April 2008 Piedrahita Walking Holidays report

On the 17th of April, with a terrible weather forecast for the week, our first group of the season arrived in Piedrahita with great expectations. It was the first ever walkers, rather than pilots, to be guests in our house, and we were all looking forward to a friendly and eventful week. For the occasion, the Ham family moved out of their home of ten years, to let our guests enjoy some intimacy in the house… and the warmth of the log fire in the evenings.

Pat Rowley, Bryan Hindle, Maureen Edwards and Jerry Cooper were the keen walkers, two of them fliers, who with the bad weather ahead they expected to have their feet on the ground most of the time rather than in the air.

Day 1: Salamanca City walking…and some eating too.

With the worst possible forecast for flying and walking altogether, strong winds and heavy rain, we took the decision of going for a cultural trip on the first day and set off to discover Salamanca. It started rather gloomy, but we managed to enjoy some decent dry weather throughout the visit, if rather cold.

We started across the roman bridge and into the Casa Lis Art Deco and Nouveau museum, to get shelter from the rain and discover this restored palace and its beautiful painted glass.

After that we wandered around the old quarters´ streets and had a look at the cathedrals, the university, the shell house and the Clerecía (catholic University). Lunch was a nice three course meal in the Corrillo restaurant. Remarkably, we were the only ones to eat there on that day so we enjoyed fast service.

After lunch we entered the Plaza Mayor (Main Square) which showed as spectacular as always in the sunshine. We strolled back down to the car with a stop for a coffee in a bar with a beautiful view of the best church in town (Santo Domingo), and a peak into the gardens of Calixto y Melibea, were it is said that the lovers of “La Celestina” used to meet.

We came back home hoping to be able to do a short route in El Barrio along the Villafranca hills, but the rain refused to cooperate, and we retreated to the warmth of the house.

Day 2: Along the Corneja River and its Mills: A good soaking

Distance: 5.5Km

Height departure/arrival: -60m

Accumulated climb: 44m

Time: 3 hours aprox.


After a short trip to Barco in Avila in the morning, waiting for the showers to give us a break, we made up our minds and during a clear spell of weather we set to try the route know as “La Fonseca” or “ruta del Hocino”


It starts at the village of La Horcajada along a dirt track heading North-NE. The first part of the route is across ancient Holm oak forests, and after 3 Km, it meets the Corneja River at the bridge of “La Fonseca”, a medieval stone bridge with two arches built over a large boulder as its central support. We had just reached the bridge when it started pouring down with rain. We desperately looked for a shelter but there was none to be seen, and we finally settled for an old oak tree. Underneath it and standing up we had our picnic, with a good cup of tea to warm us up.

When the rain finally calmed down we continued our journey along the track, which turned into a hunters trail for a short while, and rather slippery and treacherous too.

There are many mills along the side of the river, most of them derelict, but the one which has been preserved and shows its machinery and canals as they once were, is called “Molino de la Maquina de Fuego” (the mill of the fire machine), and that was our next goal. When we reached it, there was Steve waiting with the van, but before going back home and since the rain had finally stopped we still carried on 1 Km further down the river in search of one of the many water wheels in the area, a relic of old times, most of them still intact. This very wet day indeed ended with a drink by the fire.



“For me, the history of the area was as interesting as the landscape. Trying out an ancient noria waterwheel made more than 100 years ago was great fun!” Bryan Hindle

Day 3: From the Castilla tablelands down to Extremadura: Flowers galore

Distance: 9.5Km

Height difference departure/arrival: -460m

Accumulated climb: 100m

Time: 4 ½ hours


Fed up with the weather we decided to change the scenery, and since the mountains were still covered by clouds, we aimed low, and we set off toward the edge of the Salamanca province, near Béjar, to a small village called El Cerro. Outside this village there is a small tarmac road that heads down through forests and shrubs. It is a big drop from the high plains of Castilla (900m, to the lower plains of Extremadura (500m). The altitude difference translates into a temperature difference, so the flora and fauna within just 8 Km distance are worlds apart: Colder and humid on the high slopes, with lush forests of old deciduous oaks and sweet chestnuts. Drier and warmer at the bottom of the valley, where olive and cork trees are the dominant species.


We drove out of the cloud, parked the van and started our walk down amongst green forests, clear water streams and rocks covered in moss, and gradually as we kept descending the sky cleared and we enjoyed the views of the whole valley. On the ground we kept finding some fantastic little flowers, like the bee orchids (Ophrys). The Atlantic forest opened up and there were some olive trees and vines, but mainly shrubs of lavender, broom and gum rockrose (Cistus ladanifer), all of them in magnificent bloom, so the smell and the view was overpowering. Then the cork trees started to appear, with its blood red trunks. We had lunch under two big specimens of them, and this time we did have sunshine for a change. The tarmac turned into dirt track and the cork trees were everywhere now, with more Cistus bushes between them and (after all the rain) very lush green grass. We reached a small pretty lake amongst the trees and abandoned our track to have a look at it. We waded through a stream and reached the dam, which we crossed over to head towards the village of Abadía. However, the lane turned into a bog and we had to retrace our steps and find our way back towards the original track. On the way, we managed to find an old tobacco factory and a stone bridge across the raging torrent coming down from the dam of the reservoir.

By now the snowy mountains of the Ambroz valley had already appeared, and the views were magnificent, with open wide spaces and clear air. At the end of our journey, rather tired but happy, we reached the farm of La Maside, half abandoned now except from a grumpy warden. On the farm grounds the owners had build a small church which Steve and the van finally managed to find. To end the day we visited the charming village of Hervás, with its well preserved Jewish quarters.

