Darwinian Gardeners 7th April 2018
On April 7th a group of 30 gardeners went by coach to visit the famous, but little known Cueva del Puerto caves of Calasparra. Fortunately the coach driver knew the way, it would have been easy to miss the tiny signpost marking the narrow road up to the large, but almost empty visitor centre. These hypogenic caves were formed millions of years ago by groundwater rising and falling and eroding the soft limestone, and have been enhanced by the formation of stalagmites, stalactites, curtains, corals and 'popcorns' caused by rainwater dripping into the caves from above.
The caves were discovered in 1963, and after several years preparing it for visitors, building paths and stairs, opened it to the public. We walked slowly for about 500 metres admiring the wonderful formations, cleverly lit to show them at their best. Then after a short talk by one of our guides, we walked back the way we had come, admiring everything from the other side. An hour and a half later we emerged, climbed back on the bus and drove through Calasparra to the restaurant Coto Riñales where we had an excellent menu del día.
Darwinian Gardeners Wild Flower Walk
On March 4th a group of gardeners were led by Chelo on a wild flower walk along a section of the Via Verde. Chelo trained as a park ranger, and is an expert on wild flowers. Along the way we saw a good selection of spring flowers which thanks to the recent rain were abundant. We learnt to recognise several plants which are good to eat; the leaves of wild rocket, wild Swiss chard and Purple Mistress (moricandia arvensis) and we tasted the flowers of Vipers Bugloss, which look pretty in salads. Chelo pointed out some wild flowers which would do well in our gardens, due to their drought and pest resistance. Along the way she knew where to find orchids, and we several Sawfly and Dark Bee orchids. She also explained how the yellow Cistanche (known in Spain as Wolf’s Penis) is a parasitic plant and how a small purple ‘weed’ is being used in the fight against breast cancer.
An unexpected bonus were the ruins of a large Roman Villa and the quarry for wash stones. The rain clouds were gathering, so we walked briskly back to our cars, reaching them just as it started to rain. The walk was followed by lunch at the Siena Restaurant in Mazarrón.
As well as our regular monthly event, the gardeners this month had the opportunity to visit a private garden whose owners specialise in growing cacti. In the older part of the garden, which has been established about 15 years, there was a wide variety of cacti and aloes. The owners talked very knowledgeably about the care and propogation of their plants. In another area of dry garden there were many more cacti and aloes, many of them in flower-
Three comercial-size greenhouses contained breeding stock, including new varieties hybridised by the owners. Here were cacti, succulents, lithops, and aloes in varieties too numerous to mention.
We were able to buy plants for our own gardens, and were entertained to home made cake before leaving for lunch after a thoroughly enjoyable visit.
Our regular monthly event was a visit to the Astronomcal Observatory at Puerto Lumbreras
Our regular monthly event took place on the evening of February 24. A group of 27 gardeners visited the Observatory in Puerto Lumbreras. We joined the coach at various locations around Mazarrón and were driven to the Bocadillón restaurant in the centre of town, where we had a very nice meal.
Then an exciting drive on a narrow, winding road up to 800 metres where we found the Observatory. After a brief film we split into 2 groups. In turn, one group used the telescope where, one by one, we saw bits of the moon magnified 700 times, while the other group went outside to look at the constellations – The Great Bear, Orion and Cassiopeia stood out, the others were more difficult to see due to the brightness of the moon. All very interesting and informative.
Gardeners Visit Aguilas
On January 14th 2018 a group of 37 of us drove to Águilas in order to join the Tourist Train for a guided tour of the historic Railway. We met by the Railroad Monument, a locomotive built in 1889 in Glasgow. After an excellent introduction, in English, by our guide Anabel, we drove to the Railway Museum, located below the railway station. Here we found a fascinating photographic exhibition and tools used throughout history, as well as several models of trains in motion.
The next stop was at the start of the Sendero del Hornillo, we walked along the elevated path, where several tunnels and mineral deposits are located. Anabel explained how the mineral trains unloaded their cargo into the storage tunnels below. At the height of activity, from 1903 until the civil war, around 84 trains per day brought silver, lead and iron down to the port. We then admired the loading platform from the view point above.
Anabel then led us into one of the storage tunnels, recently refurbished and now a museum. The walls were lined with pictures taken at the beginning of the twentieth century, by the British manager at the time.
Lastly we rode around the bay so that we could have a better view of the "Embarcadero del Hornillo", the majestic ore loading platform built in 1901 by the Compañía Britanico de Ferrocarriles del Sureste.
The tour finished at 1:30, perfect timing for lunch. We walked to the Fu Zhou Chinese restaurant, where we enjoyed an excellent meal.
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