This year, I’ve decided to make an effort to get out of the house with the kids at least once every weekend, to go on a little adventure. Within easy distance – in other words, inside Sevilla province. Which gives us plenty of variety, with parks, hills, woods and my beloved Doñana park (which straddles Seville and Huelva provinces); vias (old train routes) and senderos (hiking paths).
This means piling into the car with a picnic and bikes, changes of clothes and, of course, the camera, and heading off somewhere in the countryside for plenty of charging about and fresh air. We can explore, learn about nay-cha, cul-cha, and run about till we’re all knackered.
The Spanish are partial to having picnics and barbeques with family and friends in parks, but they prefer the tables-and-chairs version to the rug-on-the-floor so beloved by the English. I was brought up with buns and thermoses and tupperware. Walks were an integral part of our family time together. However they don’t seem to be quite such a big deal here – unless you count strolling up Calle Sierpes after a slap-up lunch, to see and be seen, and check out the shop window displays.
Our first such outing this year was to Las Doblas, a route which follows the Guadiamar river west of Seville. This is located just outside Sanlucar la Mayor, at the bottom of the hill leaving the town on the old Huelva road, next to the solar power station (tall towers aglow with sunlight).
There’s a big car park, various barbeques with seating areas (ugly fixed concrete picnic tables), a footpath, and a lake with a long wooden walkway. The scenery is unspoiled and beautiful, with a wide variety of plants. We were lucky enough to go on a sunny winter’s day, when we barely saw another soul. The path was mostly in reasonable condition, with a few dodgy, uneven parts; the five-year-old had no problems, and we pulled the two-year-old along on her bike.
After about an hour’s gentle stop-start rambling, we left the path and found some mimbre plants, which my son fancied using as arrows (he’s into the castle thing). This is similar to wicker, and is used to make baskets and furniture.
Then we found our way to the Guadiamar river, whose banks were covered in trees and plants; it was almost like a forest, with sunlight glinting through and illuminating the water. Apparently there are little turtles around here, though we didn’t spot any. Too noisy, I guess.
The one blot on this particular landscape was a derelict restaurant. Built by the Junta, it was never used, which seems a shameful waste, as its setting – by the lake – was so serene and completely surrounded by nature.
I’m no botanist, but we saw many plants I couldn’t resist snapping – a wonderful variety of textures and colours, from bare, silvery branches, to little margaritas (daisies), to soft, feathery ones that almost seemed to swim in the breeze.
We’ve also had some shorter walks, such as along the first section of the Via Verde, which goes from Camas to Santiponce. Camas is not a pretty town, so getting out of it is probably sensible.
This was more of an urban adventure, as the via crosses over a dual carriageway before heading on with fields up the hill to the left, and an industrial estate to the right. The path is in good condition.
Then, our latest excursion was to a park just outside the town of Guillena, called Parque Gergal. It is named after the reservoir nearby.
This park is not in perfect condition: its barbeques have seen better days, though like other country parks (unlike in towns and cities) there was very little litter on the ground.
This park was full of pine trees, so the kids had fun collecting pine cones from the ground. Some of them had white tents woven around their branches. My husband told me this is a bug called procesionaria, a caterpillar which spins a web around branches during the winter, coming out at night to feed on the pine needles. When spring comes, these destructive larvae hatch into moths.
We found a tiny hermita, a statue of the Virgen del Pilar in a little cupboard, with a veleta (wind vane) on top, complete with rooster. Bizarrely, it was a) English, and b) upside-down, with an M in place of a W (Spanish would have an E for este, and an O for oueste).
From this park, we had a great view of the mighty dam which holds in the water of the Gangal reservoir, and streams which come out. Alongside this dam runs the Ruta del Agua, the far end of which we visited back in December.
This park was on a slope, and had lots of little dips and separate areas screened off by bushes and trees. Apart from the loud folkloric music competing from each car, it was a calm place with dogs, children and the odd morning-after raver.
Previous excursions have included the aforementioned Ruta del Agua, Cañada de los Pajaros and Italica – next up will be the Roman ruins of Carmona. I also want to go to the waterfalls near San Nicolas del Pueblo, in the north of the province near Cazalla.
Do you have a favourite walk near Sevilla? I’d love to hear any suggestions.