Dolores Navarro is the president of the association of Mujeres en las Veredas which translates as women in the trails. She knows Sierra Blanca very well, which is the mountain range sheltering Marbella and giving it its unique microclimate.
Somos Marbella had the opportunity of interviewing Dolores and her companions, Carmen and Juan. Although we have lived in Marbella for many years, we learned a lot about Sierra Blanca and its hidden treasures. Until now, we were unaware of the initiative of Mujeres en las Veredas which started three years ago, when Dolores and a few friends wanted to hike in Sierra Blanca, but the trails that Dolores knew well from her youth were lost within the overgrown vegetation. These footpaths used to connect Marbella with surrounding hamlets and villages, and were as essential as streets in villages and towns.
Dolores and her lady friends decided to rescue this lost heritage, and since they were all women, they decided to call the initiative women in the trails. Today both women and men work together to clear these footpaths which were already in use before the Romans conquered Andalusia. Thanks to Dolores and her friends, about ten miles of footpaths have been recovered from oblivion in the south side of Sierra Blanca.
Until some fifty years ago, the resources provided by the natural environment were essential for the survival of the people of hamlets and villages. In Sierra Blanca goats feed on the meagre terrain, colliers produced carbon for Marbella’s stoves, caleros cooked lime to whitewash Marbella’s houses, and esparto grass was collected to be woven into baskets. Some areas allowed small scale farming, el Llano del Juanar, el Llano de Puzla, and the Cañada de Puerto Rico, particularly fertile thanks to its spring which had provided Marbella with fresh water for centuries.
When the tourist boom started in the sixties, peasants left for the coast to find an easier way of life, and the trails of Sierra Blanca were abandoned. Dolores and her friends are clearing these trails, yard by yard, which will allow Marbella’s residents to hike in a natural environment just a few miles outside the bustling centre of Marbella.
The members of Mujeres en las Veredas love Sierra Blanca, and it grieved them to see the sierra in such a dire state. The project started when Dolores decided to pack some tools in the boot of her car to start the clearing of the footpaths. Once a month, a group of around 15 people meet to clear a bit of footpath, thus recovering it for the citizens of Marbella. If you join them, there is no need to work, you can just walk along, enjoy nature and the deep sense of happiness associated with nature, exercise and fresh air. In Sierra Blanca alone there are 34 different wild orchids and seven endemic plants. It is surprising indeed, if you compare this figure to the UK, which has only seven endemic plants in all of its territory. Sierra Blanca is rich in flora and wild life and has a fascinating geology and a rich history. The iron ore mines, the lead and calamine mines of Sierra Blanca where big business a hundred years ago, and the blast furnaces near the village of Ojén produced iron ore which was sold in the UK.
The vegetation of the Sierra is so rich, so breathtakingly beautiful that many people find peace and happiness just a few miles away from Marbella. It is really easy to get there on foot; anyone can walk to Puerto Rico from the centre of Marbella, (a description is posted in our hiking routes section), and even climb from there to the Mirador de Junar and the Cruz de Juanar. On the first Sunday of May, many peregrines of all ages hike up to the Cruz de Juanar where the priest of the village of Ojen blesses them.
Visit the website, and if you fancy joining you will meet exceptional people and discover the hinterland of Marbella, full of beauty and peace. This is a community project which does not require any financial contributions.