Sierra del Sueve

It’s Spain, it’s June but somebody forgot to tell the weather. We’ve had a decidedly dodgy start to spring and summer – average temperatures in May were 3 degrees colder than in the last three decades and average rainfall was up by 50 litres per square metre!

As a result my garden is in a sorry state. I have planted very little; with so much rain finding the right time to dig has been difficult, and what I have planted is not doing so well. With so little sun nothing is really flourishing as you would expect at this time of year.

Climbing too has been curtailed and our usual escape clause in times of bad weather of jumping in the van and heading off for a few days has not been an option as the bad weather hasn’t just been confined to our mountainous corner of northern Spain but has, most unusually, squatted over vast swathes of the country.

It’s also slowly dawned on me that we have become so accustomed to the (normal) Spanish weather that we have lost some of our capacity to cope in bad weather. Now we see bad weather as a reason to withdraw inside, batten down the hatches and sit it out. Plus our barometer for what is ‘bad’ weather has been reset to a considerably lower baseline. Drizzle that might be termed a ‘soft day, thank God’ in the west of Ireland is now enough to stop us dead in our tracks. We wrap ourselves in fleeces on days that would be worthy of bikinis back in the UK. I think we may have gone a little soft.

As we wait for normal service to resume with the weather it is time to revert to hardier, northern European ways and to remind ourselves that there is no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. So when last week there were storms forecast for Thursday, the day I had arranged for my ‘gardening club’ (we’re a club of two friends, helping each other out with manpower and motivation on a weekly basis) we decided to pack some waterproofs and head off for a hike up the nearby Sueve mountain. (I know, the gardening link is somewhat tenuous here but the statutes of the club are flexible enough to allow motivation to come in various guises 😉 )

Bar-Restaurante el Asturcón, Alto La Llama. The start point for our hike up the Sueve

Bar-Restaurante el Asturcón, Alto La Llama. The start point for our hike up the Sueve. They do great pinchos and full menús here.

We set off from Alto de la Llama in a dank, dismal mist. With the Sueve being so close to the sea the views from here as you gain height are usually spectacular, with panoramas along the coastline as well as to the higher mountains of the Picos de Europa to the east and the Cordillera Cantábrica to the west. On Thursday as we set off we could barely see the path ahead. Luckily it’s a very clear wide track so even in the mist there was no risk of getting lost and wandering off a cliff edge. We did almost stumble across a few wild horses in the mist however.

IMG_9438The Sueve is home to a large population of the native wild pony, the asturcón  and, whatever the weather, you will always be guaranteed sightings of herds of these sturdy animals on its hillsides. As we headed onwards and upwards we were rewarded with a few breaks in the cloud that allowed us to see just how many of these ponies there were around us. A lovely sight, especially given the fact that they have historically been threatened by extinction.


IMG_9447Once we had gained enough height we actually emerged fully above the cloud that wrapped the coast and had clear views around us.


That’s some bank of cloud. Much more attractive from above than from below.


Are those some mountains I spy in the distance?

Now we were able to sight several roe deer, another plentiful inhabitant of this sierra but considerably harder to photograph as these skittish creatures don’t tend to hang around long enough for the slow-reacting photographer to extract her camera from its bag and remove the lens cap. Here are a pair I managed to snap in the distance as they skittered away from us up a rockface.

IMG_9448We didn’t make it all the way to the top; it was a school day and I had to be home by 1pm so we had to conclude the ‘gardening meeting’ early. Which was lucky as we made it back just before the promised thunder storm broke and it really was time to retreat indoors and batten down the hatches.

Comic Relief in Ghana

This year Comic Relief celebrates 25 years. In the run up to the main event bloggers Penny, Annie and Tanya are currently visiting Ghana in the company of Davina McCall and Jonathan Ross, visiting four different projects to see the difference Red Nose Day money has been making. Today I received a digital postcard from them, which I’m sharing with you here.


Dear Mary

Later we visit school in the Agbogbloshie slum district. Having walked through the winding and litter strewn paths of the slum, the ordered environment of the school comes as a surprise. I talk to Elizabeth who teaches a group of six year olds, in a large hall on the ground floor of the school alongside four other classes.

Elizabeth is enthusiastic about the prospect of teaching 40 children without a teaching assistant and with very limited resources. Here too we are greeted by song. ‘Did you like it?’ she asks. I give the children the thumbs up and they smile.

Love Penny
This is a digital postcard sent from TeamHonk (; during their travels with Comic Relief in Ghana celebrating #goodwork. 

For the past 25 years the money raised through Red Nose Day has been changing the lives of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the UK and Africa. Let’s Keep Up the Good Work. Find out how at


For other digital postcards please do join up and check out the linky on


Reflections on New Year’s Day

It’s been a lovely Christmas holiday here in Asturias. The sun has shone and shone and we have climbed and climbed. Today is cooler and wet – a good day to catch up on a little writing and reflecting in front of the wood burner. As I type my body is aching from this unaccustomed barrage of consecutive climbing days. My head is aching a little too, but that’s a different story 😉

Villa de Sub

Our friend David in mid-flight. Villa de Sub, December 23rd.

Santa Claus visited last week and scored top marks with his gift. The instructions to him had been nice and specific and easy to follow: ‘a Fireman Sam fire engine with lots of buttons and flashing lights and a nee-naw’. The house has echoed to wailing sirens ever since.

The jolly red fellow also delivered gifts from grandparents and relatives in the UK, including Jack’s first camera. He’s already building an impressive photography portfolio. Some of the photos are at rather an artistic angle and some of the close-up portraits of his parents are less than flattering, taken as they are from his viewpoint, looking up. Great for capturing double chins and nasal hairs. Luckily Mum gets veto over any publication.


The beach on Christmas Day, at a rather jaunty angle. Copyright Jack.


A cheeky self-portrait of the photographer

Now we just have to sit it out and wait for the Reyes Magos (the three Kings) who pay their visit on 6th January (the feast of the Epiphany.) Traditionally it is the Reyes who bring children their gifts in Spain and so it is that we find ourselves rather awkwardly caught between two Christmas cultures. I would have been tempted to traitorously ditch the Santa Claus tradition entirely in favour of the Reyes if it were not for their timing. Presents that arrive the day before the new school term starts can’t be played with in the Christmas holidays. And that would suck. For everybody. So Santa had to visit but so do the Reyes so that Jack isn’t the only child in the village to wake up to an empty stocking on the 6th. Because that would suck even more.


Jack delivers his letter to Prince Aliatar, the messenger to the Kings, at the school Christmas show. Note: I am not the only one confused by the surfeit of present-giving traditions, all the children were wearing Santa Claus hats!

Happy New Year everyone! May 2013 bring you all that you wish for (via whichever wish delivery system you choose to believe in 😉 )

Back to Blogging

You know how it can be with long-distance friends. You leave it just a little too long to call or write and then it becomes increasingly difficult to pick up the phone or kick off that email. The awkwardness mounts. The stuff to catch up on avalanches. Where to begin?

More time passes.

Well, that’s kind of where I am with blogging right now.

But, as with any good friendship, I don’t want to let things slide too far. And I know that once we do re-connect the conversation will flow just as easily as ever. So this post is my opening salvo, my apologetic text message to break the ice and bring things back from the brink.

I know I’ve neglected you, Blog, but you know how it is. I’ve been really busy. Been travelling a lot over the summer, with no internet connection, and subsequently caught up in the frenzy of Jack starting school. I promise I’ll be in touch again soon and catch you up on everything. (If you still want to know me!)