); from near it another thin path winds up the hill. This route is less obvious but also less confused, although hunters use it – we saw plenty of cartridge cases. It winds up and across a gully thick with oleander, then up to the top of a ridge near a big bush of broom.

Millie in the lead
Millie in the lead

Once again very impressed with the pace, on a hill where many need to take the time and have plenty of breathers. Millie, who had been flagging in Monday’s rain, must have had a second cup of coffee that morning:  she was ahead of them all and right on my tail. We got to the top in double-quick and looked around to enjoy the view. The views back to Sedella a really lovely. Looking on you see the Fogarate ridge. In the valley you could see Salares. I love to be able to see all around.


We went down, walking along an acequia (water channel). I don’t disapprove of farmer’s use of pipes, which reduce leakage, maintenance costs and water loss, and the channel is only concrete so not attractive, but I hope they leave some channels open: it’s a pleasure to walk beside water. At the end of the acequia, cutting up to a track above that leads down to the track to Salares I was shocked by how early we were. I told the Ramblers about what they could see, about Salares, about the big goat shed (another one) that we were walking down towards. Alex looked at me cynically and commented, “That sounds like someone filling time…”

But Salares isn’t a bad place to fill in time. It is attractive to wander in, from the park-like retention wall with benches and mini gardens set into it, to the little tiles around the town that mark the stations of the cross, to the church with its rare Mudejar style bell tower. This last, however, to my surprise, was under restoration. It’s a good thing; it seemed to me it was leaning. Since I understand this tower and the one in Árchez are unique in Europe I’d wondered whether Archeros were coming at the night to chip away (what a scurrilous thought!).

We had a coffee at Los Arcos then a very good dinner at bar El Theo, served by the ebullient bar owner, who is rotund, and his quiet wife, who is very slim. Jack Sprat… Theo has made in sugar and chocolate superb scale models of both the church with its tower and the Salares bridge, which he shows off with pride.

Salares' Arabic bridge
Salares’ Arabic bridge

The lunch was so good I lost two walkers, who opted to get a taxi back (and have a post-prandial nap). The rest of us rolled down to another picturesque bridge, this one, apparently Arabic, sitting across a deep gully.

Crossing the bridge the walk takes you through a holm oak wood. This is a nice change in a landscape dominated by pines: I love to see the lichen that grows on the trunks. It’s also the only place in the region I see buttercups (not Bermuda Buttercups – they are everywhere!). The path is attractive and easy to follow though exposed to a drop on the left; it eventually comes up to another ruined farm. A colony of horseshoe bats has regularly been seen here, but the building is shattered. We looked in with binoculars from the outside. It’s less disruptive to the bats if there any and a lot safer: I do not believe the building is safe to enter.


Lenticular cloud
Lenticular cloud

We went onto the Fogarate ridge to wind down into the Cómpeta valley. There were views of the villages from the ridge; looking back we saw lenticular clouds over the hillslopes, the lentil, or flying-saucer shaped clouds that usually mean we will get windy weather. Then we walked down through lovely pine woods (where the puddles on the track are used as wallows by wild boar); we went across vineyards to olive groves and then through farmed land, down to a tributary that joins the Rio Cájula. Of course, having gone down we had to come up again (law of the Axarquia). But it was only a gentle pull up to Las Cuevas and across, to reach Finca Cerrillo where the Ramblers were staying.

A good walk in good company. Having missed out on the bridge photos I celebrated with a party shot, starring identical twins two sets of identical twins. I did say there were 10 Rambers, didn’t I?

Cheshire Amateur Ramblers
Cheshire Amateur Ramblers