The ‘Aire’ at Huesca was not the most salubrious, being at the Repsol fuel station at the western edge of the town, but I need the services and I was rewarded by a glorious morning that was crisp and clear and a view out across the flat arable lands to the surrounding hills.
From Huesca I headed out across the western plains of Aragon to Ejea de los Caballeros though changing farmland and several small villages, typically perched on any higher ground available.
You never know when something will pop up and surprise you and this stretch of cereal cropping suddenly had me back in a ‘previous life’ in the wheatbelt of WA!
Irrigated fruit orchards are dotted about amid the arable lands and occasional small villages appear here and there on low hills.
As you approach Ejea the fields begin to get smaller and irrigation ditches and channels start to appear. At this time of the year there was little in the way of crops in the ground, but numerous small flocks of Cranes had staked their claims across the landscape.
The climate here is continental mediterranean with an annual rainfall of 468mm; the wettest month being May. Daytime winter temperatures are typically below 5°C in January/February, often falling well below freezing at night, while the summer temperature in July/August averages 23°C, but can climb into the 40°s.
Man has lived in the area since 8000 BC. The Suessetani Celts built the first settlement, then known as Segia, and during the Roman occupation the region became a significant cereal producer. The development of irrigation during the C20th has led to an increase min agricultural production.
Tudela is the second largest city in Navarra (Navarre) and is situated on the banks of the important Ebro river- the second longest and second largest, by discharge volume, in the Iberian Peninsula. Like Ejea, it has evidence of pre-historic inhabitant and a Celt-Iberian settlement, later becoming a significant Roman town. It came under Arabic control during the Umayyad conquest becoming the Al Hakam emirate in 802, before being taken by ‘Alfonso the Battler‘ (King of Aragon), in 1119, as the Christian Kingdom of Navarre expanded. The city today has a population of about 36,000 and the C12th Catedral de Santa Maria was designated a National Monument in 1884.
Small market gardens (or perhaps just family plots) cluster along the banks of the Ebro however, the soils of the Ebro valley are generally poor and often affected by salinity. Annual discharge volumes fell by nearly 30% over the course of the C20th as damming and irrigation demands increased.
… and then there’s always one …
Huesca to Cascante