Monday, 12 May 2014

Who owns the Sierra Nevada?

I read recently on a UK walking web site that Blencathra, one of the Lake District’s best known peaks is up for sale. Blencathra, also known as Saddle Back lies just north of the main road in to Keswick from the motorway, so is easily accessible for many walkers and is seen by even more tourists as they drive into the ‘Lakes’ . At 868m it’s not the highest summit but it is popular nontheless and is perhaps best known for the short scramble across Sharp Edge en route to what is a fairly unremarkable summit. Sharp Edge is a short knife edge rock ridge which is now well polished due to the amount of traffic across it and when combined with a descent of Halls Fell ridge gives a great day out in the mountains. Seeing this news about the sale brought to mind a question I get asked by many clients, that is ‘’who owns the Sierra Nevada’’. I must admit I wasn’t really able to answer that question properly until recently when there was an article in the Spanish newspaperpaper Ideal. The overall area of the Sierra Nevada, which is made up both of the Parque Natural and Parque Nacional covers an area of 172,238 ha. The bulk of the land holding, some 100,389 ha is held in public ownership by organisations such as Ayuntamientos, the Junta de Andalucia as well as the Parque bodies themselves. The rest is in private ownership, mainly made up of farm holdings on the lower slopes of the range. The Sierra Nevada got its designation as Parque Nacional in 1999. Prior to that in 1986 it was designated as Biosphere Reserve and later in 1989 as a Parque Natural. The designation of the Parque Nacional meant that many changes occurred in the management of the mountains and it was at this time the famed high level road which once ran across the mountains from Capileira to the ski village above Granada was shut. The closure of the road began the return of the mountains to their natural state - a process which in the UK has been named ‘re wilding’. The road, open to traffic during the summer gave very easy access to the high mountains. So accessible was the area that the first Cicerone Press guide to the range describes an ascent of Mulhacen from a car park that existed in the Caldera area which lies at 3,000m at the foot of the west ridge of the mountain. Blencathra by the way is on the market for £1.75 million, a snip really when you consider you also get to hold the ancient feudal title of Lordship of the Manor of Threlkeld.