A Short Autumn Walk


I love my car: I was lucky to get it. But in this beautiful autumnal weather I occasionally regret no longer walking regularly from Cómpeta to Canillas de Albaida. It is only a straight road-side stroll, but at this time of year the walk was a vivid reminder of the beauty of the whole valley. Come with me, in your imagination, and you will see what I mean.

We leave Cómpeta, going down the hill past Mari-Toñi's flower shop (on the right) and the 'Knicker Factory' (on the left). I always wonder why so many people wedge cars into every half inch just here, double parking, blocking each other in and losing their tempers - when there are two empty car parks a few yards down. But forget that now: as we join the road at the bottom take a look at the view.

The landscape actually justifies use of that tired old word 'cornucopia': everything's verdant and bountifully fruitful! The sky is that rich deep Mediterranean blue, but turning right we see rags of cloud caught like sheep's wool along La Maroma's sharp ridge to the North.

In the terraces above, pomegranate trees cling onto a few yellow leaves and red globes of fruit for the birds to tear at and squabble over. There are birds everywhere - flocks of sparrows, 'charms' of goldfinches; greenfinches and siskins, shy warblers and bold blackbirds, and thousands of unidentifiable fluttering things, chirping smugly from the bushes. There is also, flying down the valley - the sharp shape of a kestrel, it's handsome brown back visible between pointed wings as it floats casually over the lower valley looking for voles.

We'd better get past the Bodega here, resisting the urge to pop in to sample their excellent Jarel! Look at their vineyards below the road. The vines haven't yet been cropped back, but cluster out of the crumbly soil to make a glorious colour quilt for the fields - looking south we can see the valley sides are draped and folded with the lovely pale gold of the dying vines, all the way down past Sayalonga and Corumbela till you reach the dark line of the Med.

Now on our right a handsome villa stands out against row of deep-green pines, planted along the ridge behind it. They divide it from a little route path that takes you back to Cómpeta off the road; try it sometime. As we pass we notice orchards full of well-shaped little trees; mainly oranges, their vivid fruit brilliant against the dark green leaves. My partner, Will, won't let me steal these because he is a big meanie.

Round this corner we see slopes planted with olive trees. I love their gnarled trunks, their delicate grey-green, the way the fruit hang like beads or drops of water. Best of all, if there are no vines planted below them they don't need the soil tilled - so the wild flowers can really take hold. Look here how the roadsides are silly with flowers. This is prettier than the Natural Park's 'maquis' (all conifers and spiny, spiky stuff). We are talking Bladder Campion; White Rock Rose; Wild pea and Sainfoin; pale Flax and Milkwort. I think so, anyway, though no plant I ever photograph matches the flower books. If you'll hold on a mo (Will sighs) I'll just climb the bank to photograph these big yellow daisies; and those little trefoils; and that whopping big cricket; and the Morning Glory as it spills madly down a rubble-strewn bank in a flurry of big blue flowers; and - just look at this - a bright green Preying Mantis! Okay, okay, I'm done, we'll go on.

We pass a turn off to the right advertising the Caballos del Mosquin - the local riding school and stables, and another pretty villa all set about with bamboo, its feathery flowers shining in the sun.

As we come round a bend (do you see those marrows bulging pregnantly from under their trailing leaves on the ground there?) we find, on either hand, flat land planted with avocado trees. They are in fruit too, all hung with the lovely heavy tasty pears - right beside the road. Will won't let me steal any of them either. The glossy leaved avocados grow very big if they get the chance: they are thirsty trees. Today the grey soil beside them has been set rippling with a thick stream of irrigation water. We'd better move on; if a couple of impatient lorries pass each other just here we'll be getting our feet wet.

And here we are: coming past gardens now into paved, tiled and railed Canillas. Another day we could walk down into the valley basin, to visit Archez or up to take the view from Santa Ana or start a longer walk to the Fabrica de la Luz - the whole valley is crying out to be explored and admired and this is the season to do it. But right now I'm afraid I'll leave you here because I've got to - ah-hem - go and clean my nice new car!

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