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Archive for June, 2012

A while ago I wrote about the water situation here, but there was one thing I forgot to mention FIRE!

We were first aware of the situation when collecting water around 7am Thursday morning.

We could hear then we saw the firefighting helicopters with their buckets hanging down, Then this morning we could hear the float planes so we knew it was not over.

Normally it rains in April and May so there is no problem, but for the past 3-4 years it has been getting drier and drier and this year is no exception.  So far we have seen two huge fires one of which is still burning in the Monsant wine region.  I have spoken to a friend there and they are worried because a few vineyards have already gone.  In May there was a large fire which took out 18000 acres of both forest and vineyard.

What causes them? Well like the huge wild-fire in the Rockies, they can be started by lightning. It is unfortunate here but people seem to be the cause of these fires.  Then there is another bit of nature to contend with.  From around 10.30am the wind gets up and blows down our valley, strong enough to drive our wind generator.  If this is happening across the river in those vallies then they have a real problem and I think this must be happening as the smoke from the fire looks like a misty foggy haze.

What we really need are some summer storms or heavy prolonged rain.  It has been 37c here today and that was at 7.30pm, as I sit here I am sweating but all the windows are open there is a slight breeze but no respite.

I am so very very glad the bombers and Forestals are experts, at the moment of writing my wife has all my writing materials packed ready, just in case…..

(c) Michael Bosc

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Hidden away in the mountains behind us is the village of Bellmunt, it is here that the lead mines are to be found. But what brought us there was, as always, wine.  We were looking for a certain vineyard but as usual had lost our way and found ourselves in the mine’s car park.

As we sat deciding what to do next several big beefy bikers arrived took off their helmets and headed into the mines cultural centre. Well we thought, why not, so as we taking our cue we decided to be nosey and take a look. The car park is fairly large but there is another one just round the corner, where you come out of the mines but as we discovered later it is an up hill walk of about 10minutes.

However, what greets you and makes quite  an impression is the pit wheel. Now standing proud, erect, and silent, it  looks out over the mine and visitors alike, resting, reliving its memories, but still steeped in the history of both mine and village alike.

There were many lead mines in the area, which were the main source of employment up until the 20th century when they were closed.  As is the norm with Catalunia, they are very proud of their history and achievements since the Civil War that in 1999 they reopened the mine as a museum.  One of the out buildings has been transformed into the Welcome Hall. Here there are exhibits of the minerals with a ‘walk through history’ which includes pictures of village life and inscriptions.  After this but before you enter the mines you cross the courtyard to see a film depicting the mine in its true light,  part of the village, its life and local history.

Then you go down the mine to the first level around 35 mtrs below ground, but no lift takes you it’s a stairway through the rock.  Before you enter you are given a hard-hat and it is necessary. The mine has 18 levels (more than 450 metres deep) but only the first level is accessible. However, it does give a picture of what it was like to work down there making it a very spectacular place, if you don’t mind being underground. These mines are ancient there has been mining in the Bellmunt area since 9-10th century so history abounds here.

Having said this, apart from the actual entrance which is a flight of steps down 37mtrs, with a low roof – yes I was wearing a hard hat, yes it is compulsory and yes I did bang my head 3 times actually (my fault too busy looking) – it is well worth the visit.

 

The impression I had when we reached the level was of space. The ceilings are really high with old seams running off just like being a large rabbit down a warren.

Here and there you will find a tableau depicting workers in the mine one of which is quite surreal. We had turned a corner and there to the right of us was the track with this figure pushing a truck, and just for a moment I really thought he was alive even the man waiting at the lift gave me the same impression spooky.

However, writing about it cannot really do justice to the atmosphere or feeling you get when down there. It is peaceful, why I cannot explain, but I felt neither claustrophobic nor  concerned only very very interested in where I was and the tour guide was very informative.  The only thing I can say is this.  If you are ever lucky enough to be in this area this is a must do visit.  Soak up the atmosphere, see how they lived and worked, marvel at the ore tunnels high above, see exposed crystals but above all remember they did all this by hand.  Oh and say hello to the guy pushing the truck.

You can visit the mines : Saturdays from 11.00 , 12.30 and 16.00. Sundays 11.00, 12.30. If you are staying in Falset the tourist office can book your visit tel +34 977 831 701.  For those of you looking for nice holiday apartments overlooking the river then contact Dena @Ebroapartments

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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Creeky Creeky

Creeky Creeky.

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