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Friday, 17 May 2013

Life at Casa Almaz and set up for Leadchanges Dog Holidays and training

Just how I love my kitchens!
Well, we are two weeks in and I can't believe how settled we are already.  The house is almost completely organised, just the guest bedroom to finish off and the downstairs bathroom and we are there!  Partly these will still be a bit disorganised until the shed and kennels go up as there will be a dog equipment storage space so we can move it out of the house.

The walks for our own and guest dogs is just superb and anyone wanting their dogs to get great walks and a home away from home, then this really is the place (see the clip below of Kaishi and Akina playing).  The play/work area is a lovely space and the landlords will be putting the main fence in soon.  We will put in the additional fencing.
Walks that are made for dogs!  This is really the most perfect place for them and far exceeds what we had hoped for

View back toward Alhama (left) and the farm centre from
the Olive groves and almond orchards on the opposite
hill to the house
We have also found some great houses for the dogs - safe wood, safe weather proofing, chew proofed, hoseable for disinfecting down, easy to clean and access and with an entrance porch and inside wall that protects the dog from all weathers including snow.  They are also insulated against cold and heat - warm in winter, cool in summer plus they are raised off the ground.  This means rather than converting our own dogs' kennel into guest ones and buying a new area for ours, we can give our own dogs their original home and create a feed/store room out of the area that used to house the running machine and our overflow!  The roof will be extended to give separate feed areas and there will be a secure entrance area with access directly from the house for us - so that even in bad weather we will not have to get soggy visiting the dogs.  Of course, for guests who request it, all the dogs will get "home/family" time with us but in bad weather they too will be able to have a quick dry access to the house.

The perfect picnic - about 5 minutes stroll from the house!

The dogs and Cleo are settling
in so well - they were at home
from day 1
We have also found dog paddling pools and a really lovely big one for the play area that the dogs can use in summer to cool off in and it has a cover for when it is not in use or for safety.  The area is actually shady at various times of the day due to the height of the house and the back wall and there are trees all around for additional shady training places.  We will put in some additional shade in the work area but we don't need anywhere near as much as we thought.

Cleo-potra as our friend
Ron has renamed her and
plant pots do seem to be
one of her favourite resting
There will also be raised lounging areas and sand pits for the dogs to play and dig in - but these can also be watered down in hot weather as we know how much our own dogs love to lay their bellies in damp sand on a hot day.  The roof of the work area will be extended to provide additional shade and protection to the dog's houses, but with the insulation this is additional rather than essential.
The dog's gate bell!

I am so looking forward to welcoming dogs and owners here and to hopefully running the first Leadchanges workshop once we are all set up.  I want to get the website finished next and get out the info to the rescue centres - as of course we will be looking for our next rescue dog to welcome for a stay until he or she finds a new home.

Entrance as you come in - lovely wild garden all around.
We are busy weeding the gravel area and planting up
pots of herbs and little veggies.  A bigger veg patch
has been identified but will come later!
We have also started a bit on the garden, weeding (it is terribly over run) and located an area for the veggie garden although the big veggies are more likely to be going in for next year.  Antonio our neighbour and the farmer has many hens, so right now we get eggs from him weekly and we may not have our own as the hens are everywhere and with sufficient eggs.  Maybe I will put in an area for our own with regards to the training of dogs to hens, but there is so much livestock here and access to ways of training, that it may not be necessary.  We will see.

The next stage of Sulky training should start when I can get my double harness - so I'm hoping that might be possible soon.  Ideally the next step will see if we can get a HelpX person to blitz the garden and help us get it ship shape sooner.  The ad will go out soon.  A week should actually do it for now with another week in a couple of months maybe for some extra painting or re-proofing the shed.

The main square
Convent and Church - Iglesia
del Carmen
Alhama de Granada is a delight!  It has a lovely little sports centre with what looks like it might be an indoor pool!  I am going to investigate and there appear to be physios at the centre too.  The larger shopping town is Loja about 25 mins by car - actually not that far in km's but it's a bit of a windy road.  The views however are stunning!!!  You could pretty much walk from the house here, by farm tracks, all the way to Loja without crossing another road or finding another house.  It is far above and beyond what we could have hoped for in a location for the dogs and what we want to do here.

The gorge running through Alhama
The town also has a stunning gorge running through its centre and a hot springs - with spa and old Arab baths.  There is also GR7 long distance walking route going through the town and other lovely walks along the gorge plus the "Washington Irving Ruta" - a literary trail a bit like the Quixote trail, but for the man maybe most known for his writings - Rip van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow!   More about him and Alhama below from the official websites and Wikipedia.

