Sunday, February 26, 2012

In the footsteps of the ancients

No comments:
Living so close to the sea and the mountains there is no shortage of glorious walking routes that can be started from home or within a short distance from home. We were really pleased to hear about a new walking route has been opened very close to La Pasera that is really quite magical. For some years we have walked the caminos and paths to and from the coast near Llames de Pria and the Rio Guadamia. Never tiring of the natural beauty of the area, it has become almost a daily jaunt.

The estuary of the Rio Guadamia leading to the Bay of Biscay
One of the stopping points along this local walk has been the Roman bridge that crosses the river near the next village to ours, Cuerres. We often sit on the bridge and if we are lucky, watch red squirrel, birds, deer or cattle in the surrounding countryside. From the bridge you can look down the small meandering river as it flows towards the estuary at Llames de Pria. We have often wondered if it were possible to follow the river down to the sea but as there was no obvious path or sign-age, we have never tried.

This month saw the opening of a new path - guess where?  Following the river from the Roman bridge to the estuary at Guadamia. The route is named after a deceased National Police Chief Inspector, Samuel Cachero, remembered as a great lover of the region and a prominent member of a local neighbourhood association.

The path has always been there but over the years it became overgrown and inaccessible in parts. It has now been cleared by a group of volunteers from a local resident association and new wooden bridges installed by the local council.

The route takes you along undulating pastures that follow the many twists and turns of the river as it winds its way down to the sea. Wandering through ancient riparian woodland  and flood plains, with its rich flora and fauna it is easy to idle your time exploring and observing. Deep pools and cascades bubble and rumble as you walk along and spy small shoals of trout dashing in and out of aquatic plants as giant water boatmen skim along the surface of crystal clear pools. Bordered in parts by rocky limestone outcrops it is possible to see through the vegetation and spot caves and fissures mostly inaccessible from the path.

Along the route there are several dilapidated old water mills that once turned hand carved millstones to grind corn. As you stroll along the banks of the river and criss-cross it over newly constructed bridges, you come across two magnificent ancient Roman bridges and the remains of a Roman road... There are many places to sit and take in the atmosphere and tranquillity imagining ancient times when the Roman legions of the General Agrippa used the route to transport salt and wine along the northern coast of Spain. This new route will certainly become part of our walking repertoire. A round trip of about 7km.

Over the next year we will keep you up to date with La Senda de Samuel as we re-visit to see the changing seasons.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bird Watching in Villaviciosa

No comments:
The opportunities for birdwatching here in Asturias are many and varied. There are very few bird reserves as such, but there are many natural geographical features that attract a range of birds from near, far and wide.

One such place is The estuary of the Ria de Villaviciosa. This is one of the few places where there is a dedicated exhibition and information centre on the bird-life of the estuary. There aren't any hides on the estuary which is a shame - apparently one was built but destroyed by fire soon after. Dotted around the estuary, there are various stopping points indicated by a sign featuring a pair of binoculars. 

The small town of Villaviciosa lies on the western side of the river. To the east bank of the estuary leads to Rodiles beach, a vast golden beach backed with pine and eucalyptus woodlands which are dotted with picnic tables and benches. At this time of year when there are few people around, it is a great place to sit and watch the bird activity in the tree canopy or ground. Along the way, there are may stopping points that are worth exploring and that offer you the chance to take in the views and potential bird-life.

To the west, there are several marsh and wetland areas with easy access by road. The bird life varies depending on the time of year and weather but more often than not there is interesting activity somewhere on land or sky.

We took a picnic lunch and walked around the area, stopping off at various vantage points both to observe and to take photographs. Bird photography isn't easy because it is difficult to get close to the birds. The following link is to a video made on the day by a Spanish bird watcher and his wife who were out filming and photographing. The link is of Ben - The Osprey, eating a fish, he is far out in the middle of the estuary but never-the-less, impossible to photograph with my equipment but it was great to see through binoculars. Check out some of Juan's other films as well whilst you are there - most of them are from the estuary.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Do you want to learn to weave a cane seat? - Cursillo: restauración de sillas en rejilla

No comments:

Short course in chair restoration – Weaving a cane seat.

Dates: May 4th - 6th 2012   and   
October 5th - 7th 2012

Venue: Asturias, Spain

Cost €200 (includes materials, lunch and refreshments)


Due to demand generated from I am pleased to offer a short course in chair restoration – weaving a chair seat in rattan cane. The course will include:

1.   Preparing a chair for restoration
2.   Materials and techniques
3.   Finishing and aftercare

At the end of the course the participants will have woven a seat using rattan cane.

The course will take place in a workshop at La Pasera. There will be a maximum of 5 participants on each course to ensure quality tuition from the instructor Luis Laso Casas. 

