A couple of years ago we (me, husband, daughter and two cats) were living in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs, wondering if we were ever going to make a dent into our huge Aussie Homeloan and if we’d be slaves to our jobs forever.
Having moved to Sydney from London in 2001, when you got 2.6 AUD to the British Pound, Australia seemed CHEAP, sunny and full of opportunity. It certainly was sunny and full of opportunity, but cheap? Initially yes, but over the 11 years we lived there, Australia’s economy boomed, house prices soared to the point they now bear no relation to anyone’s salary (even dodgy bank CEOs), interest rates were ridiculous and we started thinking about cashing in our city lifestyle and heading back to the mother continent to buy something we could actually afford to live in, stress free.
With parents in Spain (part time) and a long held idea of having a B&B or a small hotel in Spain, we started to think about the possibilities of moving back to Europe. Not England, “no, gracias”, but somewhere near enough to parents and friends, with cheap flights to Gatwick etc and the warm climate to which we’d become accustomed.
We’d never been to Granada, but everyone who had said what an amazing place it was. And looking at its position on the map we figured somewhere in between the city and the coast would be just perfect. So after a bit of online research (beware online research by the way, things, i.e. houses are not what they appear online), we booked flights and appointments to see houses and just over two years later, after one very disappointing house hunt in Orgiva, and with the help of the lovely Danielle at At Home in Andalusia in Restabal, we bought our own little pocket of the Lecrin Valley and here we are, living in Chite (yes I know. But it’s “ch-ee-tay”, not “shite”. Yawn).
Just south of the historic Moorish city of Granada, the Lecrin Valley is a lovely green, orchard-covered area at the foot of the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountains; a skip (a very steep one) up to The Alpujarra and within half an hour of the beautiful Costa Tropical – it only gets busy there in July and August and is mainly Spanish families on weekend and August breaks, not the usual Brits Abroad, although there are many around if you take a closer look.
Perfect for walkers, cyclists, families, riders, gourmet travellers and skiiers (in the winter obviously though you can waterski on the coast), twitchers and anyone else who loves the countryside, but likes being near amenities and the odd trip to Zara, The Lecrin Valley is pretty much an ideal location for temporary or permanent stays.
An area of outstanding natural beauty, the Lecrin Valley is famous for its verdant landscape (due to the melt-water run off from the Sierra Nevada), its citrus groves, its walks, birdlife and amazing spring colours.
It has amazing views up to the snow caps of the Sierra Nevada, across to hills towards the coast and down over the orchards to Lake Beznar – a bright turquoise reservoir surrounded by walks, recreation areas and orchards and great for fishing and apparently non-motorised watersports from Beznar village, but you don’t see many on there – hopefully this will change.
According to Wikipedia: “Lecrín derived from Arabic Iqlim, meaning “gateway”: this refers to a small area of land situated between the villages of Mondújar and Talará, which controlled the access to the vast coastal areas of sugar production in Moorish times”. However, the other school of thought is that El Valle de Lecrin actually means “Valley of Happiness” and this is how the residents like to think of it!
Apart from Dúrcal and Padul, which are the area’s biggest and busiest towns, villages are pretty small and agriculture and farming remain the principal occupation for the locals with pine, citrus, almond, olive and grape as the main crops. There is also however many non locals who have started new business like Lavender Farms, restaurants, bars and other service companies, there’s a burgeoning artistic community and the area has a strong musical tradition with lots of concerts throughout the year. Tourism is also a very welcome income for The Valley, especially in Spain’s current economic climate.
Steeped in history The Lecrin Valley has been populated since neanderthal times, was a popular destination for the Romans who built baths here (there are still ruins of some in Mondujar) due to the thermal springs. It then spent a long time under Moorish rule, with the last remaining Nasrid Queen being buried under the historic church at Mondujar. Ruined fortresses and Moorish castles pepper the landscape and the villages are still full of the same Moorish architectural influences as seen in the region’s capital, Granada.
It was also a key region in the Spanish Civil War and while that part of the nation’s history is not particularly talked about, there are references to the struggle in many of the villages’ statues, fiestas, ruins and historic buildings.
Due to its agriculture, warm climate and position mid way between Granada and the Coast, The Lecrin Valley has always been a busy agricultural area. However it suffered greatly under Franco and the population was left significantly depleted. It had started to pick itself up again over the last couple of decades, but with the current recession in Spain, the Valley’s main income (being from Oranges and lemons) has been hit hard as the price of oranges particularly has fallen to such a point that for the smaller growers, it’s not financially viable to even harvest the fruit, so there are many orchards with ripe fruit just left to fall to the ground and many farmers have simply upped and left.
That said, the Lecrin Valley people are resilient and a pretty happy bunch. They love their villages and their lifestyle. They still live pretty much as they have always done. They don’t have to go out for anything. Daily vans bring everything in from bread to bottled water, fish, fruit and even knickers and nighties – I kid you not! There’s nothing you can’t get from a man with a van in the Valley.
Many of the older people have never even been to Granada, let alone to other parts of the country or overseas. And while there has been a marked and regretful exodus of both foreigners and local young people over the last few years due to the GFC, with good communications infrastructure, transport and utilities in most villages, for those who can either commute or work from home, it’s a pretty great place to be and hopefully the Valley’s beauty, affordability and available houses will start to bring in a new generation of Happy Valley residents – Spanish, foreign or a mixture of both.
After all, in the last couple of hundred years alone this place has survived wars, earthquakes, fire and flood, so a little recession: “Pfff. No pasa nada!”