At last we had beaten the weather and enjoyed a decent day walking without getting wet.



“With such dramatic scenery all around us I had missed the rare orchid until our guides´ screams of delight alerted the group!” Maureen Edwards, April 2008

Day 4: La Garganta de los Caballeros: A walk with a view

Distance: 9.5Km

Accumulated climb: 96m

Height difference departure/arrival: 66m

Time: 5 hours

As we approached Barco de Avila in the car I could see I had made the right choice for the day. With the clouds lifting up and the fresh snow on the top of the mountains, the big scenery promised to be the highlight of the day. We had been joined for the occasion by Steve and Paul Russell, who had arrived the previous night.

This route starts in the village of La Nava del Barco on a dirt track that leaves from the village cemetery. It heads south towards the river that gives its name to the valley:” Los Caballeros”. As we went round the spine, we started to enjoy the view of Sierra Llana (flat mountain) and the village of Navalonguilla. We had lunch where the track meets the river, on some rocks next to noisy rapids.

Completely surrounded by snowy peaks we strolled down alongside the stream. The track follows it along towards the SW, a couple of hundred metres above it. The views in the sunshine were stunning. Where the track joins the road, we found the Navalguijo Bridge. A popular picnic spot in the summer, it is a pool of crystal clean waters with a beautiful green colour. We walked uphill on the road towards Navalonguilla for 1.5 Km, always looking back at the scenery behind us, which seemed to get more spectacular by the minute.

Just after the village we followed another dirt track across the fields and orchards, with irrigation channels alongside the path, and even inside it at times. After 2 Km we reached the village of Tormellas. I still had to cycle up to La Nava to get the car back while the others had a rest by the bridge. Amazingly, we had managed to avoid the rain all day.

Day 5: Las Chorreras and the River Tormes: Wild goats, pine tree forests, and a plate of biscuits worthy of a king.

Distance: 5 Km

Climb: 43m

Time: 1 ½ hours

The day dawned dry so the boys got excited about getting some flying at last. As it happened, it soon got well overcastted again, but they had made up their minds, so they went up the hill on search of a flight, leaving us girls on our own for the day. I had also made up my mind to go into the big mountains, to the heart of the Gredos, to look for some goats, so clouds and all, there we went, up to the Peña Negra pass and over the back into the Tormes valley. There were high clouds anyway, so we still enjoyed the views of the magnificent peaks, but unfortunately, when we reached “La Plataforma”, the starting point for the Laguna Grande at the heart of the mountains, the path was well covered with snow, which made it impossible to even try a sort walk up to “Prado de las Pozas”. However, we were on a mission, and we stayed there for a little while, peeling our eyes in search for the elusive Gredos Ibex. We spotted three of them near the road, jumping from rock to rock, and just after we sat in the car and started driving away, we saw a large herd of wild goats on the move. They were all females and youngsters, no big males, but still a fantastic sight.

Half way between La Plataforma and the village of Hoyos del Espino, there is a bridge over the Tormes River called “Puente del Duque”. It is a popular picnic spot, but being a week day it wasn’t crowded, so we had our lunch there. We walked upstream along the Tormes River through pine tree forests until we reached the spot called “Las Chorreras”, an area with waterfalls in a small gorge. From there the track goes up towards the village of Navarredonda de Gredos, finding on the way several summer camps for children, which are very popular in the area, but we turned back after 2 ½ Km. On the way back we found some inflatable dolls (female and male) hanging from a fence: some local species for sure.

To end the day we had a coffee and biscuits in the old kings hunting refuge of Navarredonda, today a posh hotel.



“We set out on our walk in the Gredos Mountains hoping to see a wild mountain goat – we saw 29 – a magical experience.” Pat Rowley, April 2008

Day 6: Candelario and its mountains: A search for poisonous slugs.

Distance: 4 Km

Climb: 160m

Time: 1 ½ h

On the last day the weather was finally at its best: sunny and warm. The guys were keen to enjoy some decent flying, so the ladies were once more left on our own, but not altogether. Being a regional holiday, Oliver (my 6 year old son) had the day off school, so he joined the party for the day. I had several choices in mind for the last day, but Pat suggested that Maureen would like to see Candelario and its mountains, so we headed west towards Bejar once again, 30 minutes away from Piedrahita.

Almost all the good walks in this area involve some climbing. Even visiting the village of Candelario, perched on a hill, means walking up and down its old streets. We strolled to the top of the village and back on its stone paved streets along the water channels, enjoying the curious and ancient houses. Then we drove 3 km outside town towards the area known as La Dehesa, where we had lunch on some mossy rocks next to a school party.

From here, a dirt track goes zigzagging up the hill amongst ancient deciduous oaks, which for the occasion were completely bare, as spring comes later in these altitudes. The branches had some remarkable shapes and the absence of leaves let us enjoy through them beautiful views of the landscape and the streams, and the granite boulders scattered everywhere. We reached to point where the lane starts its steep climb towards what is called “Hoya Moros”, the source of the “Cuerpo de Hombre” river, and we retreated back to the car, with Oliver and Pat spotting signs of dangerous Doctor Who’s slugs, nasty creatures that leave silver trails. Maureen and I were happy enough to spot some real nuthatches creeping up and down the tree trunks.



Reported by Puri Almansa Arribas

Piedrahita 2/may/2008




Posted: Tuesday, May 6th, 2008 at 15:12 by Steve Ham in Walking.

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