Great article in the Independent
Spain’s once magnificent network of greenways, despite apparently strong state protection, is fast dwindling. And with it the centuries-old practice of driving herds of cattle and sheep from lowland winter pastures to summer upland grazings – known as transhumance – is on its last legs.
In Andalucia alone, some 76 per cent of the 30,000 kilometres (18,600 miles) of greenways were recently estimated as being blocked off or otherwise inaccessible, while the 200,000 or so cattle and sheep which went through transhumance in the early 1990s has now dropped to a tenth of that number….
everything from housing estates to reservoirs, roads and barbed wire fencing have been reported as obstructing their progress. There are even reports of poison being daubed on to the pasturelands that their cattle use
transhumance is far cheaper and more ecological than transport by road, and it benefits biodiversity, too… scientific studies by the Andalucian government discovered greenways can act as protected corridors over hundreds of kilometres for extremely rare and highly mobile animals such as the Iberian Lynx, or are sanctuaries for rare breeds of plant, such as types of rockrose
Then there’s the whole series of social rituals that go with transhumance – the celebrations, songs and tales in the villages whenever a herd stops there for the night. So it wouldn’t just be an ecological setback if transhumance and the greenways disappeared: we’d be losing part of Spain’s cultural past, too