Friday, 20 June 2008

The hillside terraces

In the photo of the village opposite our house you can see the horizontal lines of the terraced hillside - between the two roads.
The earliest terraces are very ancient indeed, built by slaves and peasants centuries ago.
The people who lived here in earlier times had to make the best use of the mountainous land available to grow their crops. The hillsides were therefore worked into areas of level ‘steps’ or terraces each supported by a dry stone wall. When the heavy rains did come the soil and its crops were not easily washed away.
The terraces are the most striking feature of the hillsides of the area.
It is not certain when the terracing began but the Romans came to the Iberian Peninsula in 200BC and had a presence here for six centuries. Roads, bridges, and towns were a feature of their civilisation and improvements in agriculture and irrigation came with them. If the terraces had not existed before they came then the chances are the Romans would have started them. The basic pressure was the population of an area and as it increased so, of course, did the demand for food, and more terraces.

The Moors first invaded in the 8th century AD sweeping over the peninsula and into southern France and continuing the development of the terraces on which were grown grapes, almonds, olives, wheat and other crops.
In more recent times village families often built themselves a house outside the village for use in the summer. The house in the foreground (see photo above) is an example- you can see the roof. The family cultivate the terraces around this house and take a pride in doing so, while also in full-time jobs. They grow almonds, olives and grapes, vegetables, flowers, and marvellous tomatoes.
From the 1960s onwards when tourism and the building of homes for expatriates began to develop, more and more terraced land was given over to housing and leisure projects and the terraces are gradually being built over especially near the coast.
The wonderful view to the north of our house centres on Montgo, the 'elephant' mountain. Can you see the head with the 'eye' and then the trunk stretching out in front? (

Notice how green the Costa Blanca is! Should it have been called the Costa Verde? This photo was taken today, Friday 20th June, 2008.

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