Alhama de Granada is a town in the province of Granada, approx. 50 km from the city of Granada. The name is derived from the thermal baths located there, which are called al-hammam in Arabic.

In 1482, the fortress town was taken from the Moorish Sultanate and Kingdom of Granada by the Catholic Monarchs.

Michael with Antonio in the Café-Bar "El Tigre".
What a fabulous place and anyone visiting must call in.
Friendly, great food and you can organise Tapas Tastings
and private Flamenco evenings - min. 10 people
Alhama’s position between Málaga and Granada gave it strategic importance for the Moors but they also had a particular fondness for the town and its thermal waters. The cry of sorrow, ¡Ay de mi Alhama!, uttered by Abu Al-Hacen following the battle of 1482 when the town was lost to the Catholic conquerors, entered the Spanish language as an exclamation of regret.

At a convenient distance from the town centre nestling in a poplar grove lining down the banks of the river (also known as Merchan) you will find a hot springs. Prehistoric remains found in the neighbourhood, show the antiquity of the human settlements.

Just lovely - El Tigre: Specialise in Desayunos, quesos, jamones
and carnes a la brasa - Plaza Constitución, 1
Alhama de Granada - 958 350 445

There are also clear evidences of the way Romans used the waters.In the 15th century, the Arabs consolidated the town next to these hot springs and it was believed that they built the termal baths there but the real origin of those baths is roman as is proved in the book of Salvador Raya Retamero a local historian in his book "Reseña histórica de los baños termales de la muy noble y leal ciudad de Alhama de Granada" (Brief history of the hot springs of the most noble and loyal city of Alhama de Granada)[1] a short interview to the author explain the details.[2] The strategic influence of Alhama de Granada made vital the fall, in 1492, of the Arab empire for the conquest of the Kingdom of Granada, which lead to the beginning of a flourishing age, because of the patronage of the Catholic Monarchs. The bath house in the Almohade style of the 12th century that is preserved in the SPA is a good example of Arab baths’ construction.

The magnificent horse shoe arcs were built over the remains of Roman construction and are covered by a vaulted roof, pierced by star-shaped openings that let the daylight filter in. Under the vaulted roof of the baths it bubbles up the oldest warm spring of Alhama de Granada. The newest one, which springs up a few metres from the other, was discovered in 1884, many centuries after a terrible earthquake whose epicentre could have been very near the area.

Alhama looks out over some of Spain's most spectacular scenery. In winter, the view to the majestic snow-capped Sierra Nevada is uninterrupted. Close by is the vast and beautiful Bermejales lake, 12 km from town and reached by a road lined with poplars and Mediterranean black pines. There are sandy beaches, safe swimming and plenty of non-motorised water sports. There are also a couple of cafes at the edge of the lake. Many of the local population spend evenings and weekends barbecuing at the water's edge, it is a great location. (Wikipedia)

