Peppers in Pilar or Shepherds in Spain

Really this article is about shepherds, it is just that I liked that title a little more. From time to time, like many of you, I have seen sheep grazing in the most unexpected places on the edge of Orihuela Costa, or San Miguel, such as on the unkempt land on the road between Villamartin and San Miguel de Salinas. I am sure many of you, like me, have wondered what the rights of shepherds are.

Often in October we hear a little bit about them as every year shepherds and about 2,000 sheep are driven through the city streets of Madrid exercising their ancient rights to the old pathways from the north of Spain to the south. Besides that, if you have seen the photos of the Madrid streets crammed with sheep, it is probably not something that many of us think about.

However, chatting to Silvia in the office, she said oh yes, there are still agreements between shepherds who raise their livestock and sell the wool and meat to feed them, with farmers, by clearing fields in the locality. She told me of the pepper fields in Pilar de la Horadada, where every year when the crop is finished the sheep move in and strip firstly the leaves, then the plants themselves, leaving the field bare and clear for replanting.  Probably no money changes hands between the farmer and the shepherd, but it is a nice little “quid pro quo” and bit of ancient bartering.
Of course in the low lying mountainous areas like the Alpurrajas close to Granada and Sierra Nevada, you will see many more shepherds and flocks of sheep than on the Orihuela Costa, but they are still around here, and one day you may round a corner and be surprised by this lovely sight, especially if it is in the golden dusk.

Lastly, there is a word that many of you might not be familiar with: “transhumance”. This is the seasonal migration of livestock to suitable grazing grounds and is still practised. In Spanish the verb is “trashumar” and in French “transhumer”.


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