Wednesday, August 4

Laciana Valley, in the kingdom of the grouse | The traveler

Anyone looking for a place to get lost will find it in Sosas de Laciana, one of the 14 stone and slate villages in the remote region of Laciana, in the northwest of the province of León. An enclave declared a biosphere reserve, like its geographical sisters Omaña, Luna and the dreamy Babia, the retreat of the medieval kings of Leon that gives its name to a state of self-absorption. All of them make up Four valleys, a wild setting of overwhelming beauty where, according to the Lacian writer Luis Mateo Díez, “it is easier to get lost with certain degrees of spiritual loss, as if in perdition there was a way back to that childhood of time that recovers the mythical”.

With its three neighborhoods (Rebueno, Trapa and de Arriba) spread along the narrow road, between the Romanesque church of San Andrés, with anthropomorphic tombs, and the chapel of San Juan, from the 15th century, Sosas de Laciana is the paradigm of pleasant place Virgilian, where none of the three elements are missing that, according to the Alsatian philologist Ernst Robert Curtius, define bucolic poetry: shadow, soft meadows and water, that of the Sosas river that makes La Popular’s wooden machinery work (+34 659 49 77 54), the only hydraulic dairy that persists in Spain, and where artisan butter is still made (and sold) in the old way. From there, a shady path leads through the forest to the fortress of La Zamora, where everything evokes the Song X, the poem by Antonio Colinas from Leon about a wounded Roman legionary who asks that a verse by Virgil be engraved on his grave while he awaits death in the north of Hispania: “Oh gods, what madness brought me to these mountains / to die and how useless my shield and my sword / against this dawn of bonfires and wolves ”. The landscape of Laciana, with the population confined in fortified settlements, extended from the Iron Age to the first centuries of Roman rule. Another route starts from the town of Rioscuro de Laciana to the Castro de La Muela.

From Sosas you can walk to Robles de Laciana. In just over half an hour, you reach a beautiful town of 130 inhabitants where, for 17 years and until 2015, evening concerts were held in July with top musicians and vocalists – such as the pianist Rosa Torres Pardo or the tenors Enrique. Viana and José Manuel Zapata— and the painter Eduardo Arroyo (1937-2018), who had a home and origins there, as host. The festival, in honor of the residents, was free and was inspired by the spirit of the Sierra Pambley Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated since 1887 to education and culture guided by the progressive ideas of Francisco Giner de los Ríos, Manuel Bartolomé Cossío and Gumersindo de Azcárate, with projects such as the Campus Giner de los Ríos in Villablino, which also works as a hostel.

The Sil, the river of gold of the Romans, goes down the Laciana valley, surrounded by a cirque of peaks over 2,000 meters high and covered by lush oak and birch forests – as well as maples, linden, alder, holly rowan and beech trees— where the last grouse sing their love (less than 1,500 specimens) and the brown bear survives. Laciana has the highest population index of both species in Spain. In late summer, at dawn and dusk, plantigrades prowl the slopes of the mountains in search of berries, and it is not uncommon to see their tracks or come across their droppings on the trails. Some bears, the most daring, come to the villages in search of food and have even been seen in the streets of Villablino, the capital of the region.

In Caboalles de Arriba you will find the Grouse Center (+34 987 49 01 07), dedicated to the native flora and fauna and to life in the brañas, areas of high mountain pasture where the Celtic-style cabins of the ranchers. Around the valley is distributed around twenty, threaded by hiking routes such as the Braña de Sosas or Orallo and the Cebolledo peak (2,082 meters). On the road that connects Rioscuro with El Villar de Santiago, you can start another walk that leads to the thousand-year-old yews of Rioscuro, a majestic relict forest protected by some ancient numen. It is a simple excursion that continues uphill to the Murias braña, from which the entire Laciana valley and the surrounding peaks are covered: Peña Ubiña, Nevadín, Muxivén, Montigüeiro and Cornón. The same perspective that is obtained in the scenic viewpoint of the Castro, which is reached from the homonymous glacier lagoon, near Villaseca de Laciana. The narrow road that leads to the Lumajo waterfall starts from this same town, where the Almuzarra River, a tributary of the Sil, falls off a 20-meter-high rocky cliff.

The Lumajo waterfall, 20 meters high, in the Laciana valley.
The Lumajo waterfall, 20 meters high, in the Laciana valley.

Laciana is known as the Valley of Liberty since in 1270 King Alfonso X the Wise granted it the Puebla Charter, a royal jurisdiction that protected its towns and its people from the outrages of the nobility and the Church. Its recent past is divided between the meadow and the mine. On December 28, 2018, La Escondida, the last active operation in the province of León, closed. Thus ended a story of almost two centuries that transformed the way of life and the landscape, leaving as vestiges mineral washhouses, towers, mine entrances and routes such as the greenway and the natural path of the Mining Railway, two routes that, in opposite directions, They depart from Villablino to Caboalles de Arriba and Villaseca, respectively. In an old mine near Villaseca craft beer is brewed today 12-70, voted best Spanish beer in 2020. During the visit, one can enter part of the mining tunnels abandoned more than a hundred years ago. His beer letterhead shows a tough bearded miner in a helmet and a lamp, one of the sons of coal of which the Leonese writer Noemí Sabugal speaks in her book on the history of the mining basins.


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