Postcards: Stations of Sella, Valencia, Spain

Footsteps tread the winding path, adorned either side by an abundance of wildflowers. Receptive ears pursue the faint gushing of the water, streaming down from the terraced hills. The meandering trails meet, by the foot of the weathered mill. A sunken pool of aquamarine glistens beneath the terracotta walls, sandstone boulders surround the lagoon.

Following the leader up a narrow ledge, I by-pass the mill and stumble across a bountiful orchard of citrus and almond, seemingly deserted. Daring, I taste a sample from a lone grapefruit tree. A bittersweet sting to the lips, reprimand for ravishing temptation. Discarded oranges lie stagnant and forsaken in the ruddy grass, plentiful branches replenishing stock, while they sit unchaste beneath the shade of the trees.

A single almond tree blushes, despite its solemn state, sprinkling confetti, as if crying for a mate. The sporadic breeze picks up, an eerie and delightful place. Remnants of a forgotten harvest, one wonders how that has come to be. A welcomed site for a nomad fatigued.

My boots traipse over the staggered terraces below. Spades and rakes lean against work sheds and walls, evidence of labour on this land, in these hills. The ground proves fruitful, but no immediate sign of life is visible now, toil taken in sparing hours, when prying eyes aren’t to be found. A distant bell cries from Sella, heralding the time, poignant when reviewing the agricultural scene. It is eerily silent, but the breeze in the air.

Wild flora thrives in every rock and crevasse, adorning the mountain trail with vivacious colour. Though contrast is offered, in broken remnants of rock fall, evidence of a recent landslide. Threatening changes of our climate observed, perhaps reason for the lack of physical presence here. Carob pods stacked under shaded branches, waiting for the return of a wealthy doctor from Madrid.

Hidden discreetly in the wooded hills, La Font de l’Alcantera lies. A sacred source of revitalising mineral, streaming from the Puig Campana above. Providing food for the table, running down to the mill, adding years to the locals who travel there still. Bottled water spread across rock face and weeds, as I quench thirst instead from the whispered healing spring.

Silence reigns as the sampling begins, holding off humidity in this sheltered oasis. How many hundreds of years had passed, since the pilgrimage to La Font de l’Alcantera began? Who I wonder, deemed it medicinal? Though, suitably fitting against ‘el paridiso’, perched high on the neighbouring hill.

Coming to the end of the circular trail, I reflect from a bridge built by the Arabs almost 1000 years ago. Water runs through the bedded reeds beneath me, under the downcast light of the midday sun. I am reminded of the years that this very spot has witnessed; the changing of the tides, the distortion in the weather, the transformation of a nation, as Sella’s bell chimes out again.

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