I guess this is probably going to be a short post, in part because the Monastery of Batuecas is pretty much hidden behind high walls and in part because it was such a glorious day I spent too much of it just soaking up the warmth and the view from my hammock.
A few short miles from La Alberca and the road reaches a saddle at the Mirador del Portillo. Looking back to the north and east the upper slopes of the Sierra are primarily clad in deciduous oak and chestnut forest.
Looking to the south and west the slopes are essentially pine-clad and more arid.
From here the road descends into the steep sided Batuecas valley through a series of hairpins. After a couple I couldn’t resist squeezing off the road at an apex and slinging my hammock between a couple of convenient pine trees to contemplate the challenge of getting a half-decent exposures and colour saturation in such bright midday light.
Only taking photos during the ‘magic hour’ at sunrise and its counter-part at sunset is all very well for a professional photographer stalking an award-winning image. If however, you are just travelling through at a certain time, it becomes more of a challenge – especially if you are anything but an award-winning photographer! (that’s why we have hammocks)
Having traversed the hairpins the road reaches the valley floor near the Convento Batuecas, or the Carmelite of the Desert Convent, founded in the late C15th as a retreat with numerous, now mostly ruined, hermitages on the surrounding slopes.
Parking the van beside the Batuecas River I took the board-walk route back up the river for a mile or so to the Monastery. From here there is a track that skirts around the perimeter wall and then follows the river up the valley to one of the fifteen known rock shelter sites containing petroglyphs dating to the Chalcolithic, or ‘Copper Age’ (c.1000-3000 BC).
Sadly the hike up the valley, while enjoyable, was somewhat fruitless since the paintings were so faded as to be almost indistinguishable by comparison to the images on the adjacent sign.
The area is criss-crossed with marked walking trails and there is an abundance of wild fauna including: Spanish Ibex, Deer sp., Badger, Lynx, Wild Boar, Black Stork, Cuckoo, Vulture sp. and Eagle sp. just to name but a few.
The Sierra de Francia has much to offer anyone looking for a an outdoor holiday walking through an unspoiled and largely pristine landscape, with the potential to stay overnight in small hill villages and towns. Even in early December the weather can be glorious!
La Alberca to Vegas de Coria and from Castile y Leon into Extramadura