SIERRA DE LAS MAMBLAS
What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The walk to Santo Domingo de Silos was the most challenging (only 5 of us went). We followed an old pilgrim's route up from the Arlanza valley to a plateau, through a wonderful meadow of wildflowers, then up a steep, rocky path to the top of a ridge. The view from there was spectacular, looking across to San Carlos. A further steep, rocky path led us to another ridge, then down to the village of Silos for a well-deserved beer. Another day, walking along an old mule track in a beautiful valley between the tumbled down village of Castroceniza and Ura, stands out as being special. Watching the vultures (both Griffon and Eqyptian) while having our picnic in the shade of an overhanging cliff, with the clouds drifting overhead against the blue sky, and a stream gurgling below.
What did you think of your group leader?
The walks were both well planned and well paced. Bob's knowledge of the area was a great asset - he knew the local people and the history of the area. His attention to detail was great and we felt very well looked after. We were fortunate to have met him before the holiday - he came walking with our group (Pontesbury Plodders) whilst at home in Shropshire in April - so it was like meeting an old friend. Next year, it's Austria!
Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
You may think the countryside looks rather barren in photographs. Don't be put off. The valleys are green with wheat fields, meadows, vineyards, cherry orchards and walnut groves (though the latter are suffering from blight). But the hills are rocky and paths stony - however, they are covered in juniper scrub and smell divine with wild thyme, lavender and gorse. Botanists love limestone country and this doesn't disappoint. We saw early purple orchid, lady orchid, bee orchid, white helleborine, rock soapwort, blue aphyllanthes, white rockrose, asphodel, Pyrenean flax, Star of Bethlehem, tassel hyacinth, thyme broomrape, common storksbill, kidney vetch, and lots more.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I was rather daunted by the thought of walking 10 miles a day every day, but it's amazing what you can do when you try. The walks were set at a pace to suit us all, and by taking all day over them and having frequent stops, they were achieved in relative comfort and, although we were concerned it might be too hot, there was a breeze most days and the air that high up was invigorating.