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Vilopriu and Valldavia

Vilopriu castle from the village February is the month most likely to see snow. It also marks the first signs of Spring with the first blossoms in the almond orchards, and meadow flowers starting to appear in the fields. In past years the snow has reached right down to the coast and in one year it combined with a strong wind and took down electricity pylons leaving a few towns without electricity for a few days. Having said that, snow is normally so fleeting and unusual by the coast that it is greeted by an almost childish enthusiasm and excitement.

The weekend of this walk was the one the forecasters estimated as being the most likely to have snow. We were looking forward to it and then the day turned out to be just hung with overcast cloud. Which meant that for the walk, the views and landscape tended to disappear into the haze, which obviously doens't make for great photos.

Valldavia from the radio mast viewpoint Vilopriu is a small village off the beaten track in the hills between L'Escala and its motorway junction at Orriols. It's an area we'd not visited before as the roads skirt around the hills, either to Colomers to the south - which is where you can hire canoes to meander down the river Ter to Verges, or past Camallera to Viladamat to the North. The village itself is small but perfectly preserved. There are no vilas or urbanisations nearby just the old stone houses of the village that have been restored. We parked just under the castle in the 'main' square. The castle itself is not the ajuntament building and there is even a lift access for wheelchairs to get to the main level of the castle where there are views across the fields and out to the Gaverres in the far distance.

The walk starts to the west of the village and we had to go around the bottom of the castle to find the start of the track as it runs past a farmyard. The track is broad and easy to follow out towards the woods and fields around the village. It's a rolling countryside, with meadows adjoining small copses and has a feel of a walk in the UK or even Germany or France. It's a very big contrast to the much more Mediterranean walk of Espolla. We follow the path through the woods. It reaches a tarmac road and we turn left down into the hamlet of Les Pins - little more than 2-3 old masias and a chapel, but it seems that almost every other field has horses. At this point, the walk picks up the GR1. This is the first time we've been on this route. The GR (Grand Radonnee in French, Gran Recorrido in Spanish) are a network of long distance paths in Europe. The GR92 coastal path is the one we are most familiar. The GR1 runs from Finisterre at the most western point of Spain in Galicia across the country to Empuries.

View across to Vilopriu castle on a hazy day The GR1 takes us on a gentle incline up the hill past ploughed fields and with hazy views into the distance. As we reach the top a radio mast appears and we make a right hand turn. At this point going onwards would take you down into Valldavia. There's a castle marked on the map, but while we saw what looked like masia's we didn't really see a castle as such. It could have been than we needed to go down to the village to find it. From the area round the radio mast there are views out across St Pere Pescador and on towards Roses, but it was too hazy to make for a good photo. The area around the mast had obviously been subject to a forest fire and all the trees had been cleared. Summers are normally very dry, and the slightest flame can set of a rapidly spreading wild fire. Last summer, a wild fire that started with the borders of France spread over 40km almost to Figueres and was visible from Begur. The smoke reaching down even as far as Barcelona, so there are very strong prohibitions on fires in the woods and forests during the summer months. However, having had the fire, and without the trees, the views were much more extensive than they might have been.

We walk down from the viewpoint and out along past the municipal open-air swimming pool. The GR1 takes us to a tarmac road and we cross the road, while the GR1 would head to the left. The path continues through the woods giving a view of Vilopriu through the trees, before we turn back to the village.

 Neighbouring walks: Verges, Tallada d'Emporda and Maranya - Colomers and Jafre

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