From  Walking in Alhama de Granada

Over the mountains from Cómpeta the historic town of Alhama de Granada nestles in a valley and is a great base for exploring the great outdoors. Only an hour from the coast, the scenery changes dramatically from the high peaks of the Sierras Almijaras, Tejeda and Alhama to a more rolling countryside. The peaks of El Fuerte (Frigiliana) and El Lucero (Cómpeta) can be seen in the distance as you approach Alhama de Granada, and the passes of Puerto de Frigiliana and Puerto de Cómpeta loom in the background ready to be walked and explored. There is, however, a lot to see near the town itself. For the culture and history buffs, the routes of the romantic writer Washington Irving passes through the town, and the Arab traveller and writer Ibn Batuta. The effects of earthquake of 1884 can be clearly seen in Alhama de Granada – the book “Los Terremotos de 1884, Arenas del Rey y Seco de Lucena” by Andrés García Maldonado documents its devastating effects on Andalucia. It was the same earthquake which rocked Cómpeta and damaged the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción in Plaza Almijara. The tourist office offers tours at 12 noon every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
As to the geology, the gorge of the Tajos is reminiscent of the Grand Canyon on a smaller scale, and the walk through the gorge to the local beauty spot El Ventorro is well worth a visit. Starting in Alhama de Granada from behind the Nunnery Church Nuestra Señora del Carmen (16th 18th century) and the tourist office, follow the track down the steps called the “Cuesta del Carmen” down to the river Alhama. Continue along the path which leads to the Molinos de la Acequia Alta Mills, and the Camino de los Angeles. This route passes through the Tajos and is part of the GR-7 (Gran Recorrido No. 7) – just one of the network of long distance paths in Andalucia). At the time of writing (early March 2008) the almond blossom is still in full flower – the town is at over 1000m whilst Cómpeta is at 636m so spring comes a little later at that altitude. At this time of year, the chasm is full of flowers, wooded glades of deciduous trees and birds nesting on the cliffs.
Continue along the chasm with Puerto de Cómpeta in the distance – this is known as the Pantaneta route and there is an interpretive board about the geology of the area (in English and Spanish) which explains the activity of the European and Iberian tectonic plates over the years. Moving on, you will pass the shrine of Los Angeles – have a look inside - you will be surprised at how it has been decorated. After another .5km you will come to a crossing over River Alhama on the left over a wooden bridge. This is a favourite picnic spot for locals and visitors alike. Cross the river and continue along the track, on the left you will see the remains of a hydroelectric system. Eventually you will come to the Alhama – Jatar road – cross the road, and turn left (keeping on the path and take care as traffic goes very fast on this stretch). To the right is a road bridge and take a moment to have a look at the dam and the lake. Continue then to the left, and pass a secluded house with conifer trees outside, and when you come to the clearing you will see El Ventorro, a great place to stop for a drink or a meal (book up at weekends, especially for lunch). El Pato Loco (the Crazy Duck!) is next door and has a swimming pool and more outside space. Across from both establishments is the lake with a wide variety of ducks, coots and other water fowl. There is an information board with pictures explaining the best time to see which type of bird. If you stay overnight in this idyllic spot you will hear foxes barking in the dark. Inside El Ventorro there are magnificent paintings of the countryside covered in snow. It is 10km to Jatar and the turquoise waters of Lake Bermajales.
There are many walking tracks in this area, and the Ruta de los Angeles goes right through to the hot springs (balnearios) which is definitely worth a visit. From the town it takes about half an hour, and again the going is good underfoot.
It is also possible to climb Maroma (2066m) from the Alhama side, and through the Puerto de Cómpeta and Puerto de Frigiliana. We can provide information on accommodation in the Alhama de Granada area – contact us for a quotation. More information from
Walking Group
Alhama de Granada: Terry Mottershead –
Getting there:
Alhama – Málaga: 16:30 via Torre del Mar
Málaga – Alhama: 09:00 via Torre del Mar
From Cómpeta – drive to Canillas de Albaida and turn left past Bar Cerezo. By the shrine, turn right and follow the zig zag road past Finca Cerillo and at the end of the road, turn left (the right hand fork takes you to Fogarate) then right on to the tarmac road towards Salares. Follow the road through Salares, Sedella and Canillas de Aceituno, using the by passes for each village. After passing through Canillas de Aceituno you will be able to see Lake Viñuela. At the end of the road turn right and pass through La Viñuela (the little vine). You will join the Velez Málaga – Zafarraya road – turn right and head for the pass.
Follow the A335 / A340 from Velez Málaga to the pass at Zafarraya, then bear right after passing through the village. It is signposted to Alhama de Granada.
Tourist office:
Paseo Montes Jovellar s/n
Tel. y fax 958 360 686

Washington Irving Walking Route:

This route traces the steps followed in 1829 by the romantic North American writer Washington Irving, who was fascinated by the wealth and exoticism of the Spanish-Muslim civilization. A communications artery established many centuries before, which served as a trade route between the Christian south of the peninsula and the Nazarite kingdom of Granada.

The trajectory links the capitals of the two traditional Andalusias, the Lower and Upper; two plains, the Open Country and the Fertile Plain, separated by an evocative and rugged journey. The route swings between Seville and Granada, the two obligatory stops on the romantic journey which the image of Andalusia projected in Europe, attracting a multitude of artists, writers, the curious and all kinds of travellers.

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author, essayist, biographer, historian, and diplomat of the early 19th century. He is best known for his short stories "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle", both of which appear in his bookThe Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. His historical works include biographies of George WashingtonOliver Goldsmith and Muhammad, and several histories of 15th-century Spain dealing with subjects such as Christopher Columbus, the Moors, and the Alhambra. Irving served as the U.S. ambassador to Spain from 1842 to 1846. (Wikipedia)

With all this walking and hill climbing I will certainly be Camino fit for October!  The town is only 15 minutes on the bicycle too - all off road.  Psychologically it seems further because you can't see the town from the house, but it's actually quicker to get to Alhama than it was to go to Consum via the cycle route in Chella!

I hope we see some of you here soon!  More later, but I will crack on with the preparations for now!

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