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Sunday, 17 January 2010

I don't pop my cork for every man I see

From Ronda we drove through stunning craggy mountain scenery to the Parque Natural de los Alcornocales, Spain's most southerly park. This is an area of higher rainfall than you might expect by its latitude and this results in a much less arid landscape with green fields of chestnut brown cows and long-legged sheep, wooded hills of wild olives and maritime pine and gushing rivers.

We walked through woods of cork oak, you can see in the photograph the cork has been recently harvested; cork is a sustainable crop that is harvested by cork cutters every nine to twelve years for up to twelve times on one tree. The cork cutting is carried out in the winter time when the sap is down and the cork is taken off in large sheets which are baled locally for sending to manufacturers. Cork stoppers in wine are not the only product this fantastic material is useful for; dartboards are useless without cork and according to the cork industry federation website it is used in gaskets for cars, expansion joints in bridges, in cricket balls and many other items.

From the camp site in Jimena we walked in the sunshine, enjoying seeing Asphodels coming into flower and wild daffodils and watching the Griffon Vultures languidly flying overhead in gangs of four or five. The ground was damp with thick clay soil that stuck to your walking shoes; we haven’t had to do more than dust the sand off them for so long it felt like a novelty. We had planned to follow a walk that involved crossing the river, but when we arrived at the bank it was clear that after the rain we have had over the past few weeks this could only be done by swimming and we re-traced our steps back to the van.

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