Raices de Castilla – Cherry Blossom

This trip was a carefully timed one – we were trying to see the locally famous cherry blossom in the Valle de Caderechas near Oña in Burgos.  Getting it exactly right is no mean feat, and we were close, maybe a week or 10 days later would have been perfect this year – but as it does change every year it’s a bit of a hit and miss operation.

We left mid afternoon and our first stop was somewhere I’d discovered thanks to cheese!  Now, we love cheese, and one of our favourite organic goats cheeses is Santa Gadea, and low and behold, it turns out it’s made in Burgos in the Valle de Manzanedo.  Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, we were unable to visit the cheese farm, but did discover a hidden gem right next to it – the ruined Monasterio de Rioseco in the village of the same name.  Nice bit of spacious van parking on the main road, and then followed the path up to the front door.  It looked closed up, however the doors were all actually open (and always are – 24/7 it turns out), so we were able to get inside (it was about 8pm by this time) and have a nosey around.  It’s huge, and great fun to explore, partially in tact double tier arched cloister, huge central nave still in tact, climb up to the roof, and gardens with bread ovens.  We spent nearly an hour wandering round.  Later research informed us that there’s an active volunteer group which is progressively conserving the ruins and runs guided tours at Easter and in summer (see the website) – we’ll be back for one of these.

After this we headed somewhat tardily towards our night stop – the spectacular hilltop town of Frias in Burgos – one of the Pueblos Más Bonitos de España.  We’ve been here many times, but had heard it had a great AC area right at the base of the hill, below the castle.  And indeed it did, a great area, no shade, but not necessary in April, lots of space and of course great views.

The next morning we went up to Frias after breakfast for another coffee and a walk around town, but having visited the castle before were not going to hang around for it to open this time (it’s a fun visit though).

Instead, we wanted to go back to somewhere we’d visited years ago, before meeting with friends in Oña for the cherry blossom.  So, we nipped over to Quintana Maria, just near Frias, leaving Berta in the village (narrow streets), and walking up to the Necropolis in the rocks to the south of the village – with great views over the Ebro and back to Frias and lots of orchids around to boot, it’s a lovely spot.

After that, we headed over to Oña to meet our friends in the big car park there next to the river (easy van parking), and on with them to the Valle de Caderechas.  So as I said, this valley is full of cherry and almond blossom, and is a joy to drive around at this time of year.  We were here though for a specific reason, to do a specific hike.  Called the Ruta de los Duendes (Fairy Walk), this hike climbs up from the little village of Herrera de Valdivielso to a pine forest, where the magic begins.  Set up by the villagers themselves in an excellent and extremely successful initiative to bring people to the village, the ladies of the village have taken to urban knitting, and there are now 80+ pine trees in a pine wood which itself has spectacular views over the cherry blossomed valley.  There are also other suprises along the route to keep you amused, mushrooms, love trees, knitted owls etc.  We did the full circuit, taking you up onto the ridge with views over the neighbouring valley and then back down quite a knee-killer of a descent to the village.  We were very glad to get back to Berta and find a spot to have lunch overlooking the blossom.

And this was also the day Berta became Berta!  Official baptism took place complete with Möet – although as some other friends enquired, it was not smashed against her, but drunk by us four!

Sidenote – Frias and Oña are two of the three towns which make up the Raices de Castilla, the third being nearby Poza de la Sal.  They are all very different and equally as enchanting in their own way, and make an excellent circuit with some great hikes in between.  One of the hidden gems of Castilla in my book!

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