Goats and Fires

Panoramic view of the estepa this morning

The fires that have ravaged so many parts of Spain recently have made international headlines. The nearest to us was near Bédar, in the hills behind Mojácar. Although over 60km away, we could see the smoke from our house. It would be simple to blame these fires on climate change resulting in hotter summers and droughts but an interesting article in the newspaper weekend supplement on Sunday states that the rural exodus is the cause.

Years ago, when more of the mountain land was inhabited, the cultivation of crops and grazing of animals kept the land managed. The pine forests were cleared of dead wood by the camposinos who used it to make charcoal, once a profitable rural industry, as well as for firewood. Now much of this land has returned to scrub and the pine forests are not maintained.

Goats on the estepa this morning

Here, on the estepa of the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata, we are not at great risk. Firstly, we do not have many pine trees. Secondly, several flocks of sheep and goats graze around here keeping down flammable vegetation and, thirdly, the land is managed to some extent to facilitate the hunting of wild partridges.

Another solution seems to be replacing some of the pine trees with Mediterranean Cypresses. Some 20 years ago, by way of experiment and study, an organisation called CypFire, made up of a number of Mediterranean countries, planted 1000 of these trees in an area in Valencia which was recently devastated by fire. Miraculously, the trees remained unscathed by this summer’s fires. Apparently, the leaves protect themselves with a moisture-retaining film and because they’re so tightly packed, there is no oxygen to feed fire, as with the pines, which are destroyed in seconds. Here is the link to the full article in Semanal http://www.finanzas.com/xl-semanal/magazine/20120902/incendios-forma-parar-esto-3475.html

Photo sent in by Malcolm Mcfarlane taken from his roof terrace in Coin, Malaga

Sorry we have no fire photos but if any readers have some of the fires in Andalucia please send them to digmerry@gmail.com if they would like us to post them here. If you click on the photos they will enlarge.

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About Margaret Merry

I grew up in Falmouth, Cornwall, England where, after leaving Falmouth High School, I spent a year at Falmouth School of Art. Then followed three years at Hornsey College of Art in London where I obtained a Diploma in Art and Design. I then spent a post-graduate year at the West of England College of Art in Bristol where I gained an Art Teacher?s Diploma and a Certificate in Education of the University of Bristol. I lived and worked in Truro for over 30 years and became one of Cornwall's most popular artists. My paintings have been exhibited in New York, Tokyo, Paris and London and have been bought by collectors from all over the world. I have published 4 books which became local bestsellers - 'The Natural History of a Westcountry City', 'Margaret Merry's Cornish Garden Sketchbook', 'Sea & Sail' and 'Tidal Reaches'. In 2002 I moved to Spain and now live in the little coastal village of Las Negras in the heart of the Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata. I now get my inspiration from the dramatic scenery of Andalucia and its old cities, towns and villages which I usually capture in watercolour. I also enjoy figurative art, particularly nudes and dancers. For these paintings I use artists' soft pastels. I have written and illustrated 3 children's books - The Wise Old Boar, The Lonely Digger and The Adventure of Princess The Pony - which have been published in the USA.
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