Luis has been restoring cane and rush seating for the past 10 years. He has re-caned and re-rushed chairs old and new from a variety of sources. From exhibition pieces to dining room suites, boudoir chairs to Thonet, he has restored somewhere in the region of 500 chairs and overcome many challenges to accomplish the craftsman finish that has become his trademark. There maybe both English and Spanish participants on the course but as Luis is bi-lingual, this is not a problem. You can also practice your Spanish is you so wish!
The programme will commence on Friday lunchtime with an informal chat and lunch. The course will be structured to ensure maximum support for participants and where necessary, one to one tuition. A vegetarian lunch will be provided on each day the course. If you are unsure about anything or if you require further information, please contact Luis at :  artesanialapasera @ (no spaces) Telephone 0034 646436562

Cursillo de restauración de sillas: Rejilla

A consecuencia del número de gente quienes me han preguntado donde poder aprender a tejer un asiento de rejilla, esterillado francés, me complace el poner a su disposición los siguientes cursillos de restauración de asientos de rejilla o rattán.

4-6 de Mayo del 2012
5-7 de Octubre del 2012


Ribadesella, Asturias, España.


El curso incluye:

Preparación del asiento antes de la restauración.
Materiales y herramientas
Tintes y cuidados.
Al final del cursillo, los participantes habrán aprendido la tecnica basica para tejer artesanalmente la rejilla usando junquillo o tireta de rattán.


€200.00. La matrícula incluye los materiales, tres comidas principales basadas en una cocina vegetariana y bebidas no alcohólicas durante el día. Puedo facilitar una pequeña lista de hoteles cercanos donde los participantes puedan alojarse durante el cursillo.

Aquellos interesados en participar en este cursillo deben ponerse en contacto con: Luis Laso Casas a través del email


El número de plazas está limitado a un máximo de 5 participantes.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Making Membrillo - Quince Jelly or Quince Cheese

Later than normal, we acquired 4kg of quince from Luis's Sister. If you are not familiar with quince, they are a hard pear-type fruit that have a unique dry/tangy and fruity taste. They are hard. We have been storing them in the pantry for a few weeks and one or two of them were beginning to show signs of fatigue so we decided to process them into Membrillo.

I forgot to photograph the whole fruit but I have included a lovely painting of quince. The picture was a gift from, and painted by Marias, Luis' younger sister as a house warming present. I must say she has done a great job.

It is a two stage process. Firstly the quince are cooked for 20 minutes whole, in a pressure cooker. When cool enough to handle they are chopped up into smallish chunks ready to be be cooked like you would cook a jam. Sugar is added to the fruit, in a ratio of 1kg of fruit to 750g of sugar. Some people skin the fruit but we choose not to. We also add a touch of mixed spice which gives the finished membrillo a lightly spiced undertone.

The mixture is cooked until thickened and transparent (less transparent if you did not skin the fruit), 1hour or longer depending on the amount of juice. It is crucial to constantly stir otherwise you will burn the mixture and taint the taste. Glass dishes are ideal for setting the membrillo. Lightly oil the glass dishes and poor the hot mixture into them and allow to completely cool. When cool divide into squares appropriate to your needs.

 We wrap ours in cling film then take them to our local Butcher who vacuum packs them for us. As she never accepts payment, we try and give her some home-baked bread or similar in return. The vacuum packed membrillo will last for over a year and can be enjoyed with cheese and wine, a nice home-baked loaf, oat cakes or by itself.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Planning the vegetable beds

No comments:
Our vegetable beds have developed over the past 5 years into a system that suits us here at La Pasera. Three main beds are used with crop rotation, every season, where practicable. Crop rotation amongst other things, ensures that essential micro nutrients are not exhausted by continually trying to grow the same crop or species.

The 2 larger beds measure  9 x 5 meters   and the smaller central bed measures 9 x 2 meters.

Bed 1 empty, boarded and waiting for soil

Working with a heavy clay soil has more disadvantages than advantages. It may be nutrient rich but it is impossible to grow certain crops or to sow seeds directly. Working the land is more difficult as the soil compacts though a combination of the rain, sun and traffic. We could operate a no dig system but we generally do not source enough compost or manure annually to make this viable.

This year we have made a decision to buy in some sandy loam based soil which together with the compost we produce will serve to enrich our existing soil, helping to generally improve the conditions for growing and working.

In preparation for the soil, we have made a start on boarding the beds with strong wooden planks. The bed on the left now has heavy duty surround of 22cm height. This will help retain the soil when it arrives and improve drainage. We will complete boarding the other two beds in the next few weeks and gradually build up the soil levels when planting schedules and crop rotation allows.

Following on from our previous post, we have coppiced the hazel and repaired the fedge. It is such a haven for wildlife it is really worth the effort. Toads, frogs, lizards, slow worms, stag beetles, field mice, shrews and numerous insects occupy its nooks and crannies. It has its own eco system that is fascinating to observe throughout the different seasons.

A Shrew out of his home in the fedge