Monday 25 May 2015

The ancient cork forests of Sant Feliu de Guíxols ...

Yesterday morning we set off for a walk through the cork forest that clings to the dry barren hills on the other side of town. 

It's an ancient place where development is prohibited and the wildlife flourishes. 

For many centuries the cork industry was one of the stable sources of income that fed generations of people here in our little village. They peeled great sheets of bark from the trees on this dusty hillside and dragged them back into town to fashion into a multitude of things: floats for the fishing nets, life vests, elaborate decorative and devotional objects, and of course cork stoppers for wine bottles and oil amphorae. 

Some of that industry still survives, but on nothing like the scale of a century ago. Today the forest is mostly a quiet, peaceful place where people like us go for a pre-prandial stroll before a family lunch.

There's the little hermitage that sits amidst the trees.

And there's the Pedralta, our great swinging stone that sadly swings no more. Back in the day the braver amongst our number would have scaled the column of rocks to make the great boulder on top rock back and forth. I've written about it here: Sant Feliu de Guíxols - mi pueblo.

But we carried on and didn't mind the stone too much. 

We stopped and admired the cork trees. Their bark is amazing: sort of like a wooden sponge, gnarled and often covered in lichen.

And in the late afternoon sun they throw the most amazing lacework of shadows over the dusty earth. 

I'm always amazed at just how many different plants manage to eke out a living up here. It's pretty inhospitable: in the heat of the summer everything dries up and the earth blows around on the breeze, and in the winter the rain water cuts angry rivulets down the hillside, carving up the ground and threatening to carry it all away, down into the blue Mediterranean Sea below.

But somehow the ubiquitous poppy manages to colonise some of the more hospitable areas ... 

... leaving the hardy rock rose unchallenged on the upper, drier slopes.

And then when you reach the top you can look right down the valley that carries the main road into the village, and all the summer tourists to the beach. 

It's a hard and unforgiving land up here, but I think there's a lot to be said for the quiet of the hilltop compared to the hustle of the sea front.

All the best for now,

Bonny x


  1. Oh Bonny, how marvelous Costa Brava is! I really hope to visit it one day. :)
    Thank you for the exquisite virtual tour, I really enjoyed it. Have a happy Tuesday ahead.

  2. Wow! I don't think I have ever seen a cork tree before, even in a picture. The flowers are beautiful and I like the rocks. Your last picture reminds me of the Southwest area of the United States, it is a great place to hike too, but no cork trees. :)